Hell Night: Collector's Edition [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Shout! Factory
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (20th February 2018).
The Film

1981. Prime time for the slasher film, when studios were more than content to pump out one after another since production cost was often so low. The downside, though, was that many wound up being formulaic and, eventually, forgotten. Time has allowed the cream to rise to the top of that crop and while “Hell Night” (1981) isn’t among the best it does stand out due to some novel choices made by director Tom DeSimone and executive producer Chuck Russell, the man responsible for some of the most consistently entertaining horror films of the 80's. A dilapidated mansion, oozing with gothic atmosphere, stands in place of a college campus or generic forest setting. Characters are dressed in formal costume; a stark departure from typical 80's teen garb. The film is half haunted house, half crazed killer and there is a not-entirely-unexpected-but-definitely-welcome twist at the end providing a solid jolt to a beleaguered climax. Fans are rightly excited to see “Hell Night” makes its debut in HD, though the final product is still compromised despite Scream Factory’s best efforts.

It’s Hell Night, every fraternity brother’s favorite evening; when new recruits are tormented in hazing rituals from, well, Hell. Peter (Kevin Brophy), president of the vaunted Alpha Sigma Rho house, comes up with the brilliant idea to have four pledges – Marti (Linda Blair), Jeff (Peter Barton), Denise (Suki Goodwin), and Seth (Vincent Van Patten) – spend the night in a decaying mansion. But this isn’t just any old house, as Peter regales a rapt audience – this is where former owner Raymond Garth killed his wife and three malformed children before hanging himself, sparing only the life of his son, Andrew, who was rumored to reside within the place after the murders. The pledges enter Garth Manor and quickly pair off, with Marti and Jeff getting intellectual while Denise and Seth take a more physical path.

A few hours pass and Peter returns with some of his bros, planning to initiate a few good scare pranks they set up earlier that week. The chuckles don’t last long, though, because Jeff and Seth quickly find the shoddy wiring and poorly placed speakers rigged upstairs. What they don’t know is that there is an actual killer on the loose, and he just decapitated one of the girls. Leaving the labyrinthine home proves difficult, with Marti & Jeff getting lost within the catacombs beneath the estate, evading their mongoloid menace however possible. Seth, meanwhile, has to scale a massive spiked fence if they hope to get any help way out here. Wait, didn’t Peter mention something about Andrew having a sibling?

The production team on this picture was a beast, and I’m convinced that’s the chief reason why it came out any good at all; specifically, the involvement of Chuck Russell and Irwin Yablans. I give a bit less credit to director Tom DeSimone, who up to that point (and after it) filled his filmography with lots and lots of gay porn; storyline and direction are usually secondary in that market. Hell, they even had Frank Darabont running around set as a P.A. which is just a cool fact because nobody listens to P.A.s on a film set. Music is just as important, too, and composer Dan Wyman is a synth master who worked with John Carpenter on his early films. His score here is reminiscent of those lo-fi masterpieces.

Solid atmosphere and rounded characters make all the difference. Instead of a roster of stereotypical sophomoric faces the bulk of the film focuses on four individuals with personality and a bit of depth. Blair makes a good turn as the bookish good girl type, while Barton is a charming match for her mentally, showing interest in more than just a drunken hookup. Denise and Seth are both superficial, and their interactions inject the most humor into the film. Denise continually calling Seth “Wes” is one example. A good horror film gets the audience invested in who lives and dies, and while I won’t go so far as to say these are exemplary characters the script does make them three-dimensional and not so paper thin.


The 1.85:1 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 encoded image is sourced from a 4K restoration of an archival 35mm print with standard definition inserts. This is a step up from Anchor Bay’s old DVD but not by leaps and bounds. Colors attain greater saturation and definition is tightened but the picture looks awfully soft too often and the jump between HD and SD footage is plain as day. The print displays vertical scratches and white flecks. Black levels are decent but there is clear room for improvement across the board. To their credit this is the best image Scream Factory was able to produce but fans should temper expectations going in because this is not a pristine picture by any means.


There is nothing wrong to be found with the English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track, which does a fine job of carrying the dialogue alongside Dan Wyman’s sinister synth soundtrack. Direction is limited and the presentation is routine, but no problems were detected and the track capably supports the feature. Subtitles are available in English for the hearing impaired.


Here is where Scream Factory does their best to make up for the shortcomings of the a/v presentation: a ton of extra features.


An audio commentary track features actress Linda Blair, director Tom DeSimone, and producers Irwin Yablans & Bruce Cohn Curtis.

Linda Blair: The Beauty of Horror” (1080p) is an interview featurette that runs for 35 minutes and 21 seconds, this is a recent discussion with the actress, who covers her run in the genre in addition to diving deep into this film’s difficult production.

“Hell Nights with Tom DeSimone” (1080p) is an interview featurette that runs for 26 minutes and 57 seconds, shot on location at the Garth Manor (in Redlands, CA), DeSimone reflects back on shooting the film there over 35 years ago.

Peter Barton: Facing Fear” (1080p) is an interview featurette that runs for 20 minutes and 50 seconds, the actor offers up expected discussion, covering his career in horror and navigating the Hollywood scene.

“Producing Hell with Bruce Cohn Curtis” (1080p) is an interview featurette that runs for 14 minutes and 10 seconds, this covers more of the behind-the-scenes work that went into making the movie.

“Writing Hell” (1080p) is an interview featurette that runs for 25 minutes and 51 seconds, screenwriter Randy Feldman offers up some insight into his process for creating the story and writing the script.

Vincent Van Patten & Suki Goodwin in Conversation” (1080p) is an interview featurette that runs for 26 minutes and 53 seconds, the two actors, who have not seen each other in quite some time, sit down together for a back-and-forth discussion.

Kevin Brophy & Jenny Neumann in Conversation” (1080p) is an interview featurette that runs for 23 minutes and 1 seconds, this is another chat conducted the same way as Van Patten & Goodwin.

“Gothic Design in Hell Night” (1080p) is an interview featurette that runs for 22 minutes and 50 seconds, art director Steven Legler talks about his process for turning Garth Manor into how it is seen on film; evoking the right chilling atmosphere.

“Anatomy of the Death Scenes” (1080p) is a featurette that runs for 21 minutes and 43 seconds, Pam Peitzman, make-up artist, and John Eggett, special effects, scrutinize each of the film’s kill scenes and discuss what went into achieving them.

“On Location at Kimberly Crest” (1080p) is a featurette that runs for 6 minutes and 48 seconds, DeSimone guides viewers on a tour of the “Garth Manor” as it can be seen today.

A theatrical trailer (SD) runs for 2 minutes and 56 seconds.

Two TV spots (1080p) run for 1 minute and 5 seconds.

A radio spot runs for 32 seconds.

Finally, there is a photo gallery (1080p) that runs for 8 minutes and 31 seconds.


This is a standard definition DVD copy version of the film.


The two-disc set comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keep case, with each disc on a hub opposite the other. The cover art is reversible and a slip-cover with the new art is included on first pressings.


“Hell Night” overcomes being lumped in with standard slasher fare thanks to dripping atmosphere, unique production design, and characters that elicit some empathy. The A/V presentation leaves much to be desired but a plethora of bonus features softens that blow.

The Film: B- Video: C+ Audio: B Extras: A Overall: B


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.