Some Eighties slasher movies are bad but fun to watch, and some are just plain bad. “New Year’s Evil” (1980) falls into the latter category. The cranked-out Cannon Films production features overacting and underacting by performers thrown to the wolves by writer Leonard Neubauer and director Emmett Alston, who either don’t know what they are doing or are too rushed.
Consider the sequences where people dance to a band playing the admittedly catchy title song, by Shadow. (There actually was a soundtrack released, the end credits say, although I can’t find any in existence). The people are dancing out of sync with the music, headbanging and moshing to a tune that’s not quite that fast or heavy. I know the music doesn’t play during filming, for reasons of capturing dialog clearly, but 99 percent of films know how to smoothly fake it. “New Year’s Evil” isn’t one of them.
The premise is loads better than the execution: A Los Angeles serial killer (Kip Niven), calling himself Evil, tells TV music Diane (Roz Kelly) on the phone that he’ll kill someone every hour on the hour for each time zone of the USA. In other words, 9, 10, 11 and midnight local time. So many good slasher movies are remade because of name recognition, but really, it’s the bad ones with good premises that should be remade, and “New Year’s Evil” is a prime candidate. Maybe a team of killers could commit a murder in each time zone on the hour, and the mystery could be beefed up.
This film, though, is eye-glazingly simple: Evil, as promised, murders people (or pairs of people) on the hour. Then we find out who he is, which is predictable, and his motivation, which is inane. Kelly and Niven play out a confrontation on an elevator where both actors had to know the screenplay is terrible, so I hope they got a decent payday for embarrassing themselves.
There are a few chuckles to be gleaned from the cheap and lazy filmmaking. The killer enters the TV studio’s otherwise locked-down building by using a side entrance and wearing the badge of the police officer he has murdered nearby; the other officer waves the killer right in, without a word.
Later, a police officer announces to his men to be careful as they pursue the killer. He makes the announcement in an exposed position from a doorway the armed killer has just run through. Later, an officer (not heeding the “be careful” instruction) gets shot in a stairwell and blandly says “Ow.”
“New Year’s Evil” is one of those slasher flicks teens (or younger kids, in lenient households) would rent from the video store for a slumber party. After the 85 minutes are up and the movie has already completely left their heads, they’d say “That was dumb” and pop in something better. Like even the worst “Friday the 13th” movie.