New Year's Evil (1981) poster

New Year’s Evil (1981)


USA. 1981.


Director – Emmett Alston, Screenplay – Leonard Neubauer, Story – Emmett Alston & Leonard Neubauer, Producers – Yoram Globus & Menahem Golan, Photography – Edward Thomas, Music – W. Michael Lewis & Laurin Rinder, Music Supervisor – Rex Devereaux, Art Direction – Julie Kaye Towery. Production Company – Golan-Globus.


Roz Kelly (Diane Sullivan), Kip Niven (Evil/Richard Sullivan), Chris Wallace (Lieutenant Ed Clayton), Grant Cramer (Derek Sullivan), Taaffe O’Connell (Jane), Louisa Moritz (Sally), Teri Copley (Teenage Girl), Anita Crane (Lisa), Jon Greene (Sergeant Greene)


Diane Sullivan is the host of a live coast-to-coast New Year’s Eve tv show broadcast from Hollywood. She receives a call on the phone lines from a person calling themselves Evil who tells her that he is going to kill someone on the hour as each of the time zones across the US counts down to midnight and that finally he will kill someone close to her. The police realise that this is not a prank call as Evil begins leaving a trail of bodies across L.A., calling Diane to play the recorded screams of each dying victim.

New Year’s Evil was one of a host of slasher films that came out in the early 1980s following the successes of Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980). A number of copycat films quickly rushed in featuring various other holiday titles. These included the likes of Christmas Evil/You Better Watch Out (1980), Graduation Day (1981), Hell Night (1981), Mother’s Day (1981), My Bloody Valentine (1981), Happy Birthday to Me (1981), Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), April Fool’s Day (1986) and Rush Week (1989), plus a good many more after they started to run out of holiday titles.

New Year’s Evil was made by Israeli-born, US-based producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. Golan-Globus made a heap of films during the 1980s, including a number of Chuck Norris and Charles Bronson action vehicles, a handful of fantasy films including Masters of the Universe (1987) and the notorious Italian Hercules (1983), and the odd gem like Runaway Train (1985) and Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce (1985). During this time Golan-Globus also made several slasher films including Schizoid (1980) and X-Ray/Hospital Massacre (1982).

Like most of these abovementioned slasher films, New Year’s Evil uses a holiday as part of its title. It at least does this with some ingenuity – the film is set in L.A. during a live cross-country New Year’s tv broadcast where the killer promises to kill someone on the hour as each US time zone counts down to midnight.

Roz Kelly hosts the live broadcast in New Years Evil (1981)
Roz Kelly hosts the live New Year’s Eve broadcast

As with most slasher films, New Year’s Evil is made with a basic technical competence – and is certainly a somewhat better film on the technical side than most slashers – but little in the way of style. On the plus side, there is a nail-biting scene at the climax with the heroine chained to the underside of an elevator as it uncontrollably races up and down. The film is padded out with a number of banal performances from rock bands that have been long forgotten – indeed, were not even known at the time of the film’s release.

The script produces some okay surprises – particularly the surprise revelation of the killer’s identity. The killer’s motivation is also intriguing [SPOILER ALERTS] where it is revealed to be the heroine’s own husband who believes she has become so absorbed in her own celebrity that she is ignoring their son’s achievements and wishes to kill her before she poisons their son. A much more interesting film would have used the idea to carp at the self-absorption of Hollywood celebrity but instead the film ends up sympathising with the heroine and this is largely dismissed. There is an improbable twist ending with the father dead and the son now putting on the mask.

Trailer here

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