If the idea of a fairly inept sort of holiday themed slasher film starring Pinky Tuscadero from Happy Days doesn’t appeal to you, you are probably not the target audience for New Year’s Evil. And that’s OK! For the rest of us, the MGM Limited Edition Collection has delivered another long-awaited “classic” on DVD for the first time. New Year’s Evil has gathered a cult audience among fans of 80s slasher films and the infamous Cannon Group production company, and anticipation of a DVD release began building when a new transfer began making the rounds on cable and satellite on-demand services. MGM has delivered yet again with a clean, sharp widescreen transfer of this little-seen horror film, which has mostly faded into obscurity while its Cannon Group contemporary The Apple has become a minor phenomenon.
And New Year’s Evil has a little more in common with The Apple than just release dates in 1980 and that Cannon Group logo opening the film. Namely, New Year’s Evil has a lot of music, although it is not a musical per se. Fading pop star Diane Sullivan (Roz Kelly) is hosting a televised New Year’s Eve show, basically like Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve but without any bands that people actually are aware of or want to listen to. The show is pretty epic, running long enough to celebrate New Year’s in all four time zones in the 48 contiguous United States. While Diane has to deal with backstage drama– including her increasingly unhinged son Derek (Grant Cramer)– she also has to keep the show going, which means periodically introducing ridiculous bands to play entire songs to help pad the film’s run time.
Of course, there’s also the problem of a serial killer who lazily names himself “Evil” and calls Diane to inform her that each time the clock strikes midnight in a different time zone, he will kill again. And the fourth time the clock strikes, naturally, the victim will be Diane herself. Diane bravely continues with her awful New Year’s concert while bumbling police allegedly do their best to find Evil before he can strike again, but unsurprisingly (and typically for the genre) they mostly arrive on the scene just in time to find Evil’s victims in a way that the director hopes is visually interesting and/or scary. As the evening drags on and the bodies and suspects pile up, Evil’s reign of terror leads all the way to the television studio where his true identity and his motive is finally revealed.
New Year’s Evil is a seriously goofy slasher film, punctuated with too-long songs and laugh-out-loud lapses in character and filmmaker judgment. In other words, it’s a perfect film to watch in a group, preferably with plenty of beer on hand. It may be more of a footnote in horror film history than a genuine classic, but it’s really fun and well worth a look. The DVD includes the film’s theatrical trailer, but as with pretty much all of the MGM Limited Edition Collection titles, it’s worth just having such an obscure film in a decent transfer, so the bare-bones presentation really doesn’t matter. If you’re an 80s slasher completist or a Golan-Globus fanatic, you’ll want to have this in your DVD collection!