Monday, December 31, 2012
Crappy New Years, Everyone!
New Year’s Evil (1980)
Directed by Emmett Alston
Written by Emmett Alston (story) and Leonard Neubauer (screenplay)
Tagline: "This New Year's, you're invited to a killer party..."
Well, a buzz-killer party, anyway.
Nighttime in the City of Angels. Suddenly, we get sucker punched in the face with music as the focus puller dicks around with the zoom lens in an effort to make a Holiday Inn look sinister. (Frankly, just a shot of those small, scratchy, high school locker room towels would do it for me.)
Pinky Tuscadero is getting ready for her New Year’s Eve TV show (basically she’s Dick Clark without a dick, and sporting a red fright wig made from 100% cruelty-free Bozo pelts) and things aren’t going well. She calls her assistant Yvonne, a young black woman who has ornamented her braids with so many plastic beads that she’s turned her head into a Clacker, and Yvonne reveals that Pinky’s husband Richard won’t be at the show, because he’s in Palm Springs getting stinking drunk, as required by local ordinance.
Yvonne’s shower is dripping, which as anyone who’s ever watched a slasher flick knows, means that blood will soon be flowing. Sure enough, she reaches in to twist the knob and is grabbed by a black gloved hand out of an Italian giallo. A switchblade is clicked open, the music blares, and the attacker pulls the shower curtain in front of the camera so we can’t see the subsequent evisceration, because apparently he has the serial killer equivalent of a “shy bladder.”
Now let’s cut to an Oldsmobile convertible full of fake punks who cruise around and swig from liquor bottles, scream at passersby, and tongue kiss and strangle each other, but mostly spend so much time driving slowly down Hollywood Boulevard that I began to suspect they were this year’s Grand Marshals for the Hollywood Christmas Parade.
Meanwhile, Pinky cruelly ignores her super-pretty blond son when he shows up at her hotel room in a tailcoat and bluejeans to present her with a bouquet of red roses, then watch her implied nudity through the wide open bathroom door (I presume he’s just trying to work on his New Years Resolutions, which seem to read, “#1: Dress more like a character in a John Cougar song. #2: Try Sun-In Hair Lightener in the new convenient pump aerosol” and “#3: Really commit to the Oedipus Complex in ‘81.”)
Pinky launches her live New Year’s Eve broadcast, assuring us that “it’s time to spin out, and boil your hair,” then visits the phone bank, which looks like one of those pledge drives your local PBS station is always having, except the phones are huge and bright red like Commissioner Gordon’s hotline to Batman, and everybody who calls in to vote for America’s Top 40 is a serial killer.
But enough death threats, let’s cut to Shadow, playing their smash hit “New Year’s Evil,” which we just heard in its entirety a minute and thirty-eight seconds ago during the lengthy Hollywood Boulevard credit sequence. But now we get to see the group in action, and while I thought I was pretty familiar with the raw L.A. music scene of the late 70s and early 80s, I honestly didn’t realize how much punk bands were into pink Zubaz.
Cut to our Killer (not Bruce Jenner, but an incredible simulation), who disguises his voice by screaming through a kazoo, and asks the other characters to address him as “Evil” (which seems a little presumptuous, like making up a nickname for yourself and insisting all your friends call you “Speedy” or “Sky Captain.” Plus, if it caught on with the other murderers it could easily put Nancy Grace out of a job). He sneaks into Clifford Sanitarium, where all the demented inmates are watching the TV show and slam-dancing to “New Year’s Evil” while wearing pink hospital gowns (apparently the sanitarium washed their clothes in the same load with a punk band).
Evil dresses up as a male nurse so he can convince a female nurse to drink Almaden brand California Champagne out of urine specimen cups (which admittedly seems redundant) and slow dance by the dialysis machine.
Meanwhile, Pinky phones her hotel room and interrupts her son’s attempt to overdose on barbiturates. Embarrassed that she caught him at a bad time, she promises to call back later, after he’s dead.
Evil and his bad bubbly-swilling buddy climb onto a gurney (with a pink sheet – seriously, is this a motif, or was there some massive RIT Dye spill in the L.A. Reservoir that I never heard about?) and make the Nurse With Two Backs. But as the clock reaches midnight in New York, he turns on his tape recorder, opens his switchblade, and brutally stabs her to death. He’s still suffering from performance anxiety, however, so the actual murder is symbolized by a cutaway to an elderly man in a party hat blowing a paper “tongue” whistle into the camera. Or possibly I'm just having flashbacks to Un Chien Andalou.
Evil calls Pinky’s show and plays back his murder. But there was a TV on in the background when he recorded it, and his tape recorder has a crappy low-fi mono speaker, and there’s a lot of traffic driving by his phone booth, so it sounds kind of like the low but excitable murmur you get in one of those smaller hotel-casinos off the Vegas Strip – yes, you might be overhearing a brutal murder, but more likely it’s just a middle-aged woman cramming coins into the nickel slots like a French farmwife force-feeding a goose.
Cut to Pinky’s jilted blond son, who’s using a switchblade to angrily slice up a pair of his mother’s pantyhose. Unfortunately, the knife is dull and it seems like a lot of work for someone who’s taken a fatal dose of Seconal and really ought to spend less time on hosiery mutilation and more time slipping quietly into the gentle embrace of Death. But maybe he’s just bored; as we’ve already seen, there’s nothing good on TV.
Blondie pulls the pantyhose over his face and pushes a hatpin through his earlobe. I guess it’s supposed to be creepy, but given the way the reinforced toe flops around on top of his head, he just looks like a Smurf with self-harm issues.
Meanwhile, Evil puts on a big porn mustache, hoping the police will waste precious time arresting John Stossel, and switches up his M.O. by killing a blonde barfly with his dry cleaning. Then he dresses up like a priest and starts cruising for his next victim, but accidentally and ironically rear-ends the Hell’s Angels, who take offense, and suddenly the hunter becomes the hunted, and the chase is on!
But we don't really have the budget for a car chase, so Evil immediately pulls into a drive-in to hide, and we get to watch trailers of other, better slasher films. We also get to watch Terri Copley smoke dope and get a breast exam before she went on to greater, if equally brief fame as the star of the TV movie I Married a Centerfold and the syndicated series, We’ve Got It Made.
Terri gets a lucky break when two drunk guys wander in front of Evil (seriously, this guy cannot drive ten feet without hitting something) and he has to stop to exchange insurance information, giving her a chance to run for it. But despite being shapely, she’s really out of shape, and after sprinting for seven or eight yards, she just gives up and leans against a tree to await the inevitable off-camera knifing. (I’m no hero, but if I were going to die anyway, I’d like to think I’d at least try for a first down.) She’s saved by two cops who happen to drive by, notice a film crew shooting without permits, and decide to see what the hell’s going on.
Evil goes to the Holiday Inn where Pinky is broadcasting, and despite phoning in death threats all night, he’s surprised to see that there’s security, and the cops are checking to make sure anyone trying to murder the star got their hand stamped first.
Pinky goes back to her hotel room to change, and discovers her husband Richard dressed in a white track suit and a Stan Laurel mask. This appears to be part of their regular routine, because she seems even less surprised than we are when the mask comes off and we discover that her husband is actually Evil. Please don’t reveal the shocking twist ending.
Pinky boards an elevator with her beefy police escort, but Evil sticks a screwdriver in a junction box, shorting out the elevator and making it plummet down the shaft (at least, according to Pinky and the cop, who flail around like they're on bridge of the Enterprise and helpfully scream, “It’s dropping!”) Then he pulls out the screwdriver, de-shorting the elevator and making it stop. Pinky is fine, but the police officer loses consciousness, which doesn’t bode well for the LAPD (I doubt even Barney Fife could be knocked out by an elevator ride).
Evil gives a long speech justifying his incompetent killing spree; basically, the fact that their son is always mutilating his earlobes and wearing pantyhose on his head and committing suicide means that Pinky is a bad mother. So he intends to kill her, and afterwards, Evil says, “I’m going to the Rose Bowl game with my boy.” Which is something my dad never would have done for me, because the traffic in Pasadena on New Years Day is cray-cray.
He handcuffs her to the bottom of the elevator, then does the shorting out thing again, but the cops show up and shoot it out with Evil and a stray bullet just happens to de-short the junction box and stop the elevator, which I find totally plausible.
Evil runs up to the roof, dons his Stan Laurel mask, and misquotes Hamlet to the cops, then leaves to browse the Craft Service table while some grips drop a tackling dummy off the building. Crazy Blond Son does a “Twas Beauty Killed the Beast” thing with his father’s track-suited corpse, then collects the mask, which you’d think the police would regard as evidence. But then, it was the Eighties, and their Property Room was probably already overflowing with serial killer masks.
Pinky is loaded into an ambulance, and what do you know, the driver is dead, and her crazy son is behind the wheel, wearing Stan Laurel’s face. I feel kind of bad for the kid – not because he had to do the lame sequel set-up for a movie that didn’t even become a franchise, but mostly because the last person to wear that mask was Evil and his Bruce Jenner hair, and the inside probably reeks of The Dry Look by Gillette.
Meanwhile, the announcer tells us that it’s midnight in Hawaii. Does that mean it’s time for our third reprise of “New Year’s Evil” by Shadow? Why, I think it does. By the way, the end credits are pink too. Which either means I need to adjust my monitor, or this movie was originally shot in black and white, and Ted Turner is just fucking with us.
Happy New Years, guys.