It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of British director Norman J. Warren. One of the genre directors I love most, as a keen fan, his entire filmography is one that I have been determined to see in its entirety since I was fifteen and witnessed Satan’s Slave on telly for the first time (thank you late night BBC2 horror doubles!). Sadly for Warren, Bloody New Year, his last feature film, falls under the banner that so many last films by directors fall under. Whilst it’s a lot of fun, it’s basically not very good…
The film’s title sequence opens with a New Year’s Eve party set in 1959. All is going well except that something happens at the last-minute. Flash forward twenty-something years and we find a group of kids washed up on an island (after a slightly excruciating carnival scene which could have been trimmed somewhat) that appears completely uninhabited. Christmas and New Year’s decorations are everywhere, but it happens to be the middle of summer… Something isn’t quite right.
It takes almost half an hour for the film to actually get to the main plot point (which for a ninety-ish minute movie is a wee bit long) but when we do it all gets a little weird in a good way. Warren has effectively crafted a haunted house movie, set in the island’s abandoned hotel, which is expanded to include the rest of the islands habitat. Ghosts, ghouls, kitchen appliances coming to life, disembodied voices, footsteps appearing in the sand, a demonic elevator, even a murderous Hoover, it’s all there, if not appearing a little dulled down. Under a new director, with a small re-write and some good effects, the film has all the hallmarks of a potentially good ghost story with some great effects sequences.
Whilst it’s not Warren’s best film, it isn’t a terrible one. Slowly the kids get picked off one by one until the island’s mystery is revealed. It’s a little anti-climatic but ties everything up nicely (without giving it away, lets just say the alternative title for the film, Time Warp Terror, might have been more suitable). The acting is more than a little wooden at times but a few special effects moments make up for the rest of the features charm (a nice little nod to A Nightmare On Elm Street, even if you can see the paint flaking away from the latex…). The director also gets to do a little nod to Evil Dead 2 in a scene in which the films protagonists are chased through a field by something. The swooping camera shots and canned laughter could easily have come straight out of Raimi’s picture, but this is hardly surprising when you consider that Terror, one of Warren’s earlier releases, was a practical rip=off of Dario Argento’s Suspiria.
Well worth seeking out if you’re a horror fan or a Warren fan/completest, Bloody New Year isn’t a terrible watch, you just can’t help but see the potential it could have had under a different cast or budget. That said, Warren manages to deliver a film that deftly attempts to meld together motifs of the slasher sub-genre with haunted house clichés. The result isn’t breathtaking but considering the films miniscule budget, is nothing short of admirable.