Wednesday, 4 August 2021

Bloody New Year

Temporal Of Doom

Bloody New Year
aka Time Warp Terror

UK 1986 Directed by Norman J. Warren
Indicator Blu Ray Zone B

I can’t help but think that Bloody New Year was aimed at competing with all those terrible mid-1980s US slasher movies and that’s exactly why I would never normally watch this kind of movie, to be honest. In my book, giallo = good, US slasher = terrible. However, this is the last movie in the five film box set put out by Indicator, Bloody Terror - The Shocking Cinema Of Norman J. Warren 1976 - 1987. Out of the five films in this set I’d have to say I loved three of them but, for me, two of them were a little lacking for my tastes but, clearly, this last film is the worst one among them.

That being said, there’s more than the odd quirky flourish that sets this one apart from the generic 1980s slashers although, in all honesty, the lack of budget for a film like this really does show up its flaws. It does have some interesting things going on though so lets have a quick look...

After a terrible pop song and black and white credits showing a New Year’s Eve party in a hotel on an island in 1959 we get what, for me, is the first and only genuine jump shot of the film. This is where a girl is looking into a mirror at the side of the shot and we can see some of the things reflected in the mirror at the angle it is. Warren really took me by surprise here as a hand shoots out from the mirror and grabs the girl... there wasn’t a mirror there at all, just an opening with good set dressing. I have to say, after this genuinely startling moment, I was kind of let down by the rest of the film.

Now, there’s a problem which is not of the director’s making. The film stock is pretty distressed during these sequences and continues to be so for a while. I thought this was a clever and possibly first time usage in a horror film of deliberately distressed stock to show the audience that some of the footage was taking place in 1959. Alas, as more scenes play out about a group of friends (played by Suzy Aitchison, Nikki Brooks, Daniel James, Mark Powley, Catherine Roman and Julian Ronnie) who flea some trouble at a fun fair and pitch up on an island after their boat hits some rocks, I realised that, actually, we were no longer in 1959 after all. It turns out that when this was reissued by Vinegar Syndrome a few years back, the only print they could find was in terrible shape. They tried to restore it and, indeed, I think more restoration might even have been done by Warren himself for this new release but, frankly, for the first 40 minutes or so the film is in terrible shape. Still, a nice transfer of a film in terrible shape is better than nothing so... I’ll continue.

As the teenage friends wander around the hotel and surrounding environment from the credits sequence (which turns out to be Butlins at Barry Island, Wales), they start to get picked off one by one. However, this isn’t a standard slasher and it’s quite clear that antagonistic ghosts of all shapes and sizes are stalking the friends. The first shock being when they discover a small screening room in the hotel and a man from the film jumps right out of the screen to scratch one of the kids on the face before inexplicable disappearing again. This, of course, kills the young man in question because, as you know... um... scratched faces can be a life threatening injury (okay, no I didn’t know that and am not convinced, frankly). Also, the amount of emotion displayed by the group towards their fallen comrade seems a bit lacking to say the least. I mean, I know loss and grief are usually a good way out of the window in movies which have these kind of ‘get on with it’ stories to tell but, the lack of empathy on display here seems pretty ludicrous and unrealistic, truth be told.

From then on it all gets bizarrely surreal but, what could have been a bunch of good ideas suffers from the obviously cheapness of the effects and the general low budget look of the film. So promising scenes where a woman is attacked by an animated fish net, a moment where they are attacked by some kind of seaweed monster manifesting from the centre of a table and even a bit where the wooden duck carving on the bannister of the staircase of the hotel bites a woman on the hand are... well they just don’t quite make it. Which is a shame because they are nice ideas and serve to remove this film as far away as possible from the kinds of slasher pictures which were contemporaneous to this production.

During a TV broadcast the group are not really watching and, thus, fail to spot it’s actually from that 1959 party, the audience is clued in that an experiment with a new kind of cloaking device for a plane is something some scientists are condemning for fiddling with the laws of time and, I guess the lurking, ghost pilot and the explosion of the reoccurring crash of the plane explains all you need to know as to why various ghost characters, including the demonically raised and re-raised versions of the newest victims themselves, keep coming back to try and visit death on their former companions.

It’s a shame then that, towards the end of the picture, the ghost/demon thing of a fallen friend feels the need to re-explain the whole thing as to why everyone seems to be frozen in pockets of time at this late stage in the game when, frankly, the audience figured all this stuff out within the first twenty minutes or so of the movie. It does seem like overkill in a film that feels somewhat padded at times.

There’s lots of moving camera in this, especially hand held stuff which gets quite frantic during the fairground chase scenes at the start of the movie. It does get a bit tiring sometimes but there are some nice bits of framing here and there during the course of the film. Also, there’s a quirky thing Warren does for a lot of the first half of the movie where he has little visual punchlines to the ends of scenes. Admittedly, they’re all the same punchline and consist of some inanimate object in a room moving on its own, unnoticed by anyone else in the room at the time. This is presumably to build a certain amount of suspense until things really kick off and, I have to say, the moment where the hotel guest dressed as a sheik suddenly comes out of the movie screen, while not exactly a good jump scare, is fairly surprising and it’s things like this which kept me watching, to be honest.

I don’t think there’s any way this could have competed with most of the well made (although often quite dull) slashers of the time but the unusual blend of ghosts/temporal reality breaking down and, frankly, less than gory and not very well executed demises of the main cast as the film progresses, is enough to make Bloody New Year worth investigating if you want to see an alternative to what else was going on in horror cinema at the time. Well, I say cinema... I think this only got screened at a cinema in Ireland and went straight to video in most territories, including the USA. That being said, there were a lot of straight-to-video releases in those days and I’ve no idea how well the tape rentals of this movie did. Alas, this was Norman J. Warren’s last feature film and it’s a shame this is his swan song because I don’t think even he was all that happy with how this one turned out (I think there was some trouble with the producer and the budgets on it). One for the curious among you or those interested in this fascinating and much loved director but, not one I’d recommend to most people, to be honest.

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