Hell Night (1981) – Retro Review

I was never one for being in a sorority. Granted, if I had to spend the night in a haunted mansion in order to be initiated into one, I probably would have given it a second thought. The evening would have to end on a positive note, of course. You know, waking up to the sound of birds chirping before heading out to the nearest IHOP to indulge in the breakfast of champions to cure the mother of all hangovers. In other words, I wouldn’t want to spend the night fighting for my life. Directed by Tom DeSimone and written by Randy Feldman, the 1981 film Hell Night, released 35 years ago this year, certainly gives college pledges something to think about. To pledge or not to pledge?


Hell Night opens with the college costume party of the year. Everyone is dancing, drinking, and having a merry old time. Mostly the party is celebrating the initiation of four college pledges: Marti (Linda Blair), Denise (Suki Goodwin), Seth (Vincent Van Patten), and Jeff (Peter Barton). Peter (Kevin Brophy), the leader of the fraternity, leads everyone to Garth Manor where the pledges must spend the night. Before entering, Peter tells them the horrific tale of the murderous, dysfunctional family who once resided there. It is rumored that one of the family members still lives in the mansion. The four college students reluctantly enter the premises and Peter padlocks the gate while stating, “The only way out of Garth Manor is to shoot your way out.” From this point on, the four of them are forced to endure a literal night of hell.

hell night gate

Can you believe Hell Night was all shot in only forty days? That is some true talent right there! Director Tom DeSimone obviously knew what he was doing because this is one of the most epic horror films I have ever seen. Yes, there are some elements of cheesiness. However, they don’t last long – most of the scenes in this movie are freaking intense. For example, there is one scene where Seth is trying to escape Garth Manor. He attempts to climb the tall gate out front. It is nail-biting to watch him because the top of the fence is all sharp spikes. Did he make it over safe and sound, you ask? I guess you will just have to watch to find out!

The main star of the film is the amazing Linda Blair. She may look a little familiar to you because she played the possessed child, Regan, in the 1973 film The Exorcist. It was a breath of fresh air to see her take on this role in Hell Night – due to the fact that The Exorcist still scares the crap out of me! This time, instead of spewing vomit everywhere, she is in survival mode as she races to escape Garth Manor. Her performance is definitely one to remember as it made her stand out as one of the best scream queens in horror movie history.


Hell Night is what I would call a true horror film. Since it was made in the early eighties, we were yet to be introduced to several of the epic genre movies to come. I think Hell Night inspired a lot of the gems we know and love today. Overall, this movie completes the horror formula with jump scares, an intense story, and epic kill scenes. It is not a gory film, per se, but there is a decapitation scene that will elicit some loud gasps. If you have yet to see this film, I highly recommend it. I guarantee you will have one hell of a night.

About Nikki777

Nikki has always been a fan of all things horror. At the ripe age of four, she became an instant Freddy Kreuger fan and the rest is history. She has aspirations of writing a horror novel someday so writing horror articles is right up her alley! She currently resides in Des Moines, Iowa with her boyfriend and two dogs.

Check Also

A Love/Hate Relationship: ‘STAR WARS EPISODE 1: THE PHANTOM MENACE’ Turns 25

Who could forget the palpable excitement? George Fucking Lucas was returning to the director’s chair …