Thursday, November 11, 2010

Girls Nite Out (1984)

Directed by Robert Duebel
Starring Julia Montgomery, James Carroll, Hal Holbrook, Lauren-Marie Taylor, Al McGuire
Rated R

One of the dozens and dozens of low-budgeted slasher flicks to appear in the wake of Halloween and Friday the 13th, Girls Nite Out failed to attract anywhere near the audiences of those films, and stands as a mostly overlooked entry into the genre.

Those who do remember this one might do so for its having dressed up the killer in a bear costume -- perhaps the only element of the film one might rightly call “original.”

Or they might remember it as having starred Hal Holbrook as Jim “Mac” MacVey, the harried looking campus cop.

Julia Montgomery is here, too, as Lynn, better known for having fallen for a nerd (and appeared on a pie plate) in another 1984 film, Revenge of the Nerds.

Of course, neither Holbrook nor Montgomery could save this amateurish production, mostly interesting for its formula-following, though even there Girls Night Out doesn’t quite fulfill slasher fans’ expectations.

Other expectations aren’t met, either. We might start with the title. While the film does show girls going out at night, that’s about all the title has to do with the story. (Or that poster up above -- none of those women appear in the film.) In other words, it is not as though a group of ladies are on some group outing here.

Nor is the film’s alternate title -- The Scaremaker -- any more accurate. Unless people dressed in bear suits make you scared, in which case the title is spot on.

The movie starts with an ambiguous opening sequence at “Weston Hill Sanitarium.” This scene is mildly alarming for two reasons. One is the nurse smoking cigarettes like she was some cartoon camel or something. (A different time, it was.) The other is a dude hangs himself, although we don’t see his face.

From there comes a quick cut to a college basketball game, accompanied by Tommy James’ “Do Something To Me” to help brighten the mood.

Walking the sidelines as a coach is none other than Al McGuire (R.I.P.), best known as a basketball commentator and for having coached Marquette to the NCAA title in 1977.

McGuire appears here in his first and last dramatic role as Coach Kimble, yelling at his star player, Pete “Maniac” Krizaniac (Mart McChesney) to “get your head out your ass.” Pete subsequently does remove said head from said ass and hits the winning basket, after which McGuire acts his heart out in the locker room while congratulating the team.

There in the locker room we see Michael Benson (Mathew Dunn) in a bear suit -- the team mascot. Benson is giving one of the players, Mike Pryor, some grief over something, which later we learn probably has to do with the fact that Benson has stolen Pryor’s girlfriend.

Pryor is played by Hal’s son, David Holbrook, and I think he’s the reason why Hal agreed to appear in this stinker. In fact, all of Hal’s scenes were apparently filmed in one day, and aside from a couple of instances doesn’t interact with any of the other cast at all. Instead he spends most of his on-camera time talking on the phone. Like this:

There’s a big party scheduled that night, but before we get to that there comes another ambiguous scene in which a couple of gravediggers are shown apparently trying to bury the body of the fellow who hanged himself, Dickie Cavanaugh. Before they can, a figure leaps out of the dark and kills them, though.

What’s going on? Who cares? Party time. But first, let’s go to the diner for some burgers and shakes!

Teddy (James Carroll) orders from a waitress weirdly named “Barney” (played by the also-weirdly-named Rutanya Alda). That’s where we first glimpse Hal Holbrook, too, as the cop, Mac.

Let’s see... a lot of romantic-entanglement-stuff happening here. We see Pryor and his cheating girlfriend Shelia having an argument. Teddy and Lynn are an item, although he has a wandering eye. Oh, and Pete, a.k.a. “Maniac,” has apparently been dumped by his girl, Leslie.

We get to the party, introduced by an especially energetic (if awkward) dancer. Let the Schaefer flow!

It’s apparently a costume party. Also, there’s a big scavenger hunt scheduled for the next day, an annual event at the college.

We meet a couple more weird characters, and finally most of the slasher elements are in place. A sketchy backstory with some off-campus murders, a few candidates to consider as possibly being the killer, and a bunch of horny, fun-seeking coeds.

To set the stage further, we get more about this Dickie Cavanaugh, an alum who apparently went berserko some years back and killed his cheerleader girlfriend -- the daughter of the campus cop, Mac -- after she dumped him, earning himself a room at the sanitarium. No one knows, apparently, that Dickie has hanged himself.

At the party, a drunk Teddy aggressively flirts with the pretty Dawn Sorenson (Suzanne Barnes), who also is in a relationship. Meanwhile, Benson -- in his bear suit -- is making out with Shelia right in front of Pryor. Finally Pryor flips out, and before a fight breaks out chooses to leave, but not before angrily calling everyone at the party “whores.”

Pretty soon the killings commence, starting with Benson, the killer taking the bear suit afterwards. “Sorry, but I need this more than you do,” says the killer, breathing heavily like any self-respecting slasher would.

By the way, there’s a disc jockey who sorta erratically narrates things throughout the movie, and the next day will be announcing the scavenger hunt clues amid playing the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Do You Believe in Magic?” over and over again.

Teddy and Lynn are next shown in bed arguing over his problem with flirting. He also has a problem with farting, as he soon demonstrates. I’m not making this up. Apparently he thinks pooting equals personality.

The killer gets a copy of the scavenger hunt clues from the radio station, which I suppose is going to help immensely with the killing.

Also helping with the killing is the nifty, Freddy Krueger-like enhancement the killer has constructed for one of the paws of the bear suit. Yikes!

As the scavenger hunt continues the following day and night, there are more killings. Also of note, Dawn takes a bath:

Flatulent Teddy interrupts Dawn’s bathing, and the two commence an affair. Meanwhile, the bodies are piling up around campus, eventually causing the scavenger hunt to be called off and Mac finally to get involved.

Among the victims is Shelia, played by Lauren-Marie Taylor. She was also a victim in Friday the 13th Part 2, and so should’ve known better than to stand so close to windows.

Once the cops get involved, the film becomes tediously talky as students are interrogated. Here is Julie Montgomery, by the way, whose character Lynn gets questioned (in case you don’t remember her from the pie plate):

Soon we are being shown flashbacks from earlier in the film, in some cases from just minutes before. Really, the most exciting thing during this sequence is this detective’s mustache:

At last we arrive at a sorta-surprising-though-also-sorta-laughable finale which I can’t honestly say delivers much, though after the first 75 minutes the film doesn’t really set one’s expectations all that high, anyway.

With way too many characters (all underdeveloped), lotsa clumsy dialogue, and a plot more convoluted and nonsensical than is generally found even in lesser examples of the genre, Girls Nite Out obviously fails when measured using conventional standards for filmmaking. Even according to the standards of eighties-slashers the film falls short, with no nudity, not much gore, and minimal suspense.

What about camp value? Okay. There is some of that. Worth it, I suppose, if you can bear everything else. (Rimshot.)

- Triple S

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