Girls Nite Out AKA The Scaremaker (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - United Kingdom - Arrow Films
Review written by and copyright: Paul Lewis (20th May 2022).
The Film

Girls Nite Out (Robert Deubel, 1982)

At Weston Hills Sanatorium, convicted killer Dickie Cavanaugh commits suicide in his cell. A number of years prior, Cavanaugh was committed for the murder, during Dewitt University’s annual on-campus scavenger hunt, of the young woman who spurned him: the daughter of campus cop Jim ‘Mac’ MacVey (Hal Holbrook). The killing is the stuff of legend amongst the student community at Dewitt. However, Dewitt’s body is stolen after someone kills the gravediggers responsible for interring it.

On campus, Dewitt University’s basketball team scores a major win. The team, captained by Teddy Ratliff (James Carroll), celebrate with the other students. However, there are a number of romantic entanglements. Teddy has a wandering eye, which alienates his loyal girlfriend Lynn (Julia Montgomery): Teddy has a habit of chasing the girls on campus, including older waitress Barney (Rutanya Alda). The latest object of Teddy’s desire is rich girl Dawn (Suzanne Barnes), who is involved in a weirdly open relationship with privileged Bud Remington (Tony Shultz). Pryor’s (David Holbrook) girlfriend Sheila (Lauren-Marie Taylor) has cheated on him by sleeping with her own cocky cousin, Benson (Matthew Dunn), who wears a bear suit as the basketball team’s mascot. Meanwhile, nerdy Bostwick (John Didrichsen) is the butt of his peers’ jokes.

However, when Benson is murdered and his bear-mascot suit stolen, his killer dons the suit and begins stalking and murdering the young women on campus. Recalling his daughter’s murder by Cavanaugh, Mac involves the local police—but the killings continue. Who is the killer? Is it the nerdy Bostwick; or could it be Pryor, who mouthed angry, misogynistic slurs when he was humiliated by Sheila at a party? Or has Cavanaugh either faked his own death, or returned from the dead?

Originally titled The Scaremaker, Robert Deubel’s Girls Nite Out (1982) was produced during the peak period of the American slasher movie boom. Hammering home its slasher movie credentials, Deubel’s picture featured among its cast Lauren-Marie Taylor, who had recently played in Steve Miner’s iconic Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981). However, Girls Nite Out was also produced at the height of popularity of the ‘frat house’ comedies that followed in the wake of John Landis’ Animal House (1978), and in fact the actress playing Girls Nite Out’s ‘final girl’, Julia Montgomery, is perhaps remembered by most for her performance in Jeff Kanew’s Revenge of the Nerds a few years later (in 1984).

Girls Nite Out bears the influence of these two enormously popular subgenres, its narrative straddling the paradigms of the slasher movie and the frat house comedy in pretty much equal measure. In fact, one of the film’s three(!) co-writers, Joe Bolster, was a stand-up comic who has also written material for US television comedies such as Everybody Loves Raymond. Among the film’s many principal cast members are Paul Christie and Gregory Salata (as wacky theatre students Dancer and Hagen, respectively), real-life friends who were permitted to ad-lib many of their lines and play their roles as essentially a comedy double act. In fact, in the interview with Paul Christie on this disc, he says that in the original script, the characters played by himself and Salata were, after the killings on the campus begin to be investigated, originally to have been interviewed by Detective Greenspan (Richard Bright). Christie and Hagen were looking forward to ad-libbing their way through these scenes, which were scripted as light comedy (and in which Christie suggests, he and Salata intended to channel Chico and Harpo Marx). However, the scenes were dropped from the production and never filmed: Christie suggests that this may have been because the production team realised that as the film built towards its climax and the murders mounted, the humour had to be toned back.

Much of the first half of Girls Nite Out is given over to the basketball team’s antics, frat house parties, and the bed-hopping shenanigans and petty jealousies of its oversexed late adolescent/young adult principal characters. The anarchically comic tone of these scenes is offset by the misogynistic fury of the killings that take place from the midway point of the narrative onwards, building to a final reveal of the identity of the killer that is almost as abrupt and memorable as the final reveal in the closing scene of Sleepaway Camp (Robert Hiltzik, 1983). The violence of the murders is amplified by the killer’s whispered mutterings, during the act of killing, of misogynistic slurs (‘Bitch! Bitch! You whore!’, the killer whispers violently during one of the murders).

In terms of the film’s pairings, there seems to be a tension—core within the script—that could best be articulated, using frat boy vernacular, as ‘bros before hoes’: Lynn’s issue with Teddy seems not to simply to be his incessant flirting with anything in a skirt, but also his all-consuming friendship with flatmate Pete ‘Maniac’ Krizaniac (Mart McChesney). Teddy and Maniac seem for all intents and purposes a barely closeted gay couple, as do theatre students Dancer and Hagen. (At one point, Maniac’s ex-girlfriend Leslie says, in reference to her relationship with Maniac, ‘I never could compete with Jack Daniel’s, basketball, and Teddy Ratcliff’.) There’s a persistent emphasis on homosocialism within the script that seems to suggest a ‘gay panic’, and connects to the film’s final revelation of the identity of the killer. (I’m trying not to ‘spoil’ this for those who haven’t seen the film previously, but it plays with the theme of gender stereotypes and identification with these.)

Girls Nite Out is probably remembered by many fans for its killer’ disguise: the cuddly bear mascot outfit of the basketball team, which the killer procures after murdering Benson (the basketball team’s designated mascot). Into this suit, the killer builds retractable claw blades which they use to murder their victims (by plunging the blades into the victims’ throats, and so forth). The use of these retractable claw blades predates Freddy Krueger’s ‘fingerknives’/murder glove by a couple of years. Interestingly, the mental hospital where Dickie Cavanaugh has been incarcerated, and which is the setting for the film’s opening sequence, is the Weston Hills Sanatorium: one wonders whether Girls Nite Out was a conscious point of reference for the naming of Westin Hills Asylum in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors (Chuck Russell, 1987). Certainly, with hindsight, Girls Nite Out is easily identifiable in terms of its position between the Friday the 13th films (emblematic for many horror fans of the early slasher boom) and the Nightmare on Elm Street pictures (which redirected the paradigms of the American slasher movie).

What is also notable about Girls Nite Out is its swollen cast. John Didrichsen, who plays the nerdy Bostwick in the film, says in the interview on this disc that he was astonished at how many characters were in the script, and this would seem to be the crux of a key criticism of Girls Nite Out: the volume of characters arguably dissipates the narrative slightly. Nevertheless, the various cast members interviewed on this disc speak highly of the opportunities this film—which though set in Ohio was shot in New York state—offered for actors in the Eastern US who were ‘jobbing’ in commercials and theatre. By all accounts, the atmosphere conjured up on set by the director was collegiate, though Laura Summer suggests that when the producers—who struck her as resembling farmers—visited the set, their lack of experience in filmmaking was evident in their attempts to tamper with and restrict the number of takes Deubel was shooting.


Girls Nite Out is presented on Arrow Video’s Blu-ray release in a 1080p presentation that uses the AVC codec and fills approximately 27Gb of space on a dual-layered Blu-ray disc. The presentation is in the film’s original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1. The film is uncut, with a running time of 97:27 mins.

Girls Nite Out was shot on colour 35mm stock. An onscreen title precedes the main presentation, outlining the methodology involved in restoring the film for this HD home video release. The presentation is a composite of 2k scans of more than one 35mm print of the film, sourced from the producer’s personal vaults. Some material missing from these 35mm prints has been patched in from a standard definition tape master.

Any inconsistencies resulting from this manner of assembling the presentation are difficult to spot, however. With the caveat that the presentation is sourced from prints (rather than a negative or interpositive/interneg source), this is a very strong presentation of Girls Nite Out. The opening sequence takes place in Weston Hills Sanitorium at night, and encapsulates the qualities of the film’s various low-light scenes: shadow detail is slightly crushed, and the grain structure is coarse. (All of these qualities are of course inherent in the use of 35mm prints.) There is also some noticeable (but not distracting) damage—in the form of white scratches and flecks, indicating damage to the negative before these prints were struck. Daylight scenes (or scenes at night featuring well-lite interiors) fare better. Contrast levels are pleasing (bearing in mind the sharp drop into the toe of the exposure indicated above), as are skintones. The level of detail is impressive, and the encode to disc is robust, retaining the structure of 35mm film. All in all, it’s an excellent presentation, as long as one accounts for the fact that the restoration is sourced from various 35mm prints (with some material from a SD tape master).

NB. Some full-sized screengrabs are included at the bottom of this review. Please click to enlarge them.


Audio is presented via a LPCM 2.0 mono track. This is clear throughout, with dialogue being audible. It’s not a showy track in any sense of the word, though it does possess good range. Optional English subtitles for the Hard of Hearing are provided, and these are easy to read and free from errors.


The disc includes the following contextual material:
- Audio commentary with Justin Kerswell and Amanda Reyes. Kerswell, author of Teenage Wasteland and the webmaster of the excellent slasher movie website Hysteria Lives!, offers a commentary with Amanda Reyes. Both Kerswell and Reyes are gloriously affable and know their beans. They offer a commentary for Girls Nite Out that explores the film’s relationship with other slasher pictures of the era, and highlight its ‘schizophrenic’ (in Kerswell’s words) nature – owing to the twin influences of the slasher paradigm and comedies such as Animal House and Porkys. They talk about their first encounters with the picture, which Reyes cites as one of her favourite slasher movies. Kerswell expresses his delight that the film, which has a checkered home video distribution history, is finding a wider audience. Both commentators discuss the film’s juxtaposition of moments of levity and scenes of horror, and highlight the misogyny of the killer (and the use of ‘fingerknives’ which predates A Nightmare on Elm Street): Kerswell suggests that the fact that so much of the film doesn’t take itself too seriously leads to the disturbing final moments being much more effective and memorable. It’s an absolutely fascinating commentary track, and is highly recommended.

- ‘Staying Alive’ (19:25). This new twenty-minute interview with Julia Montgomery, who plays Lynn in the film, sees the actress talking about what drew her to acting, and her journey from commercials to television, and on to the world of feature filmmaking. She talks about her role as the ‘final girl’ of Girls Nite Out, and discusses her response to the script, which she describes as ‘fun’. Montgomery also discusses the retitling of the film (as Girls Nite Out, which she suggests is a title that has little bearing on the film’s narrative) and the promotion of the picture (using a still of an actress who wasn’t in the film). She talks about the atmosphere on set, which she says was ‘easy’ and friendly: ‘it felt like a very loose, comfortable atmosphere’, she says. Montgomery suggests that female characters weren’t written ‘particularly well’ during the period, and she found that she often had to insert lines or suggest ways of delivering lines in order to flesh out her role.

- ‘A Savage Mauling’ (15:30). Actress Laura Summer speaks about her role as Jane. She discusses how she came to be cast in the role, and talks about the dearth of opportunities for young New York-based actors at the time. Summer says that she doesn’t recall rehearsing for the film, and some of the actors were swept up in improvisation during production. She reflects Montgomery’s assertions that the production was ‘open’ and friendly, and offers some amusing anecdotes regarding the producers, who were naïve to the methods of film production and prevented the director from getting more coverage and shooting more takes. (She says the producers had the appearance of farmers, though may have been lawyers.)

- ‘It Was a Party!’ (20:55). Actor Paul Christie, who plays Dancer in the film, discusses his path to acting and how he came to be cast in Girls Nite Out with his real-life friend Gregory Salata (who plays Hagen). Christie says he remembers ‘different titles’ being ‘bounced around’ – but neither of them were The Scaremaker or Girls Nite Out. He talks about his approach to playing Dancer – who he says was ‘moving two steps faster than his body’, and recollects shooting his scenes with Salata on a real university campus. He and Salata would improvise much of their dialogue. In the original script, Dancer and Hagen were to be interrogated by the detective played by Richard Bright, and were disappointed that these scenes weren’t filmed (in order to maintain the more serious tone of the film once the murders begin to take centre-stage).

- ‘Love & Death’ (16:56). Actors Lauren-Marie Taylor and John Didrichsen, who are married, reflect on their roles in Girls Nite Out, in an interview recorded over Zoom. Taylor had just completed Friday the 13th Part 2 and Neighbors when she was cast in Girls Nite Out. Didrichsen says he was astonished by the volume of characters in the script, given its compact running time and setting. The couple discuss working with the other actors on the production, and the logistics and processes involved in shooting the scare scenes in horror pictures. They talk about how they fell in love (on the set of Girls Nite Out) and discuss their careers after the film.

- Archival Interview with Julia Montgomery (6:46). In this interview recorded for the film’s US DVD release, Montgomery talks about her role in the film and how she came to be cast in it. There’s overlap with the newer interview recorded for this release. Both are worth watching for fans of the film, though the newer interview has greater depth.

- Alternate Title Card (0:23). Presented without sound, this is the title card bearing the film’s original moniker, ‘The Scaremaker’.

- Original Trailers: The Scaremaker (2:52); Girls Nite Out (1:10). Assembled from footage from the film, the trailer for The Scaremaker is a conventional affair. The trailer for Girls Nite Out, on the other hand, is… weird. It features an actress not in the film (possibly the same actress/model featured on the promo artwork, as highlighted by Julia Montgomery and other interviewees on this disc) sitting up in a bed next to a giant teddy bear, holding her bedsheets to cover her breasts, and saying, ‘You know what really turns me on? I love to be scared [….] What can you expect, on a “girls nite out?”’ This scene is intercut with footage from the film.


Girls Nite Out is an odd, disjointed film—but a wonderfully entertaining one, for fans of early 1980s slasher movies. Particularly notable is its contrapunctive use of music, with numerous examples of ‘found’ pop music (for example, tunes by The Lovin’ Spoonful, including ‘Summer in the City’) being used throughout the narrative. These are introduced into the film by way of cutaways to the campus DJ, who is issuing clues via the radio station for the scavenger hunt that is taking place on campus. (The use of these cutaways to the campus DJ was almost certainly inspired by Walter Hill’s similar use of a radio DJ in The Warriors, a few years earlier.) Also memorable is the intensity of the misogynistic slurs uttered by the killer as they assault their victims: many slasher movies feature their killers attacking young women, but few feature them so obsessively calling their victims ‘whores’ or ‘bitches’ as they do so.

However, most slasher fans undoubtedly recall Girls Nite Out as the movie which features a killer dressed as a cuddly bear mascot (and with ‘fingerknives’ that predate Freddy Krueger’s ‘murder glove’). Certainly, Girls Nite Out is an enormously fun slasher picture, though very much a film that is pulled in separate directions by its combination of comedic ‘frat house’ and slasher movie motifs. The cast seem to be having a good time throughout, and there are some atmospheric scenes in which the killer stalks their victims. With the caveat that this HD presentation is culled from a variety of sources (see the Video section of this review for more details), Arrow’s Blu-ray release of Girls Nite Out is superb; the main feature is supported by some excellent contextual material, including a number of interviews and a marvelous, informative commentary track from Justin Kerswell and Amanda Reyes.

Please click to enlarge the below full-sized screengrabs.


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