What better way to ring in the new year than with a spotlight on a tacky little 1980 horror movie called New Year's Evil? Produced by those masters of 1980s schlock, Golan & Globus, it tells the heartwarming tale of a Los Angeles new wave, female disc jockey who has somehow attracted the attention of a deranged serial killer. The cretin intends to ring in the new year (of 1981) by killing someone each hour until it's time to do her in at last.
(Several reviewers out there in cyber-land have misconstrued this to think that the killer is going cross-country, killing once in each time zone, which is quite impossible! He's doing it in L.A. as they CELEBRATE each midnight across the country from there. He decides to off a person at 8:00 Pacific time and each hour thereafter leading up to midnight in L.A.)
The title song (which is surprisingly catchy) plays over the opening credits as a packed carful of rowdy partygoers – all decked out in lycra, animal prints, bright colors and so on – parades down the street on their way to a wild night of music and moshing in order to celebrate the changeover from December 31st to January 1st.
Before entering, the revelers taunt the guard at the hotel which is housing an all-night bash that will countdown to midnight via satellite from New York to Chicago to Aspen and, eventually, L.A. The televised spectacle is hosted by a flame-haired lady named “Blaze.” As depicted below, there was an upside to the otherwise garish clothing of this movement, that being the potential for obvious bulges in the skintight pants of some of the men!
The disc jockey is played by Roz Kelly. Thank God they soon explain that she's the heroine of punk rock/new wave music fans everywhere or else we'd be hard-pressed to understand the over-the-top, magenta makeup choices she is sporting as she prepares for the big event.
Kelly has an assistant, Alicia Dhanifu, who is supposed to be sending out some press releases regarding Kelly and the big party, but this is never to be. While applying her lipstick in the mirror of her hotel bathroom, she keeps getting distracted by the sound of a dripping bathtub faucet. The last time she sticks her talon-covered hand in there to silence it, it's the last time she ever does anything!
While Kelly is sorting through various ugly clothing and jewelry combinations (including a studded dog-collar) with her assistant Jed Mills, we find out that she has a young son, Grant Cramer, who has come to help celebrate her hosting gig with a bouquet of red roses. Gorgeous Cramer attempts to inform his mother that he's just landed a regular part on a juvenile TV series, but she's far too wrapped up in her own goings on to even listen.
She settles on an outfit and heads down to the ballroom where TV cameras wade through the midst of bouncing, new year's (and new wave) revelers. The broadcast includes a quartet of young ladies in front of a neon sign that reads “Hollywood Hotline.” You see, viewers are to call in through the evening and vote for their favorite hot songs (and somehow these girls, and Kelly herself, are supposed to be able to HEAR over the din of all the loud music as if this is a PBS fundraising telethon and not a rock concert!)
Even though we've just heard the title song over the opening credits, we hear it again as Kelly introduces the band Shadow and they lay into once more. The blond guy on the right is the lead vocalist. (The surprisingly infectious song is played over the end credits, too! A single of this number was pressed at the time of release by Cannon music, though it remains pretty obscure today.)
We already know that one lady has bitten the dust when Kelly is handed a call from a listener who says his name is “Evil” and that he will be killing one naughty girl each hour as the show shifts from city to city leading up to their own time zone when Kelly will be the victim! He plans to call back with tape recordings of the killings as proof. This caller is shown to be Kip Niven, using a voice disguise apparatus that renders him more funny than scary, though he truly does mean business.
His first stop is a mental hospital (which seems to have an inordinate number of late-twenties/ early-thirties patients.) Naturally, they are all gathered into the community room to watch Kelly's new wave countdown (versus, for example, Dick Clark's annual event?) as they flail around to the music. Niven dons a disguise as a doctor and quickly chats up a nurse (Taaffe O'Connell) in the hallway who's come out for a smoke break.
Within moments, they are tucked away in an exam room, sipping champagne and ultimately making out on a table when he hits the record button on his boom box and begins hacking away at the hapless gal.
As promised, he calls Kelly (of course there is never an issue with him getting right through on this allegedly popular call-in program!) and plays his recording of the murder for her. Kelly has cops on the scene, led by detective Chris Wallace, to try to figure out what's happening.
Meanwhile, her son Cramer has been trying to call his father down in Palm Springs, but can only get a busy signal. If you take a look at his jeans in this shot, they are rather busy, too!
Despondent that he can't speak to his dad, nor can he get through to his mother, he swallows three pills and begins to become rather unhinged himself. He stares at himself in the mirror, pulls one of his mother's stockings over his face and proceeds to use a large pin to pierce his ear, creating a small stream of blood down his neck!
Also note, Cramer takes the trio of red pills from his hand and into his mouth, then gulps a bit of water to wash them down complete with a large, pained swallow, but thanks to his slack-jawed acting performance, we can see that the pills are actually still resting in the front of his mouth! It's sort of like the movie Jaws where the shark parts his teeth and we can see bits of people and debris in there!
Niven next applies a hilarious porn stache and heads to a nightclub. There, he spies curvy Louisa Moritz at the bar and proceeds to woo her. He talks her into accompanying him to “Erik Estrada's house” (!) and she readily agrees. However, she has asked her pretty pal Anita Crane to join her as an unexpected chaperone.
The three of them are piled into the front of Niven's Mercedes and he drives around trying to figure out how to ditch Crane before the chime of midnight. Finally, he spies a liquor store and convinces the unwanted friend to go inside and use $100 of his money to buy the best bottle of champagne she can find. This allows him to snuff out Moritz without and interference.
However, rather than make a hasty getaway, he inexplicably leaves clues such as a shoe and the belt of Moritz's dress, to lead Crane from the liquor store to a dumpster in the alley out back. She nervously lifts the lid, unsure of what she'll find, to be confronted with the sick, grinning face of Niven, lit only by the flame from his lighter.
Kelly is now deeply worried (though her depiction of worry and fear is about on par with the expression one might make if their coffee cup left a temporary ring of stain on the kitchen counter.) She listens to a reel-to-reel recording of the killer's last phone call while Wallace hilariously suggests that the caller “seems to be” using a voice modulation device! Ya think?!?
In a rare (and brief) moment of male quasi-beefcake, Niven changes out of his bloody, macho man clothing and into a priest's collar in order to prepare for his next murder. He inexplicably does this in full view of a main street, which the police drive down hurriedly.
Having already suffered the surprise of having an extra victim to deal with in Moritz's case, his evening of terror is compounded when some bikers decide to flip him off, thinking he really is a priest (!), and he proceeds to accidentally knock one of their bikes over with his car while two riders are on it! They chase him into a drive-in where ultimately he winds up aborting his own vehicle and confronting one of the bikers personally.
Next, Niven needs a new car, but two young kids have the bad luck to be smoking pot and petting heavily in the back seat of the car that Niven wants... NOW! Niven tosses the boy aside and drives off with the blonde bimbo (Teri Copley) still in the back, intending to kill her at the first opportunity.
(Considering the lighting that Copley received here, it's a wonder the poor girl ever got hired for anything again!) He drives her around, looking for the right spot to do her in when he happens upon a couple of drunken revelers who walk out in front of the car. This allows her to make a quick escape.
With the dead biker having to suffice for that hour's killing, we now see tightened security back at the hotel (and some speculation about the killer from a police psychiatrist), though Niven manages to get through it anyway. Kelly heads down to her room to change into another weird get-up and wisely takes a policeman with her. There she finds her son Kramer still under the effects of the pills he took earlier and still unable to communicate with his self-absorbed mother.
The elevator ride back up to the party is an eventful one as Niven decides to fiddle with the electricity and send the car plummeting downward. This knocks both the police officer and Kelly out cold. When she comes to, she is further threatened, then chained to the bottom of the elevator car. Niven sends her (or her stunt double, at least) careening upward, screaming all the way.
Next, though, is one of the funniest moments of the movie as a chained up Kelly, dangling from the bottom of the elevator, turns to find a horrifying surprise lodged in the girders of the elevator shaft. Kelly adopts some truly hysterical facial expressions from her mouth almost enveloping the screen to a puffer fish one that looks like she may puke, followed by a tight-lipped grimace. It's truly a highlight of the movie.
Niven, under fire from the encroaching police and soon wearing a creepy (Stan Laurel?) mask, causes the elevator to fall back down with Kelly underneath it still before fleeing to the hotel roof (don't they all? …in every movie and TV show??) He is eventually dispatched and a badly beaten up Kelly is taken to the hospital in an ambulance, but, wait, her problems may not be completely over with yet!
Do note that in the interest of not completely spoiling this (can you spoil something that is already rotten? LOL) for folks who've yet to view this, I have deliberately omitted certain plot points along the way. I do give, as some have said, microscopic tributes, but I nevertheless try not to reveal every last plot detail or “surprise.” (And the fact that Niven is the killer is something that's depicted on the movie's poster. Not a mystery at all in that respect.)
Kelly was a bit role actress of the late-'60s/early-'70s who landed a three-part role on the mega-hit Happy Days in 1976 as Fonzie's girlfriend Pinky Tuscadero. The pink-satin-wearing mama made a big impression and she was announced to be a new cast member for the following season. However, popular with the public or not (and it is indeed her enduring legacy as a performer), she didn't fit in with the cast members of the close-knit series AT ALL and was eliminated from the show in the end without ever having come back.
She did see the light of day on an episode of the Happy Days spin-off Blansky's Beauties (1977) and even appeared on The Paul Lynde Halloween Special as Roz “Pinky Tuscadero” Kelly, but her association with Happy Days was startlingly minor. Quite a few TV appearances followed (and she was even briefly considered to replace Paul Michael Glaser on Starsky and Hutch in 1977 until he opted to stay on!), but by 1983 the ride was over. She was typically fine as a wise-cracking scene-stealer, but was in no way equipped to serve as leading lady, even in this piece of artless drek.
That's not to say there was any lack of drama in her private life. In the late-1990s, she ran afoul of the law when she was awakened by a car alarm and opted to fire a 12-gauge shotgun into the car and into the (unoccupied) apartment of the car's owner! Two years later, after being diagnosed as bi-polar and enduring a knee ailment, she assaulted a homeless man she had previously picked up with her cane, leading to three months of jail time! She is currently seventy-one and is never invited to Happy Days-related events for obvious reasons.
Niven had also begun acting in the early-'70s and balanced TV guest roles with small roles in big films such as Magnum Force (1973), Earthquake, Airport 1975 (both 1974) and The Hindenburg (1975.) The latter three give him some degree of disaster movie cred in The Underworld!
This was a chance for him to show off his versatility in a hammy, diverse part, though it certainly didn't earn him any acclaim. He had a recurring role on Alice as one of Vera's love interests, though he actually married that show's star Linda Lavin in real life (from 1982 to 1992.) Currently sixty-nine, he still works regularly in little-known films and shorts.
Wallace worked in another 1980 horror flick, Don't Answer the Phone! as a psychic and appeared on TV and in the occasional movie thereafter, though his screen career has been spotty over the years.
This was by far the most prominent of Dhanifu's few on-screen roles and it is brief. Her movie & TV resume can be counted on one hand and ended with a bit part on The Colbys in 1987 as a nurse! She is sixty-six now.
This was the debut of cutie Kramer who went on to star in Hardbodies (1984), in which he showed a flash of nudity, and Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988), with a stint on The Young and the Restless in between. He has worked intermittently as an actor up to this day, but in recent years has found success as a feature film producer.
During the mid-'80s, he was a hot teen idol, as shown here. Slipping out of his clothes for the camera came naturally, however, as his mother was 1940s and '50s starlet Terry Moore (who posed for Playboy in 1984 at age fifty-five!)
Cuban-born Moritz emigrated to the U.S. and began appearing in sexy TV roles during the mid-'60s. She later graduated to bit parts in films including Death Race 2000 and even One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (both 1975.) Later came The North Avenue Irregulars (1979) and The Last American Virgin (1982) among others. It was fun to see her here as I really had only known her as a sometime panelist on Match Game. Nearly always cast as bimbos or hookers, she was actually quite bright and even earned a law degree. Sixty-eight year-old Moritz was back in the news recently as one of the ladies claiming to have been sexually-assaulted by Bill Cosby back in 1971!
As the nurse Niven dispatches, O'Connell was sporting THE look of the time, “the Farrah Fawcett” color and style. O'Connell had been a regular on Blansky's Beauties (on which Kelly guest-starred) and proceeded from this film to Galaxy of Terror (1981), a sci-fi horror flick in which she gained a significant cult following for explicit scenes. After a period of dormancy, she returned to low-budget films in the early-2010s (pulled taut by surgery) and is sixty-three today.
Copley was making her debut here and very soon made a brief, but heady, splash into TV Land. She worked on several TV series as a sexy guest star and in 1983 was cast in the sitcom We Got It Made, with Tom Villard and Matt McCoy. She played a skimpily-dressed blonde who worked as the guys' maid, much to the surprise of their girlfriends.
This earned her a coveted spot on the cover of TV Guide, though the show was cancelled after one season. In a surprise move, a retooled rendition of it came back in 1987, with Villard, but not McCoy, but it also lasted only one season. She also got the cover (and a nude centerfold) in a 1990 issue of Playboy. After this, Copley worked here and there until the early-'90s, whereupon she became a born-again Christian and left the business, returning only this past year in a Christian-centered movie. She is fifty-three.
New Year's Evil is simple, tawdry, mindless entertain-ment from early in a time when crazed killers were going after successful female figures: TV director Lauren Hutton in Someone is Watching Me! (1978), reporter Lauren Tewes in Eyes of a Stranger (1981), Broadway legend Lauren Bacall in The Fan (1981), -- Jesus! What a dangerous time to be named Lauren! -- news anchor Morgan Fairchild in The Seduction (1982) and feminist Lee Grant in Visiting Hours (1982), to name a few. If you're in the right mood for it, it could provide some creepy amusement, maybe even a scream of laughter!