Color, 1987, 93 mins. 56 secs. / 89 mins. 47 secs.
Directed by Norman J. Warren
Starring Suzy Aitchison, Nikki Brooks, Daniel James, Colin Heywood, Mark Powley, Catherine Roman, Julian Ronnie
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC)) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9), Image Entertainment (DVD) (US R1 NTSC)
The last feature film to date by the always entertaining Norman J. Warren of Satan's Slave and Prey fame, the entertaining cult film in waiting Bloody New Year is actually more of an off-the-wall Christmas horror film set in the middle of summer. How can that be? Read on and find out...
While cutting up at a seaside carnival at the height of summer and running afoul of some hooligans, six young fairgoers end up hopping on a small sailboat-- only to strike a rock and find themselves sinking. During much squabbling, they end up finding refuge on a small island and, after wandering through the woods, end up at the abandoned Grand Island Hotel. The building seems to be freshly decked out for Christmas -- in 1959 -- and at first it seems like fun since it comes decked out with accessories like a functioning mini-movie theater (complete with Fiend without a Face!). However, anything they disturb seems to revert back to its original state. Not only have they stepped out of time, but anything inanimate could be a deadly threat as they confront homicidal walls, insidious mirrors, an indoor snowstorm, invisible marauders, aggressive fishing nets, a persnickety pool table, and other uncanny threats intent on finishing them off.
Completely daffy, unpredictable, and likely an acquired taste, Bloody New Year essentially revisits the illogical, kitchen-sink approach of Warren's Terror with a lot less sleaze but a huge increase in creative insanity. There's a 1986 copyright date at the end, but it feels for all the world like it could have been made four or five years earlier with its disposable cast of benign twentysomething "teens," lo-fi horror effects, and adorably iffy acting. The frequent comparisons to films like The Evil Dead, Humongous, Ghosthouse, and even House are actually quite appropriate as this would work quite well as a co-feature with any of those, but it also has a quirky British charm of its own with that seaside atmosphere giving it a haunted, isolated atmosphere that more than makes up for the lack of gore. Plus you get zombies, expressionistic colorful lighting, dry ice fog, and a typically grim Warren ending. However, the best thing about the film might be the soundtrack featuring a slew of songs by Cry No More (also seen in the film itself) including the wildly infectious "Recipe for Romance" over the opening sequence (in a retro-style version far superior to the one on their self-titled album). What's not to love?
Bloody New Year first appeared on VHS in 1987, essentially going straight to video everywhere outside in the U.K. and featuring fantastic cover art on the Academy Entertainment box cover. After that it dropped out of sight for a while until Image Entertainment issued it on DVD in 2005 via its licensing deal with Redemption Films, taken from a blah but passable (for the time) 1.33:1 master that wasn't corrected for its initial PAL speed, coming in short at 89 mins. 47 secs. Unlike most of Warren's output, the film has remained stubbornly unreleased on U.K. home video for nearly three decades.
Just in time for New Year's Day in 2019, Vinegar Syndrome made a surprise announcement of this title directly available only via its website complete with a limited edition slipcover. The transfer is listed as being a 2K scan from 35mm archival elements, and an opening disclaimer notes that only one usable theatrical print remains in existence (and the negative was accidentally destroyed ages ago). With that caveat in mind, the results here are still very pleasing and a big step up from the DVD; the framing is adjusted to feature more information on the sides and less on the top and bottom, resulting in more balanced and effective compositions. A few bumps and splices are evident throughout, with the bulk of the damage evident in the second reel (particularly the shipwreck sequence, which suffers from some obvious staining and scratching). The actual quality is impressive though with excellent color and detail, and the damage isn't more distracting than what you'll find on any number of other genre releases. The DTS-HD 1.0 English mono audio (with optional English SDH subtitles) is also good considering the shape of the source. The sole extra is an audio commentary by Warren, who seems to be having great fun talking about the fairground arrangements, the madness of shooting on boats, the in-camera visual effects for the supernatural sequences (including a cool dust head), the arduous physical demands on the actors, and the various crazy ideas he and his co-writers felt free to incorporate into this crazy, very entertaining party movie.
VINEGAR SYNDROME (Blu-ray)
IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT (DVD)
Reviewed on February 1, 2019.