Slasher films were big business in the 1980s. A small group of filmmakers with a camera, a couple of actors, and some bad gore effects could head out to the woods for a few days and come back with a film that could be thrown onto VHS and join the multitudes of other horror films on offer. As such, there were a lot of strange horror movies knocking around at the time. Arrow Video continue their dive into the small, overlooked, and sometimes completely forgotten horror films of decades past to bring audiences hidden gems from the years where horror was the big thing, and it could be hard to find the interesting pieces amidst all the cheap schlock.
Their latest Blu-ray horror release is Girls Nite Out, a film from 1982 that went under the radar at the time, thanks in part to being released under different names and with some odd advertisements. But now horror fans get the chance to catch this pretty strange movie.
Girls Nite Out is set on the campus of the fictional DeWitt University in Ohio. We get introduced to various students, as the team win their basketball game, folks hang out in the campus diner, and a costume party is held. The first third or so of the film is very light on the horror, and plays more like a teen college comedy than a slasher movie. Although there aren’t really many jokes, and the ones that there are don’t exactly land too well and aren’t particularly amusing, but it does have the feel of a teen comedy drama of the era with arguing couples, folks interesting in getting laid, and parties going on on campus.
The only sign that this isn’t going to be the standard for the entire movie are the scenes towards the start of the film that show a man hanging himself in a mental health facility. We don’t see much of this, and don’t know who he is, but it’s certainly a bold way to open the movie. Especially when the two men assigned to bury his body are attacked and apparently killed by someone with a shovel. After this we get a story on campus of a former student who killed his girlfriend years before and was locked away in a mental health hospital. And thus we get the set up for the movie: an escaped killer returns to campus looking to kill some teens.
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Whilst this might not seem like the most original of plots, this was still something that was fairly new at the time, and the killer on campus routine was still fresh enough. One thing that this film does do that’s a pretty unique twist on the formula is having its killer steal the school mascot costume, a rather shoddy looking bear, and wearing it whilst doing their crimes. They even stick knives on the paws, something that actually predates the iconic knife hand of Freddy Krueger by a few years. Thus we have a killer that looks like a large, silly looking bear with knife hands. It’s like Five Nights at Freddy’s mixed with Porky’s.
Girls Nite Out is an odd movie. There are times where the film seems to forget that it’s supposed to be a slasher horror and simply focuses on the interpersonal drama of its main cast as they cheat on their partners, get into drunken fights, and take part in a school-wide scavenger hunt. Then the tone suddenly shifts and you’ve got a woman murdered and bound up in the school showers for her friend to find in some kind of grotesque parody of bondage play.
It doesn’t really help that the film never really seems to push too far in one direction, and is fairly tame in comparison to other movies in the genre from the same era. It doesn’t go overboard on the gore, and the killings are pretty vague and very much left up to the imagination; there are no shots of garden shears being shoved into people’s chests, or heads being crushed. It also doesn’t feature nudity, something that’s surprising for a film that’s also trying to feel like a teen sex comedy. Nudity was so common in slasher movies that I was almost waiting for the topless shot, but it never came. The film seems to be trying to play it safe in this almost family friendly middle ground, and because of that it does feel strange at times. Overall, however, it is fairly entertaining, and is far from the worst slasher film of this era. The cast do a decent enough job with the script and deliver some good performances, and there are some amusing moments scattered around too.
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In addition to the film, which has been newly restored from the 35mm negative, the new Blu-ray release comes with some extras. There’s a full length audio commentary from film critic and author Justin Kerswell, and film historian and author Amanda Reyes, who discuss the making of the film, horror movies of the time, and the place Girls Nite Out has in the genre. There are also several brand new interviews with cast members from the film who discuss their time making the movie.
Girls Nite Out is likely to be one of those horror films that you’ve not heard of before, or have seen in passing as one of those ‘weird’ 80s movies. There will be long time horror fans who will remember the film though, and this release definitely seems geared towards big fans of the genre who are trying to collect together as many of these odd movies as they can. Whilst casual viewers might not find enough to be blown away by this film, those with a love for the history of horror will enjoy this one.
Girls Nite Out is out on Blu-ray on 16th May from Arrow Video.