New Year's Evil (1980)

It is New Year's Eve, and popular DJ and music show host Diane "Blaze" Sullivan (Roz Kelly) is getting ready for her show. Featuring live performances by popular new wave bands and a countdown for each time zone, it's the biggest show of her career. Only her husband Richard isn't answering the phone because he is probably coked up somewhere, her publicist has disappeared and her son Derek (Grant Cramer) is demanding way too much of her attention. Regardless, the show must go on.

And on it goes, though at the start she receives a call from a man identifying himself simply as "Evil" (Kip Niven), who says he is making a New Year's resolution to kill one person as it reaches midnight in each time zone until, finally, he murders someone close to Blaze. Assuming he is holding her missing publicist, Yvonne (Alicia Dhanifu), hostage for his finale, she tries to get the Los Angelese Police Department to provide extra protection. They are reluctant, even hostile, thinking it is just some crazy stalking her because of that evil rock and roll music she promotes that attracts weirdos like flies. However, their tone changes once midnight passes on the East Coast, and Evil calls in to play a recording of his murder of a nurse at an insane asylum. Another nurse finds the body, and the police are suddenly concerned.

After midnight passes in the Central time zone and two more bodies are found, the hunt is on in earnest, with the cops concerned that Blaze will probably be the last victim. After a failed attempt at keeping his spree going, the police figure out the identity of the killer and try to get to him before he can finish his work.

The majority of the first half of New Year's Evil is hilariously bad. First, you have the music. The theme song is supposed to be new wave, but it is more glam metal. The two bands featured (who either were formed for the movie or, thankfully, this was their career peak) are Shadow and Made in Japan, the former dressing like and playing the same type of music as Loverboy and the latter being at least new wave, but horrible. There are many scenes of them playing with Blaze sexing it up next to them as the dangerous, supposedly "punk" teenagers mosh or slow dance listlessly. It's as if someone said, "Well, this is what those kids are into these days," after watching a few episodes of The Young Ones.

On top of that, you have her son, who serves practically no purpose until the end of the film. He's upset because Mommy doesn't pay attention to him, so he takes a bunch of pills and wears her pantyhose over his head while eavesdropping on her. It's quite quickly dealt with that he is not the killer (the killer's face is revealed from the beginning, just not his identity), although he does turn out to have a connection with him. Still, other than being weird and adding somewhat of a twist ending, the character plays no purpose.

Then we have the killer with his silly disguised voice and increasingly incompetent attempts at committing murder. Keep in mind it is still early in the slasher genre (although they dispatch the one pivotal Black character before the movie is five minutes old), so it doesn't exactly follow the cliched rules yet. This is more of a suspense film than a horror. Still, you would expect the killer to be somewhat threatening rather than cheesy or dimwitted.

So, for the first half, I'm sitting there wondering if this movie is the way it is purposely. I can't believe someone could do this by accident. Between the music stolen from Friday the 13th and everything else I'm thinking that there is no way the makers of this movie could have been doing anything other than satire. Then the second half starts and it suddenly becomes good. Less of the third-rate local bands, more of the killer being pursued (by a biker gang, no less) and some truly great suspense scenes toward the end.

So, honestly, I don't know what to think of this one. It is enjoyable all the way through, although the first half not for the reasons (I think) that were intended. It's got some of the elements I love out of exploitation films, like situations that just come out of nowhere and feel that they were added at the last minute, many of which work better than what the actual script had in mind. And, for those who usually don't have a strong stomach, it is quite light on the violence (this is one of the few R-rated films that would get a PG-13 now). It may also be the perfect New Year's Eve film, simply because lack of sobriety probably would increase the enjoyment.

New Year's Evil (1980)
Duration: 90 minutes
Starring: Roz Kelly, Kip Niven, Chris Wallace, Grant Cramer
Director: Emmett Alston

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