A long time ago I worked at a movie distribution company in Stockholm. Terrible place, but I still can tell some absurd stories from that time. A good party trick actually. One day David Hess called me to talk about something, I’m not totally sure about now - so I’ll skip that detail - but we talked a couple of times after that. After the first initial shock of understanding I was talking to the legendary David Hess I relaxed and found out what a nice, kind man I had on the other side of the line. I asked him about To All a Goodnight and he said he was trying to found who owned the rights to it for quite a while (this might had been just when the DVD format was breaking through) because he wanted to release a special edition, but it was impossible. No one knew who could be holding the rights. So it’s a bit bittersweet so many years after those talks - and three years after his death - to see a beautiful blu-ray finally appear, and finally...FINALLY… you can see what the hell is going on in it! I wish David could have been alive to enjoy it.
It’s christmas and the only one left on campus is a bunch of adorable date-loving, pot-smoking, party-happy chicks. But they’re not alone of course, soon some boyfriends show up in a small airplane and the house mother who’s still there is surprisingly liberal for being a house mother in a slasher movie. But happiness won’t last long...because a killer Santa shows up and stabs his (or her!) way through the big cast. Who can it be? A lonely madman...or someone who’s already in the house?!
I own a tape of this quite obscure slasher, and it’s so dark it’s virtually impossible to see anything of the mayhem or the location. The blu-ray from Scorpion Releasing/Kino Lorber is a revelation, to say the least! It’s shocking to finally understand how dark the earlier release(s) have been. But it is a better movie now? Nah, I wouldn’t say so, but I’m still holding a very soft spot for it even if it’s extremely uneven. You shouldn’t talk bad about the dead, but I think even Hess would agree he’s not master in building tension and suspense. The important flashback that always starts these old slashers is so fast it’s hard to comprehend what’s really happening. No build-up, no sense of tragedy or disaster. It’s just a chick dying very, very, very fast. The rest of the film is basically the same. People - a lot of them - gets killed without much suspense or sense of danger. The killer just walks into frame, kills them in some semi-creative way and then leaves.
I get the feeling Hess was more interested in shooting the drama and comedy in-between the kills, because those scenes feels a lot more inspired and real. Which brings me to the cast. Most if it is women, and it’s a very, very good cast. There’s no Oscar-winners here, they play young women having fun - which I guess was pretty close to themselves (they lived in the house during the shoot and some of them was friends from earlier). But they feel very real and you instantly like them. Especially Jennifer Runyon, which is so likable I almost get angry she’s retired from acting and living a good life in California somewhere instead (married to Roger Corman’s nephew no less!). The men fare less good, often either over-acts or being flat and boring. The only one with real charisma (no, not the only one, I think two of the young guys in the cast is good too) is actually the late Harry Reems (under pseudonym Dan Stryker, probably some Actors Guild thing), playing a pilot smoking a joint and getting killed by propeller later on.
Another good thing with the new release is how you finally can see the not-to-bad gore effects by Mark Shostrom, which includes some bloody stabbings, throat-slits and other fun things. This film must have some kind of record in kills by the way, there’s so many of them! The whole cast is more or less a meat parade for the killer! While not overly graphic it’s nice enough for me and it fits the very nice location - even if I have a big problem buying the Christmas concept without snow.
To All a Goodnight is a cozy, generic slasher for the extreme fans of the genre. It’s a lot better when you can see what the hell is happening, so prepare to throw away that old tape and give in to blu-ray now!