With the successes of John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980) at the box office, the slasher film became a popular subgenre in the horror film. By 1982, several film studios and companies had cashed in on the craze, but audiences were starting to suffer from a hangover from the glut of movies coming out in droves in theaters and the relatively new – and accessible – format of home video. One of these movies coming in at the beginning of the decline of the slasher film’s heyday was Girls Nite Out (AKA The Scaremaker); Arrow Video has licensed the movie for its Blu-ray debut.
The Production: 2.5/5
After the men’s basketball team wins the big game against their rivals, the students at DeWitt University in rural Ohio now shift gears to the scavenger hunt being held the night after. However, the night of fun and festivities has a party crasher in the form of an assailant in the college’s bear mascot, who’s going around the campus, mauling the co-eds with knives for claws as his weapon of choice and then calling in his crimes to the campus DJ in cryptic code. The head security guard, Jim “Mac” MacVey (Hal Holbrook), starts to put the pieces together and realizes that the killer has a connection to his past, but is there a shock awaiting him and the students who happen to survive the night?
One of the more unusual offerings in the slasher era, Girls Nite Out is a unique little film that stands out on its own merits. For starters, the mix of comedy and horror is quite broad here, giving it a bit of an Animal House vibe with bloody death pieces mixed in; sometimes it works, sometimes it comes off as a bit forced and strained. The story itself – outside of its bizarre final twist – is not much to write home about, but the film does showcase some surprisingly solid camerawork and atmosphere that transcends its low budget roots; not entirely surprising, when you learn that director Robert Deubel had a background in making documentary shorts (he directed the Oscar winning 1972 short film Norman Rockwell’s World… An American Dream) prior to this movie. Perhaps the fact that it underwent two under the radar theatrical releases under different titles largely contributed to the film’s obscure status in the slasher subgenre; however, the movie also boasts some up-and-coming talent behind the scenes in art director Richard Hoover (Twin Peaks), production designer Howard Cummings (Contagion, HBO’s Westworld) and set dresser Jane Musky (Ghost, Hustlers). Featuring an eclectic mix of differing plot elements, Girls Nite Out is an interesting little horror movie that’s worth a look for curiosity’s sake.
Making her feature film debut after attracting notice on the TV soap opera One Life to Live, Julia Montgomery is an appropriate final girl as Lynn; she would later attract notice for playing Betty Childs in Revenge of the Nerds (1984) and would return to the horror genre with The Kindred (1987). Top billed here, Rutanya Alda casts a notable impression as the college’s cafeteria waitress Barney; the same year this movie was released, she played the ill-fated matriarch of the Montelli family in Amityville II: The Possession. Despite being billed at the end of the opening credits here, Hal Holbrook has the film’s most consequential role (and likely the best performance) as the campus security guard; his son David also appears in the film as the jealous boyfriend of Sheila (played by scream queen Lauren-Marie Taylor). Filling out the roster here are James Carroll as Lynn’s boyfriend Teddy, Lois Robbins as Leslie, Laura Summer as Jane, John Didrichsen as the nerdy Ralph, Mart McChesney as basketball player “Maniac”, Mathew Dunn as the college’s mascot player Benson, Carrick Glenn as Kathy, Larry Mintz as the DJ Charlie Kaiser, Al McGuire as the college’s basketball coach and Richard Bright as the detective called to the college when the murder spree comes to light.
3D Rating: NA
This disclaimer opens the movie as you press play on the main menu:
Girls Nite Out has been restored from the best available film elements, which were a selection of 35mm release prints from the producer’s personal vaults.
The prints were scanned in 2K, after which the scans were reviewed, and the highest quality selections selected. A few very brief sections which were not present in the film material were sourced from a standard definition (SD) tape master. The assembled shots were graded and restored in 2K to create a new and complete restored master.
This restoration still exhibits many instances of film damage & wear, in keeping with the condition of the source materials, but represents the best possible presentation of the film.
In short, the overall image showcases a faithful presentation of film grain, fine details and color palette with instances of scratches, dirt, tears and vertical lines noticeable but nothing that distracts from viewing. Given what Arrow had to work with here, they have delivered the best possible presentation of the movie on home video and bests previous incarnations of the film on home video.
The film’s original mono soundtrack is presented on a PCM track for this release. Dialogue, sound mix and music soundtrack – featuring songs from The Lovin’ Spoonful and Tommy James among others – are all presented faithfully with minor instances of crackling, flutter, popping, distortion and hissing present. Overall, this Blu-ray release is likely the best the movie will ever sound on home video.
Special Features: 4/5
Commentary by author/genre film critic Justin Kerswell and author/film historian Amanda Reyes – Recorded for this release, Kerswell and Reyes passionately offer up details on the making of the film and a spirited defense on why the film is an underrated gem of the Golden Age of slasher movies.
Staying Alive (19:25) – In this new interview, Julia Montgomery shares her experience working on her first feature film after appearing on daytime TV soaps.
A Savage Mauling (15:39) – Laura Summer divulges her memories of working on the movie and her acting career in this new interview.
Alone in the Dark (8:44) – Actress Lois Robbins talks about her brief time as an actress and memories of working on the film in this new interview.
It Was a Party! (20:55) – Actor and dancer Paul Christie shares his memories of filming in this new interview.
Love & Death (16:56) – Actors Lauren-Marie Taylor and John Didrichsen talk about their time working on the film and how it led them to eventual marriage in this new interview conducted via Zoom.
Archival Julia Montgomery interview from 2005 (6:45)
The Scaremaker title card (0:23)
The Scaremaker trailer (2:52)
Girls Nite Out trailer (1:10)
Booklet feat. an essay by author Michael Gingold (1st pressing only)
This release also comes with a slipcover featuring new artwork by Justin Osbourn on the front and a replication of the original reverse side of the EMI VHS cover on the back.
One of the most interesting movies to come out of the Golden Age of slasher movies, Girls Nite Out is quite a curio with its above par camerawork, contrasting blend of genre plot elements and the solid presence of Hal Holbrook. Arrow has likely given the movie its best release here, with a solid HD transfer from the best existing film elements and a decent slate of special features. Highly recommended for fans of the genre and worth upgrading from previous home video incarnations.
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