Set against the changing of the calendar year, just before December becomes January, New Year’s Evil chronicles the murderous exploits of a killer who aims to do away with a person every hour on the hour until the clock strikes twelve. He does as such in order to terrorize the host of a punk rock show as played by Roz Kelly and when the New Year hits, he promises to murder someone that she loves.
While slashers loomed large in the nineteen eighties, they were still coming into their own during the first year of that decade and New Year’s Evil just so happened to be one of those released during that time. While it could have ended up being just another slice of the pie, it managed to throw in a twist or two along the way to keep the audience guessing as to who the killer was and just how it would be that he would strike at television host Diane Sullivan. For the most part, it seems straightforward, and then it makes the viewer believe it is going another way until finally all is revealed and it is not what was expected, though the clues were there all along. Director Emmett Alston does a great job at crafting enough suspense and tension to keep one at the edge of their seat, especially the further along that the killer comes to completing his task and as he soon finds it harder and harder to keep on the clock and to control his victims. As he becomes desperate, so too does it feel like there is a sense of urgency about it, the movie picking up steam until that final showdown.
Starring as the killer would be Kip Niven, a man who seems so unlike the portrait of a murderer that it works in his favour as he charms and connives his way into the trust of his victims. Kelly is good, but there are some off moments in the script that make her character both uncaring and unsympathetic, yet also the classic damsel in distress. Those moments happen as fast as if flicking a switch and it is a little jarring at times, not to mention it makes the writing look weak, at least in those particular instances. It also makes the viewer question their feelings about Kelly, until finally in the end, one cannot hope but to see her come out alive after all is said and done.
Slasher films have had a lot of ups and downs over the last few decades, yet New Year’s Evil still remains one of the better ones, a movie that tried to do things a little differently and succeeded where others failed and fell into the same tropes that would be propagated throughout the genre. Slightly cheesy and definitely a little dated, but still worth the time and effort.
3.5 out of 5