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Night Of Horror (1978)

Directed by Tony Malanowski
Genesis Home Video VHS

THE FILM
Four folks drive to a cabin deep in the mountains of Virginia for various family and recreational reasons. Their camper breaks down. While waiting in the dark, they encounter the ghosts of several Confederate soldiers. The ghosts set them a task. The task is completed. The movie ends. Or it seems like it does. It seems like, when the credits have rolled, that the experience is now behind you. Only memories will remain. And that, Dear Reader, is exactly what Tony Malanowski wants you to think.

I’ve never been hypnotized. I’ve never actually been to a performance of any kind with a hypnotist at it. Some friends of mine went to one in high school. All I remember is “He made Kathy cluck like a chicken!” As tempting as that might have been to see, I remember being happy about having done whatever it was I’d done instead. I’ve never sought out a hypnotist although I have encountered hypnosis in various films. Did the beginning of Anguish hypnotize me? I don’t believe so. Did having Bela Lugosi stare at me in constant close up do it? Possibly, but I’m going to say no. In the end, I think hypnosis works on me when it is subtle. Like Night Of Horror.

The film consists of a series of scenes and sequences that all go on a few minutes longer than they should (folks over explaining things or talking very slowly) or seem designed to take up as much time as possible. There is a three minute long sequence of the camper just driving along the highway. A woman recites an Edgar Allan poem in its entirety (2.5 minutes). A long song plays over silent footage of a Civil War battle re-enactment. And, here’s the brain-breaker, the climactic scene is almost entirely pitch black. I know what is happening but I can see almost none of it. The one saving grace is that in one of the shots there is a patch of sky, outlined in leaves, in the upper left hand corner. I generally focus on that patch whenever it appears. And, I realize that that is where Master Hypnotist Tony Malanowski gets me.

I believe that Night of Horror hypnotizes me every time I watch it. And, it is insidious. The first forty minutes of the movie are absolute Nirvana. The performances, the acting, the look of the film. Everything about it is as perfect as I could want. These minutes are up there with The Last Slumber Party, Tales From The Quadead Zone, Don’t Go In The Woods, and Criminally Insane. Then, when you think it can’t get any better, the plot appears. And, the scenes get longer and darker and the battle begins in all its incoherence. By the time that patch of sky is visible, I am usually asleep. I no longer think that that’s what’s happening. This past Saturday, when the movie was over and I suddenly snapped awake and the movie timer was at 80 minutes, I had a hard-boiled egg from the 7-11 in my hand. Half eaten.

Night Of Horror didn’t have a lot of time. I remember looking at the timer about an hour in, so the movie had twenty minutes from then to do its business. (During previous viewings, I may have been under the influence longer.) There is a 7-11 a few blocks away. So, the film lulled me into a half-awake/half-asleep state. Then, the patch of sky appeared. My mind focused on that. And, I heard Tony Malanowski saying, “Dan….Dan…Go to the 7-11 down the road and buy either a foot-long hot dog or one of those hard boiled eggs that they have near the sandwiches and containers of gelatin.” I’d like to say that I have some semblance of taste even under hypnosis and that’s why I didn’t get the hot dog. But, still…

The first forty minutes of Night Of Horror are a test. Only a few will make it beyond that and still be paying close attention when the patch of sky appears. Master Hypnotist Tony Malanowski takes advantage of that moment and…Well, who knows what I’ve done? Walked my dog and not picked up after her? Gone down to the local diner and ordered the lumpy mashed potatoes of unknown provenance? Or just plain clucked like a chicken? I don’t know. All I can say is that Night Of Horror has the potential to be a force for great good or infinite evil. The choice is up to your state of mind and that small patch of sky.

AUDIO AND VIDEO
Video: Best ever. Horror House on Highway 5 quality but not quite as clear. Watching this is, literally, like entering The Twilight Zone. Audio: “Mr. Watson, come here!” Awesome. Hiss as part of the sound collage. It’s daring, distracting and dithyrambic. (Malanowski! Get out of my Mind!)

EXTRAS
The Genesis Home Video logo is a wonder to behold. The VHS packaging is perfect. It’s a gift from another world.

FINAL THOUGHTS
I could no more recommend Night Of Horror to another human being for an evening’s pleasure than I could recommend Cannibal Holocaust.

With that out of the way, I guess the real evidence that this film hypnotizes me on a regular basis is the fact that I really haven’t mentioned any of the hysterically goofball things that happen during this movie. Every time I start to write something that mentions, for example, where the opening bar scene is supposed to be — See. The sentence is gone. I cut it out. Gosh, I hope I haven’t deleted this review. Mr. Skull, please post this review. (He’s watched the movie too, so I have no idea what his state of mind is like at this moment.) Reader? Hello? Are you reading this? Have I written a review specifically for the Void?

Bonus Paragraph for Readers in the Void: Come to think of it, I was watching Bloody Reunion on Saturday when I suddenly realized I was watching Night Of Horror. It wasn’t until this moment that I realized that. The movie calls from beyond the VCR. Hey, wasn’t all of this covered in one of the Amityville films?