“ Actors: Suzy Aitchison, Nikki Brooks, Colin Heywood, Mark Powley, Catherine Roman / Directors: Norman J. Warren / Language: English, French / Studio: Image Entertainment / DVD Release Date: 5 Oct 2004 / Run Time: 90 minutes „
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Well it's the New Year and with the concept of turning over a temporally inspired new leaf just a fuzzy memory I'm back to my old ways and foolishly listening to fellow reviewer Mattygroves for my choice of film viewing pleasures (I do use the term pleasures very loosely). Anyway, rather aptly this latest miscreation comes in the form of the 1987 horror flick "Bloody New Year" directed by a little known director Norman J. Warren for whom this film seemed to be his last main feature production. That may be telling in itself. Whilst there is indeed an allusion to the New Year in this film rather sadly the opening third of the title is disappointingly absent, so fair warning, if it's a bloodthirsty slasher thriller along the lines of My Bloody Valentine you're after this isn't going to be it. Not by a long shot. If it's an 80s cult classic seemingly overflowing with drug inspired insanity...well this isn't it either. But hey, getting warmer. If it's plain old stupid you want complete with a nonsensical plotline then you've come to the right place. Just make sure you have an exit strategy as getting stuck there is a sure-fired way to go insane.
So let's rattle on with the "plot" so we can get to the good or bad stuff, depending on your perspective. Five friends, those "teenagers" that are so obviously played by 20+ year olds, are spending a lazy day on a beach before moving on to a fun fair. Naturally, a nasty group of murderous biker type dudes are tormenting a poor girl on a waltzer who is spectacularly rescued by this group of friends, so the next logical step is to escape and hop on a boat, only to get annoyingly and damply marooned on a mysterious island. Thankfully the Grand Island Hotel is the first building they come to which can offer warmth and dryness but it is strangely deserted. Thinking nothing of the emptiness and weird Christmas decorations still adorning the place the friends wander around which is when things take a terrible turn for the worse and they all become seriously imperilled. Like, seriously, I can't emphasize that enough. It's not bad enough that the hotel starts doing crazy stuff; they also have to contend with the trio of violent bikers that still want their revenge for the waltzer incident. Can anyone survive the spooky goings on in this hotel and when all is said and done do we really care?
So, we have a strange little "horror" movie from the 1980s here with a hankering to both take itself seriously with genuine attempts to add credence whilst systematically destroying itself with ever increasingly dumb moments of supernatural lunacy. I'm going to try not to be too spoilery throughout this review but I'm probably going to find it hard not to mention some of the more ridiculous moments so I might give some surprises away. Oh who am I kidding, the chances of anyone watching this movie and caring about that is slim to none...and slim has left town. Rather than sticking with one form of horror cliché like say a knife wielding maniac, this film decides it might as well go the whole hog and try out practically every conceivable scare tactic like an alarmed fortune teller...if she was any good she'd have seen it coming ergo have no need for alarm; ghostly figures stalking the halls or in mirrors...boring; inanimate objects doing deadly things...axes always solve that pesky problem; monsters...bought the T-shirt; zombification...so 2013; disembodied laughter...ventriloquism is clearly making a return, or being sucked through walls to God knows where...anywhere is better than this film...I could go on but I feel you get the picture by now. Frankly it's all a horrible mess, without much blood to improve things, and without a genuine scare in sight.
You always know when you're supposed to be scared, regardless of success (which for me was a steady zero), by the somewhat limited soundtrack. There's some actually fairly decent music at the start from the band Cry No More that did all the songs for the film which is a pleasant rocky pop style that is very definable as originating in the 1980s, but they are used so fleetingly throughout you'd hardly even know they were there. Instead we are constantly bombarded by the same few chords from a synthesiser keyboard just shuffled around and so obviously played by a llama dosed up on narcotics either involving just a single hoof for the more subtly "atmospheric" moments (you know when people are being watched from beyond the trees), or double hooves for the seriously dramatic moments (i.e. flying netting attacking people). Still, the setting had some potential to be a bit creepy - lots of trees with perfect hiding places for scary monsters on an isolated island (filmed on the rather picturesque Barry Island in Wales) and an empty hotel, but doing it mostly in daylight and being surrounded by Christmas decorations kind of killed the mood for me. So, despite the music being rather obviously from the 1980s, does this film successfully avoid falling into the usual trap many films from this decade fall into?
Nope. The usual terrible mullets, drab jumpers and unflattering jeans are fully on display for all to see and laugh at. Ah well, at least we can get a few titters from that if nothing else. Even the acting feels very obviously from the period. All the actors are slightly on the posh side with some lovely elocution, though to be fair are actually all mostly competent, albeit with the emotional depth of a paddling pool. They're fine when their just joshing around or being all inappropriately horny, but show a distinct lack of capacity for caring or an extremely rapid rate of recovery when the mortality rate starts to increase. At the other end when moments of extreme terror or tragedy occur the acting goes so far the other way the shrill screams from Janet, the simpering wimpy one, mostly just grate on the nerves and the displays of emotional torment feels like an Oscar is being sought after. It's all just a bit bizarre and leaves you a little discombobulated from the breakneck change from weird nonchalance to disproportionate hysteria. I think the dialogue (or lack of - Janet: "Maybe if we stay here and be very quiet then they'll leave us alone" - what planet are you living on dear?) and direction is probably a huge contributory factor to this lacklustre state our actors find themselves in whereby everything leads to the film trying to show off the special effects (we'll get on to those later) and produce scares instead of actually leading anywhere towards a sensible plotline with proper character development prospects.
The real trouble is, as is often the case, the characters are mostly unlikeable and therefore expendable. Which is fine if they're in a slasher movie and we want hilariously gory deaths, but for a film that is trying to achieve...well I suppose psychological disturbances...the deaths are wholly unsatisfying and just plain ridiculous and so completely mismatched it just makes for befuddlement more than anything else. They all commit the cardinal sin of somehow missing the glaring sign that says "Danger! Keep Out" in amongst the horse skull and barbed wire which would have saved them a whole load of bother and frankly from then on they got what they deserved. Rick, played by Mark Powley who you may recognise from Casualty, was the alpha male of the pack, but thankfully was not arrogant so was easily the most likeable of characters. His girlfriend Janet (Nikki Brooks) was annoying with her constant screaming but apart from that was not much more than a pretty face. Tom (Julian Ronnie) was fairly forgettable as the dull beta male with the grumpy pants girlfriend Lesley (Suzy Aitchison) who was also a nerve grater. Then there was Spud (Colin Heywood), the poor chap that couldn't seem to get a girlfriend (probably due to his personality) and Carol (Catherine Roman), the American recently rescued damsel in distress who he had such high hopes for. Yawn, live or die, I don't care. Suffice it to say, none of these actors have gone on to have stellar careers.
Another huge flaw in this film is the plot just makes absolutely no sense at all. The explanation drummed in to us is it's a scientific experiment by the government in 1960 that sent a plane carrying a weird time device involving mirrors and other clever things that unfortunately crashed on the island breaking the device and therefore shattering time itself so the island got stuck in a weird time warp...or something. Fantastic. That explains the 1950s getup, but not really how this would lead to demonic possessions, zombification, monsters, poltergeist activity, boring ghosts and basically any other supernatural stuff you can come up with. I guess if you want any chance of getting through this film and keeping your dignity just give up expecting a cohesive plot and instead roll with the punches as they fly at your face since it's the only chance you'll have of finding the absurdity of it all even remotely enjoyable. There is absolutely no intended humour in this film, it's all supposed to be a bit bleak one would imagine, though the failure of the actors to humanise their characters puts a stop to that. However, unintentionally is a different matter entirely and the best chance of getting any laughs from this film, other than the dodgy 1980s style, is through the "special effects".
Some of the special effects were better than others, although all were fairly obviously done on a low budget but they were not as bad as they could have been. We do get a tiny bit of gore for our delectation, hence validating the Bloody part of the title to a certain extent but this is mainly involving an elevator and a loss of an arm, and a zombie / shotgun / loss of arm both which were laughably unrealistic. Apart from that we have some pretty odd moments that seem to have been decided by a random word generator such as footprints appearing and disappearing in the sand which were so poorly edited together it was obvious the camera just couldn't stay still enough to make it work. Add to this a ridiculous looking zombie and monster, a head being twisted around just like the Exorcist, being sucked through mirrors and walls, a weird exploding plaster cast mannequin that was meant to be a person plus plenty of jumping scenes where the poor editing is exposed and it's not looking good. On the flipside there were some surprisingly good scenes. One involves Carol wandering about by herself in a neighbouring house when she opens a door only to set loose a terrible snow storm. Rather than attempting to leave the house or closing the door she willingly traps herself in another room as the snow comes and gets her complete with the cries from screaming children, some cats and...a wolf? Ignoring the fact any sensible person would never have let it get that far this scene was not bad for tension. Likewise another scene in the kitchen involving flying plates, knives and a man face planting in a giant oil cooker complete with an expulsion of gas when it was done with him which then rather excitingly went on to reverse time to fix all the broken crockery (but with nothing doing for the poor dead chap). Then again, playing a film backwards probably isn't all that hard.
So that's all folks, this really was a film trying too hard to be clever instead of just doing the basics well and it just ended up a hodgepodge of movie clichés devoid of any real scares with its only saving grace the ridiculousness of the special effects and nonsensical plotline which allowed for some unintended laughs. It wasn't completely unwatchable, but you really couldn't take any of it seriously, so I think the only reason to watch this film would be to mock it mercilessly. It's also damn nigh impossible to get hold of on DVD (not that anyone in their right mind would want to) so if you really want to see it you can find online streaming (http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xq3tpn_bloody-new-year_shortfilms). Only recommended if you're extremely bored and in the mood for eviscerating a movie.