I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Features Editor
BLOODY NEW YEAR (1986)
Rated R, 94 minutes.
Director: Norman J. Warren
Cast: Suzy Aitchison, Nikki Brooks, Daniel James, Mark Powley, Catherine Roman, Julian Ronnie and Steve Wilsher
Available today on Blu-ray through Vinegar Syndrome.
I’ve reviewed and talked a lot about these kind of movies before, ones that are nonsensical as soon as images start hitting the screen. However, as crazy as it must sound to give yourself over to a movie that will undoubtedly lower your IQ, there’s so much fun that can be had when you watch a moronic group of characters get into a confrontation at an adventure park, steal a boat, become shipwrecked and stranded on an island with an abandoned hotel. But this isn’t any old abandoned hotel. It’s a horror movie featuring “bloody” in its title, so it’s got some evil in there.
This film could perhaps be best described as an episode of SCOOBY-DOO that is sent through the filter of THE SHINING and THE EVIL DEAD. Don’t expect the thrills and chills to be near as effective, but expect some of the themes and aesthetics to call back to those popular films. The hotel itself is stuck in a time warp (does that ring a bell?), which is still celebrating the new year of 1959. But the reality is, it’s summer 1986. And when ghosts and zombie-like creatures (one that pops out of a movie projector is rather goofy and neat) start popping up in poor makeup, it’s got early Sam Raimi written all over it.
The drama is no good, the characters are all jerks (so it’s OK that they kick the bucket) and the dialogue is elementary. In other words, it’s a B-movie that would be perfect for Alamo Drafthouse’s Video Vortex (where they unearth bizarre VHS movies that go well with beer and a rowdy crowd laughing at their stupidity). These movies are a blast. You just gotta know what you’re stepping into and let the good times (and the heads) roll.
Extras: Vinegar Syndrome, a cult film releasing company, is relatively new to me. I bought my first copy of one of their releases last year at a film festival. But I quickly became a fan because their original artwork, packaging and restoration are exquisite. For the BLOODY NEW YEAR release, it truly feels like you’re watching a dirty old film copy. You can see visible lines across the screen and cigarette burns, and the sound occasionally hisses and pops, yet the 2K picture scan (from 35mm archival elements) is crystal. I almost recommend downloading a projector sound effect on your phone to play behind you as you watch the film to really sell the idea.
The limited-edition Blu-ray/DVD combo release (available for purchase through vinegarsyndrome.com, and there are only 3,000 copies) also includes a commentary track with director Norman J. Warren (HORROR PLANET). It’s not the most insightful commentary you will ever come across, as he’ll go off on tangents or not say much. But he does have a few good stories about securing locations and his intentions with certain moments. It might have been better if a film historian spoke on the film’s behalf, but it’s still cool to hear from the filmmaker himself.