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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

VHS Vednesday: Bloody New Year

BLOODY NEW YEAR (1987). Directed by Norman J. Warren. Starring Suzy Aitchison, Mark Powley, and Catherine Roman.

And what better title to close out "VHS Vednesday" for 2008?
Actually, the British horror flick Bloody New Year starts off far from being actually takes place in the middle of summer, as a group of high-spirited youths are enjoying themselves at a seaside amusement park. The fun times take a turn for the worse when they run afoul of a trio of denim-jacketed hooligans who begin harassing them. A chase ensues, and soon the teens make their escape in a small boat, eventually arriving at a small island resort hotel. Exploring the hotel, they find no sign of any residents, though the building is well-maintained...and decorated for a New Year's celebration.
Unnoticed by our heroes, several small anomalies occur around them...the pages of a magazine flip themselves back into place, a snooker table resets itself, etc. The oddness culminates in the hotel screening room, when a Rudolf Valentino-style shiek suddenly emerges from the screen and strangles one of the teens. Now the chaos truly begins, as the kids struggle to survive and figure out what's going on (but mostly survive). To make matters worse, the thugs from the funfair have arrived on the island as well, and they have no interest in joining forces with the heroes against a common enemy.
The movie probably would have been more effective had screenwriter Frazer Pearce simply gone with a purely supernatural explanation for the weird goings-on, but instead, he concocts a pseudo-scientific technobabble premise, involving a crashed plane carrying experimental equipment that somehow ruptured the fabric of time and reality. The time-warp aspect might explain why everything "resets" itself and why people come back from the dead, but what does that have to do with table surfaces turning into shambling monsters? Apparently, "ruptured reality" is a convenient catch-all for "anything can happen." It's as vaguely-defined and all-encompassing as the Scarlet Witch's powers at her deus ex machinest.
Director Norman J. Warren is notorious for some of the most gruesome horror movies to come out of Great Britain, though I only know his other works (Satan's Slave; Alien Prey; Inseminoid) by reputation. Bloody New Year has its share of gory moments, ranging from severed limbs to a man's head being twisted 720 degrees (that's right--not one, but two complete rotations), but being simultaneously over-the-top and unconvincing, these effects are more likely to inspire amusement than disgust. Bloody New Year turned out to be Warren's cinematic swan song, although there's always the possibility of a comeback...
Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?
The cast consists almost entirely of young newcomers, only two of whom (Suzy Aitchison and Mark Powley) have gone on to substantial careers (both working primarily in television). Can't imagine either of them are too proud of this. And if the eldest of the three goons looks familiar, you may have seen actor/stuntman Steve Emerson in one of the more memorable scenes from Shaun of the Dead--he's the zombie bartender that gets beaten with pool cues to the strains of Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now."
And while we're on the subject of music, enjoy the catchy Bloody New Year theme song from Cry No More:
Happy (but hopefully not bloody) new year!



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