Bloody New Year (1987)

Although we’re only just into December, I thought this would be a good pick to continue the “blood review” series – plus, a disappointing number of the remaining titles feature sexual violence as a significant plot point, and I’m beginning to get a bit tired of them. So many low-budget horror movies seem to be made by men who look very much like me (pudgy, white, into metal music) as an excuse to hang around attractive women and have them naked / abused.

But that’s for another day! What we have here is a good old fashioned slice of downbeat, nihilistic horror from my own part of the world, Britain; a movie which, it turns out, has nothing whatsoever to do with the new year.

“Bloody New Year” is the work of Norman Warren, who I’ve just discovered but from the mid 70s to the mid 80s made a number of fascinating sounding movies – unlike his contemporaries at Hammer, his had modern settings (in some cases, even futuristic ones) and rarely, if ever, gave us anything approaching a happy ending. His feature directing career ended with today’s review as funding became impossible to find, but he continued to find fans, had a documentary made about him in 1999 and remains a beloved figure among horror fans.

Early on, I began to wonder if someone had accidentally changed channels while recording, as we switch from a rather American-looking New Year’s Eve 1959 party, to a group of British people in their early 20s at a funfair. The funfair! Aside from “Carnival Of Souls”, every movie with a scene at a funfair sucks – there are presumably other exceptions, but I don’t care to know about them – and they’re awful in real life too. As this one is grotty and British, it’s even more depressing, but the clean-cut youths get into a fight with some carnies (who have a similar reputation on both sides of the Atlantic, it would seem), wreck a bunch of the rides before driving off. Well, one of the carnies hangs onto the side of the boat they’re towing before being punched off, which seems a bit extreme if you just want to get some kids to stop messing about. But whatever.

It turns out the youths (the only face you’re likely to recognise is character actor Mark Fowley, who’s done soaps and was a regular on “Starhunter” in the 90s) were going for a day out on the boat, which seems quite good fun until a rock holes their boat and forces them to take refuge on an island – given how small Britain is, I’m always vaguely surprised to see this sort of thing used as a plot point in a British movie.

After strolling round the apparently deserted island for a while, the six of them find a hotel, with roads to it, and the hotel appears to be decorated for a New Year’s party – but it’s July! And that’s when things get weird. Well, weirder. People are glimpsed in the distance, a table comes to life and attacks them, the TV only shows a news report from 1959 about an experimental aircraft that could actually rip the space-time continuum going on a test-flight…oh, and the carnies from before track them down to the island and start attacking them.

I don’t want to give too much away (although I’ve already done it, in a way) but it bears a slight resemblance to the denouement of “Prom Night 3: The Last Kiss”, one of our favourite horror-comedies. It shares the wildly bleak ending to that gem and a little of the sense of humour, too – although I don’t think anyone would call a movie this relentlessly downbeat a comedy by any stretch.

I grew bored of the way they were so desperate to split up and make it easier for them to die or get replaced by weird silver-zombie versions of themselves; and how, okay, they were sort of assholes, but did they deserve what they got? Perhaps I’m expecting some sort of karmic balance from my horror when the real message is, no matter who you are or what you do, a table could come to life and attempt to swallow you.

It’s interesting, for sure, such as the mirror imagery, and I’m looking forward to watching more Norman Warren movies, but I don’t think it was all that successful – this appears to have finished off his feature career, so it seems some people agreed with me.

Rating: thumbs in the middle

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