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Hell’s night | Goth Slasher with Linda Blair from ‘The Exorcist’ turns 40

A mixture of gothic horror in the style of the English productions of the Hammer studio, with slasher films for teenagers, Infernal Night was released in North American theaters in August 1981, after passing through the Cannes Film Market in May of the same year. In other words, this year ends 40 years of its debut. The big draw here is the presence of Linda Blair dabbing the poster and playing the lead role in the horror. The actress, of course, was immortalized as Regan, the devil-possessed girl in the Oscar-nominated classic The Exorcist (1973) – when she was 14. But it wasn’t just the aforementioned film that received an Oscar nomination, and proving that Blair truly peaked her career with the supernatural thriller, the actress was also nominated for an Oscar for her supporting role. in the feature film. And you need prestige.

It was such a success that Linda Blair wasted no time and returned to play Regan in the sequel to the classic, The Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), at the age of 18; and made fun of it all (surfing a little more in popularity) with A Repossessed (1990), aged 31. In other words, having lived Regan twice at the time of the release of Infernal Night, we can say that Linda Blair was an icon of the genre, at 22 years old. Well, here too we must take into account, as I had already mentioned in another article, the phenomenon that occurred with horror films for teenagers (or post-teenagers), which earned the nickname of slasher. Halloween – The Night of Terror (1978) cemented and popularized, and Friday the 13th (1980) took the game to a new level. So, the following year, 1981, such films reached their peak, with a veritable flood of titles from sub-genres. And Hell Night was another of them.

Read also: Terror Slasher | 40 years of the apogee of the sub-genre in cinema

What really sets Infernal Night apart from the others, as has been said, is a gothic atmosphere, with the film taking place almost entirely inside a mansion, looking like a medieval castle, owner of a decoration. with timeless looks. It helps that the unfolding of the film is the result of a college student costume party, with the main characters wearing the habit of middle-aged British nobles.

Written by Randy Feldman, who would later create the buddy cop flick Tango and Cash (starring Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell), Infernal Night has a simple premise, but done in a very icy way, thanks to the direction of director Tom DeSimone – who he never managed to land a meaningful position in his career, which is probably the most revered, although still unknown to a large part of the public and not to aficionados. What DeSimone creates is a deliberate rhythm, which is not rushed by the usual killings or scares that drag young people towards this type of product. Here, the climate is built with great security, making us fear every corner of the haunted house, often transporting us with the characters to such a mausoleum. Basically Hell Night looks more like Halloween than Friday the 13th.

The story follows a group of students at a costume party. Of course, freshmen have to take a prank call. Thus, veteran Peter (Kevin Brophy) soon takes up a challenge that will truly prove to be a “hellish” task. Four young people: Marti (Linda Blair), Jeff (Peter Barton), Seth (Vincent Van Patten) and Denise (Suki Goodwin) will have to spend the night in a mansion believed to be cursed. But calm down, it’s clear there is an urban legend behind the seemingly abandoned property. According to legend, the place belonged to a famous doctor who, after discovering that his children were born with a mental handicap, after having locked them up for years in their youth, decided to kill the whole family and also commit suicide. . Nice story to spend the night, right? The catch, however, is that the veteran is planning a scary night and has already organized all the pranks and traps there with his minions. They just weren’t expecting anyone other than themselves to be prowling around, setting up real, deadly scares.

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40-year-old SPOILERS (skip paragraph)

The coolest thing about Infernal Night is that the movie doesn’t really bother to explain who the antagonists are. And yes, I said “the”. What happens is that he saw there some sort of half “missing link” creature, almost a big foot / sasquatch, a humanoid being part ogre, who is assumed to be one of the children. of the family, now an adult, living in the catacombs of the house. Don’t ask me what he ate. The skeletons of his family (possibly) can be found in the underground cave-like corridors of the property. But here’s the plot twist, when we find out it’s not just a big foot, but two cave creatures living in place and sneaking around the youngsters. Initially, however, the idea was for one villain, but the producers felt having a second element would bring some surprises in the third act of the film. Tragedy sadly struck beyond the screen and the German actor who plays the main “caveman” died in a car crash ahead of the film’s premiere.

Shot over a 40-day period, between November 1980 and January 1981, Infernal Night followed the profitable formula to which several film producers have opened their eyes: Terror was inexpensive and paid dearly with its captive audience. Here, however, with an initial budget of $ 1 million, the production had to increase the value by an additional $ 400,000 to cover the cost of the more expensive filming during the holiday season. The box office result was $ 2.3 million, which isn’t exactly a big hit, especially compared to icons in the genre like Halloween and Friday 13. In fact, many haven’t even heard of it. talk about this movie. And you, did you already know that?

The consequence of this relative financial failure was the closing of the doors of the film’s producer, Compass International Pictures. And speaking of the producer, she’s the same one who gifted the world with the very first Maniac Michael Myers movie, directed by John Carpenter, mentioned above, demonstrating the great connection between the films. Halloween, however, was the company’s only big success. But the story doesn’t end so sadly, as four years after it closed, company founders Irwin Yablans and Joseph Wolf created Trancas International Films and acquired the rights to the Halloween franchise, producing every copy since the fourth film of 1988, including the last trilogy in partnership with Blumhouse: Halloween, Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends.

Speaking of the behind-the-scenes production of Infernal Night, some famous names were involved behind the camera in their early work in the film world. One of the horror production assistants was none other than Frank Darabont, who would go on to become a renowned director nominated for three Oscars, having in his filmography some productions really appreciated to date, see A Dream of Freedom (1994) and Waiting of a miracle (1999). Another famous figure on the set, according to legend, was none other than Kevin Costner, before venturing in front of the camera as an actor. According to Vincent Van Patten, who in the film plays surfer Seth, Costner worked in production as an assistant cameraman.

And ending with the cast, male protagonist Peter Barton, who plays Jeff, would be cast in the film’s most successful slasher horror series playing, three years later, the character of Doug in Friday the 13th – Final Chapter. (1984) and having his head crushed. by Jason while he was showering. Coming back to Linda Blair, we know, unfortunately the actress’s career never took off as it should. At the time, the actress claimed that due to her role in The Exorcist, she had become branded and stereotyped as jovial characters and helpless victims. Thinking of changing her career and showing that she could be seen as a woman of attitude and strength, an adult and no longer a little girl, she decided to pose nude for the magazine Yes in 1982, after the release of Infernal Night , decides it was the last horror of his career. Blair’s decision ended up having the opposite result of what was planned and his career was limited to genre films, B-movie productions, and minor appearances on TV shows. The reality of the competitive world of an industry like Hollywood will always be more frightening and cruel than any horror we see on screen.

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