By 1992, the endless sequels and holiday slashers that flooded the 80's were long gone. Audiences had grown tired of them and the boxes office numbers reciprocated that. Unfortunately for first time filmmaker Brian Owens, he did not get the memo.
Happy Hell Night is a film that arrived at the dock long after it's ship had sailed. It's the guy that arrives at the party with a Miami Vice Armani jacket but everyone else is wearing flannel listening to Pearl Jam. You get the point. And although it may seem like I'm about to trash the movie that couldn't be further from the truth. The fact is I LOVE IT. I first saw it late night on HBO in the early 90's and it was not released on DVD till 2004. Thank you Anchor Bay.
25 years ago a psychotic priest Zachary Malius murdered a group of youngsters at Winfield College and was locked away in a asylum for all eternity. Flashfoward to present day where a group of fraternity brothers from said college have the perfect plan for their newest pledges on their annual Hell Night (hence the title). They are going to get proof that Malius really exists and is not just some campfire story. Needless to say this turns out to be a huge mistake. Malius escapes from the asylum and what follows is 80 minutes of pure unadultarated fun.
There is no ground being broke here. Happy Hell Night is as cliched as it gets in certain areas. Non-interesting college kids who are only on screen to be killed off? Yep we have that. Actors who will become famous one day and will never acknowledge that they were in this film? Most definitely. Over the top violence, nudity & Ralphie's dad from A Christmas Story?!? Check, check & double check.
Oh but let's not forget the single greatest thing about the movie, Father Zachary MF'N Malius. Had this film been released just years earlier, Malius could have had multiple films under his belt. Forget Freddy Krueger, there could have been Zachary Malius yo-yo's & talking dolls. Maybe I'm getting carried away but this guy is seriously bad ass. Much like Krueger, he even has his own one liners after slaying off his victims. Did I also mention that he speaks in an E.T. like voice? Well it's more of an E.T. with a bad smoking habit sorta sound.
Not going to get into spoilers but the ending feels a bit unsatisfactory. Then again, it's not exactly the Citizen Cane of slasher films. It is, however, a good time and in my opinion one of the more underrated & unknown movies of it's sub-genre. Although similar in name, it bares no connection to the 1981 Linda Blair flick Hell Night.
And for whatever reason, Happy Hell Night was not the only killer priest movie released in '92. Prom Night IV: Deliver Us From Evil follows the story of a priest hell bent on revenge. Ironically both films came from Canada..go figure.