New Year’s Eve is unique among holidays in that it’s traditionally unpredictable. Whereas other holidays are sodden with rituals, meals, and costumery, the last night of the year is remarkably less structured. Usually, it’s an evening when you can end up anywhere, with the main constants being drunkenness and counting backwards. So this year I started a new tradition to celebrate the unique unpredictability of New Year’s Eve.
First I searched through a list of New Year’s Eve movies, looking for something that I had never seen and knew nothing about. I went into this assuming that whatever I ended up watching would be bad. I’ll attribute this negativity to the past year because if you’re not assuming the worst at this point, you’re not paying attention.
Most films set on New Year’s Eve appear to be comedic or romantic in nature. I avoided these because nothing is worse than a bad comedy. Also, the holidays are depressing enough, and all romance turns tragic on a long enough timeline. So what I ended up with is the 1987 straight-to-video British horror film Bloody New Year. Worst case scenario with a cheap horror movie: It’s boring and incomprehensible.
To my absolute surprise, Bloody New Year surpassed my admittedly low expectations in the best ways possible. The best way to look at Bloody New Year is “What if a young Sam Raimi wrote and directed The Shining, but he only had a week to film it?”
The movie follows a group of teens who escape a gang of carnival thugs by boat, only to shipwreck on an abandoned island. It’s a classic story. Locating an empty hotel on the island, they find the interior decked out for the holidays. Despite being completely uninhabited, the hotel is still in perfect condition and ready for a New Year’s Eve celebration. Like any true Brits, our characters’ first step is to look for a proper drink. But then things go completely off the rails.
Here’s where I’ll get to what makes Bloody New Year an enjoyable watch. It’s not the clumsy direction or cinematography. It is not the two-dimensional characters. It may be the original retro pop songs performed by Cry No More, including “The Caveman Rock.” Bloody New Year’s best quality is how unpredictable and stuffed to the gills with lunacy it is.
The movie draws The Shining comparison in that it takes that “Something lurks inside every hotel room” attitude and imbues it with low-budget charm. Here is a list of things that happen in Bloody New Year that delighted me:
A horny British woman says the horniest, most British thing: “I wonder what it’s like… doing it on a snooker table.”
That same woman gets trapped in a fishing net lined with hooks. She was notably less horny having stumbled into an outtake from the Saw franchise.
An end table turns into a Swamp Thing.
An invisible plane crashes into a building.
A woman opens a door, only to find a violent blizzard on the other side. On the cusp of freezing to death, she awakes from the storm and finds a little doll dressed like her inside a snow globe.
A man punches through a woman’s torso. Then she transforms into a demonic Two-Face and throws him through a wall.
A banister bites a woman.
I was not expecting ANY of that. Looking back, you can tell that the movie was written to be packed with whatever gags the special effects team could come up with. So realizing this, I decided to see who was responsible for Bloody New Year’s saving grace.
This movie happens to be David Williams’ first credit as special effects supervisor, but it wouldn’t be his last time handling effects for a motion picture. What else has he worked on? Well, his next six special effects jobs after Bloody New Year were Event Horizon, Saving Private Ryan, The Mummy, Gladiator, The Mummy Returns, and Batman Begins. Then he did a Demi Moore movie I’ve never heard of, but Williams followed that up with Casino Royale, Wanted, The Dark Knight, Quantum of Solace, and Captain America: The First Avenger.
Oh, and he also handled stunts and wirework in Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, The Descent, V for Vendetta, and Spider-Man: Far From Home. This is the same guy who got his start with Bloody New Year, in which he had a kitchen attempt to murder two teenagers in Wales. These are quite the humble beginnings, and I’m happy to have experienced them. It’s always a blessing to see talent at its rawest, not bolstered by money or fame.
So in the spirit of fresh starts, pleasant surprises, and promising futures, I’m going to stick to my own personal New Year’s Eve tradition and throw it over to Colonel Sherman T. Potter to welcome in the new year. May it find you safe, healthy, and sane, and leave you in a better light.
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