Ok, here’s a question you might find on a Trivial Pursuit game card someday…Who was Fonzie’s color-coordinated girlfriend on Happy Days? Answer: Pinky Tuscadero! Played by Roz Kelly, she was the sexy demolition derby driver who won the Fonz’s heart. I was about a half-hour into today’s movie when I realized that the film’s leading lady was Pinky! I know it’s only October, but it’s time for some “New Year’s Evil.”
This 1980 film centers on Diane Sullivan (Kelly), known to her fans as “Blaze.” She’s basically an Mtv VJ several years before there was an Mtv. It’s New Year’s Eve and she is preparing for her big countdown broadcast. Her manager, Ernie (Jed Mills), is going nuts trying to have her ready in time. Things are crazy, she doesn’t even have enough time to listen to some important news from her teenage son, Derek (Grant Cramer). To make matters worse, her assistant Yvonne (Alicia Dhanifu) has gone missing. Known to us, but not to Blaze, Yvonne was sliced up by someone hiding in her shower.
But, the show must go on. During the big broadcast, viewers call in to say what their favorite songs of the year are. Blaze even answers some of the calls herself. One such call, comes from a man speaking through a voice manipulator of some sort, who calls himself “Evil.” He claims that he will kill someone as the new year arrives in each of the four US time zones, all of which Blaze’s show is counting down to. It doesn’t take long for the killer to strike, killing a nurse (Taafee O’Connell) at a sanitarium. When he’s done, the killer calls Blaze’s show from a pay phone (what’s a pay phone?) and even tells the cops where to find the body. By the way, the killer is not hidden from us. No hockey mask or anything like that. He’s a handsome young guy (Kip Niven), walking around with a tape recorder (what’s a tape recorder?) so he can record his victim’s deaths.
Now, Blaze is getting a bit freaked out, so the police presence at the hotel where her big broadcast originates from is stepped up. It’s all under the command of Lt. Clayton (Chris Wallace). But they still have no idea who the killer is.
To find his next victim, the killer dons a fake porno moustache and heads to a singles bar. He picks up a girl named Sally (Louisa Moritz) and offers to take her to a party at Erik Estrada’s house (oh yeah…party at Ponch’s). She insists on bringing a friend with, which just leads to two victims. Of course, the killer calls Blaze again to report on his progress.
Next he changes into a priest’s outfit before heading out to find his next victim. But, somewhat stupidly, he hits a biker’s motorcycle with his car. The biker gang chases him into a drive-in movie theater (what’s a drive-in movie theater?), where he ends up knifing one of the bikers. He then steals a car from a teenager who is too busy feeling up his girlfriend (Teri Copley) to notice everything going on around him. Figuring the future star of “We Got it Made” will work as his next victim, he drives off with her. She manages to get away, however, opening the door for several future guest shots on “The Love Boat.” Having now missed his Mountain Time Zone murder, the killer sets his sites on the finale…crashing the big broadcast and taking care of Blaze.
On the surface, “New Year’s Evil” seems like your typical 80’s masked killer movie, but it’s actually quite different. The movie is not that gory at all, and the killer doesn’t wear a mask…well, except for one scene, but that’s a joke really. For most of the movie, he’s just some nutcase out to make things difficult for Blaze. We don’t know why he’s doing this…until the end, and I can’t give that away. The fact that he appears to be just a normal guy makes him a pretty scary character. Plus, the electronically manipulated voice is just great! “I’m going to commit muuuuuurrrrrrder at midnight.” I admit, I laughed at it at first, but you do start to accept it as the movie goes on.
I really liked Roz Kelly’s performance as Blaze. She plays a confident and sexy woman, used to being control, who ends up in a situation where she is spiraling out of control and can do nothing about it. But the real standout performance is from Kip Niven as the killer. Often, villains who don’t look like villains can be the most effective kind. Niven does a great job with the role, and besides, who needs a hockey mask when you’ve got a fake moustache?
I thought that the story worked well, with a few exceptions. The inclusion of Blaze’s teenage son is really just there to set up the final shock of the movie…otherwise the character really serves no purpose. But the script is pretty intelligent, with bits of clever dialogue and some decent surprises. The sequence at the film’s climax, which involves the killer trying to take out Blaze with an elevator, is especially fun…in a crazy sort of way.
As someone who’s really not a fan of 80’s masked killer movies, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed “New Year’s Evil.” Of course, this guy didn’t have a mask…that fake moustache was pretty scary, though.