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Movie/DVD Screener Review: Blood Night

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All these new, glossy horror remakes got you down? Looking for something with more of a brutal, retro vibe? Ever wanted to see Danielle Harris in a plaid skirt, carrying a large pick ax? Look no further than Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet.

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WARNING: Contains Minor Spoilers!

Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet (if you’re not into the whole brevity thing), opens with a dark and stormy prologue in 1978, Long Island, New York. Young Mary Mattock suddenly goes postal on her parents, slaughtering them both in some gruesome ways. Merely 2 minutes and 48 seconds into the story, we’re treated to the first of many scenes boasting some rather impressive gore effects. More on that later.

After the police have arrived and carted the dead folks away, we flash cut to another prologue. This one takes place in 1989, at a Psychiatric Center. Mary, now played by perpetually naked, loud and proud screamer Samantha Facchi (The Book, Night for Day, The Abductor), is locked away in a seemingly otherwise vacant wing of the hospital. One of the employees has been making nightly visits to her room. During a rather disturbing and terrifying rape scene, he impregnates her.

We skip ahead some more to the birth (and death) of Mary’s child. The final straw broken, Mary manages to massacre the entire staff. She escapes, but doesn’t get very far. After tossing a severed head into the windshield of a police car, the cops shoot her full of holes, putting an end to her short, terrible life. Everything I just described happens all within the first twelve minutes of the film’s brisk running time, before the title card.

Through some flashy opening credits, we get the Cliff Notes version of those previous scenes. Additionally, we learn that Mary’s death results in a town holiday called (you guessed it), Blood Night. It’s an excuse for people to “dress up” like Mary Mattock (now known as Mary Hatchet), and cause random acts of chaos and vandalism. By the time we reach present day, Blood Night has been condemned by town officials, but that doesn’t seem to stop anyone. It’s here that we meet our “heroes”. I use the term loosely because well, these guys are pretty much jerks. Their dismissal of a couple of “nerds” tells us these are the cool kids. If they’re having a party, that’s where you want to be.

Thankfully, many of the actors bring their own natural charm and likability to the parts. Nate Dushku (Joan of Arcadia, Tru Calling, The Zodiac), brother to Joss Whedon muse, Eliza is fun to watch in all his punk-swagger glory, plus he has awesome hair. Seriously. Likewise, Alissa Dean (Midnight Club II, Cold Case, Without A Trace) stands out from the bevy of beautiful women here. She’s one to watch for in the future.

After painting the town with eggs, the group decides to visit the grave of Mary Hatchet, attempting to wake her spirit with a Ouija Board. Later, while a raging party of beer and sex goes down, someone (or something) begins to slaughter these disrespectful teenagers one by one. Much of the film plays out in typical, predictable slasher fashion, but it’s not without its merits. The proceedings embody a fun, retro 80s’ sensibility and there’s plenty of top shelf gore to go around. My favorite bits include intestines being pulled through someone’s back while coiled around the murder weapon, and a hatchet removing a portion of someone’s skull so that we get to witness all the brainy delights inside.

Outside the fine, young cast of relative unknowns, we get appearances from two Horror movie icons. Bill Moseley (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Army of Darkness, House of 1,000 Corpses) plays a wise, old caretaker who likes to tell scary stories and drink his body weight in booze. Danielle Harris (Halloween 4 & 5, The Last Boy Scout, Urban Legend) is sensational here, playing a sweet, friendly girl with a disturbing secret. In the past, Danielle has expressed a personal wish concerning her part in the Halloween franchise (which I wholeheartedly agree with). It took about 20 years, but in a roundabout way, her wish was finally granted. For that, I am thankful to the makers of Blood Night.

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Thanks to the great PR work provided by Big Picture Media, I was sent a screener DVD in the mail. Aside from an occasional watermark on the screen (reminding the viewer that the film is property of innovative production company, Chaos Squared), the image is virtually flawless for its humble budget. Colors are rich, blacks are deep and detail is smooth and clear. Blood looks especially thick and hearty. Cinematographer, Jarin Blaschke uses the 2.35 aspect ratio to great effect, capturing every spanning moment of projectile bloodshed.

The sound mix is unknown to me, but I’d wager it’s a mostly solid 5.1 arrangement. The score by Victor Bruno and Stephen Tubin is simple, yet eerie and memorable. It’s never overstated. The foley work is exceptionally grand and dynamic. However, some of the dialogue sounds rather odd and flimsy, lacking in resonance. It’s sparse, but it’s as if some dialogue was looped in post and simply layered on top of the original recordings. Then again, it could just be my copy. Who knows?

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As this is a screener disc, no special features are present.

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See above. Screener disc, so only the movie itself was made available to me. This segment isn’t completely wasted, though. I was sent a nice folder with a striking, wall of blood theme to it. Inside, there was a clear plastic case that housed the disc itself, but I also found full-color printouts (with screen caps) brimming with tons of information about the cast, crew, production companies and the film’s story itself. Apparently, it’s inspired by an actual Long Island legend!

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*** out of 4.

For a first-time feature film, writer and director, Frank Sabatella has done well for himself. The film is far from perfect. There are pacing issues aplenty, many of the characters lack definition and the big “reveal” that comes way too late is nothing special (I figured it out early on, without really trying but your mileage may vary). Still, Blood Night has slick cinematography, precision editing, good performances and crowd-pleasing special effects. Plus, I was never bored, which is more than I can say for even some of the bigger, expensive productions in Horror these days.

Blood Night is currently listed in Amazon.com’s “Top 100 Horror Movies Sold”, just behind The Blair Witch Project and Army of Darkness. Not too shabby if you ask me. If you’ve got some rowdy friends over on a Saturday night, you should definitely consider making it a Blood Night. Yeah, that’s right. I went there.

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