New Year’s Evil was aptly released five days prior to New Year’s Eve 1980 and quietly disappeared without too much fuss by the turn of 81’. But the recent rediscovery, first on DVD and then on Blu ray has brought the movie back into fan’s conciseness once again. Though admitingly movies such as Halloween and Friday the 13th had set the slasher trend, New Year’s Evil was still early to get in on the influx of the sub genre that would flood the market the following year.
The plot of the movie centers on a Punk-Rock diva played by Roz Kelly who hosts the hottest radio show in town- and tonight being New Years Eve the party to be at is right here. There are live bands and a feisty crowd complete with a soundtrack from the band Shadow. So while everyone is having a great time counting down to 1981, there’s a killer on the loose that keeps phoning into the show and telling the host that at midnight in different time zones across America he will strike. Nothing much is done at first until the cops get involved and tell Kelly that there really is a killer and he’s heading for the radio station.
There are many twists and turns and what separates New Year’s Evil from the run of the mill slasher is that the killer played by Kip Niven is unsure of who to prey on and get’s himself in some curious spots. In other words he isn’t as well refined and cool as say, Michael Myers. As a backdrop to the action, we have the depressed son of Kelly who mumbles and groans about in his hotel room, and we aren’t quite sure what his next move will be.
Respected critic Roger Ebert even had some sprinkles of praise for the movie, which was remarkable given his loathing for horror movies. Ebert said on the release of the movie, "New Year's Evil is an endangered species - a plain, old-fashioned, gory thriller. It is not very good. It is sometimes unpleasantly bloody. The plot is dumb and the twist at the end has been borrowed from hundreds if not thousands of other movies. But as thrillers go these days, New Year's Evil is a throwback to an older and simpler tradition, one that flourished way back in the dimly remembered past, before 1978."
The movie is filled with 80s cheese, the music, the fashion, the youth- but it would be wrong to dismiss New Year’s Evil as simple 80s fluff. Directed by Emmett Alston, this was his debut feature and he was never able to wrangle out of low budget B movies. However this is an oustanding first effort that has been shot with confidence and flair. Check out some of the outstanding death scenes, or how in the drive in, the movie playing plays out to what is happening within the film. For first time uninitiated viewers, you come out of the movie finding you have just watched a very clever horror movie. Recently I was able to talk to Taaffe O’ Connell who played Jane the nurse who gets seduced and then butchered by Niven.
How did you get the role of Nurse Jane in New Year’s Evil?
Actually it came in a roundabout way. Jeanne Di Vivier Brown, a celebrity coordinator, who had been kind enough to use me on a lot of game shows introduced me to Emmett Alston’s’(director, co writer of New Years Evil) best friend, Jerry Rice. I had just finished the pilot of Blansky’s Beauties: the Pinky Tuscadero and had had the great good fortune of working with Roz Kelly, as the villain in the show: Hillary. Roz and I really hit it off; doing comedy with her was a dream! Jerry and Emmett knew that I had just finished the pilot with Roz. Jerry and Emmett called me and asked me if I could get Roz Kelly for the lead role in New Years Evil. He also felt that I would be a great fit for the role of Nurse Jane. I got the script and loved it and called Roz, pitched it to her…And we were in.
What was your relationship like with the director, Emmett Alston?
Emmett Alston was extremely bright. A good ole Southern Boy, we hit it off immediately. When an actor had an idea, he gave them their head to run with it (of course he literally handed me mine in the film). Combining his background in cinematography, with his writing and directorial skills, he knew exactly what the camera would “see” and how to get the eeriest angles.
Kip Niven plays the killer Richard Sullivan and of course you are one of his victims, how was he like on set?
Kip Niven was fabulous, charismatic, and what a touch! He was also so sexy and a great kisser. I loved doing re takes. We actually had a little fling on the side, until he told me at the wrap party that it had to end, because he had gotten engaged. I put on my clothes, and crawled out of his van, and his life.
How well do you remember your death scene? Did it take several takes to get it right?
Being a Canon “frugally budgeted” film, Emmett got everything in one or two takes. I loved “getting my throat slit”; the makeup and prosthetic people were amazing. I was running around the set, jumping out and scaring everyone. I loved the fact that Emmett kept asking for more retakes we got the actual throat slitting in one shot. When my boyfriend gets mad at me, he loves to watch that part.
New Year’s Evil is 35 years old, are you surprised how well it is still remembered?
I love how the Internet is bringing forth “horror gems” for all those millions of horror Junkies to feast upon. Cannon and Roger Corman were masters at telling horror and Sci-Fi tales that looked as if they had a big budget on a shoestring. I was astonished when I was doing a horror film convention, and fabulous fans kept showing up with copies of the New Year's Evil DVD cover and asking me to sign it. I’m truly gratified and humbled that 35 years later New Year's Evil, has reached cult status.
What are you up to now and can we expect to see anything soon from you?
Most recently I worked with Ryan Reynolds on THE CHANGE UP, playing a “Lorno Queen.” What a consummate professional. I’m super excited about our upcoming “TWISTED TALES OF TERROR”. Ten tantalizingly twisted tales ala Twilight Zone meets Outer Limits with a little Tales from the Crypt thrown in. I have penned eight out of the ten tales, and am working with writer/director, Jon Stout on the other two. We’re bringing back the old Horror, where it’s what you don’t see will get you! Some of the Vignettes include Ollywood, (starring Kevin Weisman: Alias, The Black List, Hello Ladies), The Cat, A Dog’s Life (where animals finally get their revenge: So yes every dog does have its day, and this cat definitely has nine lives, and takes a few in the process, The Hat, Socks (You’ll never trust your clothes again), The Footstool (never mistreat your furniture; it will get its revenge…just to slip in a few titles.
New Year's Evil is certainly an underrated gem, that can be relived again through Scream Factory who recently reissued the movie stacked with extras. 35 years on, this one still packs a punch.