Collins’ Crypt: Why Don’t Slashers Celebrate New Year’s?

BC bemoans the lack of ball-dropping horror flicks. 

When Eli Roth was teasing us with the idea of making a full length Thanksgiving feature (it's been eight years, so I've given up hope), he said he was inspired by the fact that there weren't any Thanksgiving-based slasher movies that he knew of, so his would fill that void. He's not entirely correct; there are at least two from the glorious '80s (Home Sweet Home and Blood Rage), but in his defense they're both rather obscure and, if you actually manage to see them, you'll notice that the holiday has nearly nothing to do with the proceedings. It's just the excuse for everyone to get together - it could have been any holiday or even someone's birthday for as much effect as it had on the plot.

I bring it up because just a few weeks after Thanksgiving we celebrate New Year's, and that's a holiday that's been just as ignored by our slasher movie producers. There are only two, as far as I know, and one is so flimsy that I've often forgotten it's even technically a "holiday horror". That would be Terror Train, one of the better made slashers from that heavenly post-Halloween period, and most famously one of the several that Jamie Lee Curtis appeared in after that film, forever cementing her as a Scream Queen and making it all that much more exciting when she returns to the genre. But it's also not a particularly thrilling film; director Roger Spottiswoode has gone on record saying that he's not a fan of the genre and probably wasn't the right guy for the job - the kills are either off-screen or bloodless, something that would normally make you think the MPAA had a field day with it, but in actuality he simply never shot that stuff because it didn't interest him. Not that blood and kills are necessary for it to be good, but as it's one of the longer entries (96 minutes) and has a pretty obvious killer for a whodunit, such spectacle could have balanced out its lapses and elevated it into My Bloody Valentine territory.

As for the holiday, I think it's mentioned exactly twice, one time with other dialogue all but drowning it out anyway. The plot finds our group of eventual victims boarding a party train, ostensibly to celebrate New Year's, but the fact that most of them are wearing costumes (not a given tradition for the event) and discussing how they're going to miss each other when school ends (something that won't happen for another 5 months or so) renders it a bit vague, as if they were combining ideas for different holidays (Halloween and... I dunno, Memorial Day?) but tossed in references to New Year's to explain the cold weather and snow. No one is celebrating the countdown (I'm not even sure if it's actually New Year's EVE or just some point after Christmas), there's no "Happy New Year" type signage, and I don't even think the date is referenced - if editor Anne Henderson had made a few snips (which she should have done anyway; interestingly it's the only feature she's edited in the middle of a career otherwise dedicated to short form documentaries) there would be no evidence whatsoever that it's supposed to be December 31st (ish).

That leaves New Year's Evil, which I covered here a few years ago (and touched a bit on how few titles there are in this sub-sub-genre). Now THIS is a movie that dives right into the holiday - the plot is about a killer who will strike every time the clock hits midnight in each time zone, and his main target is the lady hosting a New Year's Eve dance party. He visits different gatherings for each time, all of which are engaging in some kind of celebration dedicated to ringing in the new year. More than one of his victims are just looking for someone to be with at midnight, and the movie's theme song has a chorus that goes "Tell me will it be/Sweet New Year's Eve/or will it be/A NEW YEAR'S EVIL!" The movie has some wonky pacing issues and never really settles on a consistent tone, but thanks to the character driven narrative and big city locale, it's undeniably unique among the other poster movies for holiday horror.

The other New Year's movies that I know of are supernaturally charged. Bloody New Year (which I hadn't seen at the time of the NYE article; I've since remedied that) is somewhere between the above two films with regards to how much time is spent on the titular day. See, the movie actually takes place in the summer, but the hotel they stumble across is all decked out for the big day, and eventually you find out why. So, again, it could have been any random day ("Why are there Thanksgiving decorations up?"), but at least unlike Terror Train the set designers put some effort into it. Then there's End of Days, which takes place over four days but of course builds toward the ball dropping in Times Square (it takes place in 1999 so the Millennium/Y2k brouhaha factors into the proceedings). And when I talked about New Year's Evil someone mentioned The Phantom Carriage, a Swedish film that I still haven't seen but sounds a bit more in line with what I'd want from a true holiday horror, in that it actually ties into the plot somehow (in this case, a curse that falls upon the last sinner to die in a calendar year).

Then there are the ones where New Year's is the focus of one scene or section, like Rosemary's Baby or The Shining. Again, these don't really count, but god forbid I neglect to mention something tangentially related to the topic at hand. There are probably a lot of those, but after a lot of poking around the above few films are all I could find where the holiday plays a vital part in the narrative, and I remain baffled as to why that is. As I've mentioned in the past, the scarcity of Thanksgiving entries makes sense; it's a more family oriented holiday than the others, and no one wants to see a family get wiped out (ever notice in horror movies that are about families, there's almost always a step-parent or someone's boyfriend/girlfriend to provide the knife fodder?), so that's why the focus remains on Christmas, Halloween, and (to a lesser extent) Valentine's Day*, as it's more common for the more horror-friendly group of pals to be together.

But that's not the case with December 31st. Who celebrates with their family once they're old enough to be a slasher movie victim? And unlike Christmas or Halloween, decor isn't exactly a big deal - a few party hats and a banner are sufficient enough to "sell" the event, so the fact that it's easy enough to fake should make it an even more attractive option for indie/low-budget filmmakers when plotting their horror movies. Especially slashers, since 90% of them revolve around getting 6-8 friends together for a party of some sort - why not New Year's, when holidays are proven to be a hot ticket for this particular sub-genre? Even the movies that aren't particularly great (Silent Night Deadly Night, various Halloween sequels, etc) get watched annually simply because it's "that time of year," so for a genre built on cashing in however possible, it's strange to me that it gets ignored.

So I am putting out an official request: I want a New Year's Eve-based slasher movie by this time next year (don't give me any crap about it being too soon; the entire production of Friday the 13th VII, from greenlight to theatrical release, was less than five months - I'm giving you a year!). I enjoy New Year's Evil but it's on the outskirts of traditional slasher movie (since we spend just as much time identifying with the killer), so I want something a little more in line with My Bloody Valentine, Halloween, Black Christmas, etc. Like I said, it's easy enough to fake without having to decorate an entire town, so even the smallest budget in the world should be sufficient to sell the audience on the setting. It can be a whodunit or a regular "escaped mental patient" type, doesn't matter to me, just as long as there's some real use of the holiday on display. Honestly, the best thing would be a Terror Train remake that does more than just mention it once or twice (and doesn't stop the film cold for a pointless diversion involving the idea that it could just be a prank after we've already seen someone totally die), but since it's already been remade (well, sort of), that won't be a possibility for a while. But I guess you could rip it off blind; it's never stopped anyone else in horror. If you're a budding filmmaker, make it your resolution! "This year I will fill a gap in BC's annual holiday viewing schedule." Who knows? It might be the movie that officially regenerates the slasher sub-genre again!

*With My Bloody Valentine and its remake, Lover's Lane, and with Valentine and X-Ray, Valentine's Day's got more slasher love than New Year's and Thanksgiving combined!

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