Directed by Paul Ziller [Other horror films: Snakehead Terror (2004), Swarmed (2005), Beyond Loch Ness (2008), Yeti: Curse of the Snow Demon (2008), Troglodyte (2008), Ba’al (2008), Iron Invader (2011), Ghost Storm (2011)]
In many ways, Pledge Night feels more like an 80’s movie than it does a 90’s, which probably makes the film a bit better. It’s not great, by any means, but there’s enough here to keep me entertained, and having seen this one twice now, I can say it’s somewhere around average.
There’s one thing I want to get out of the way first before jumping into this one: I detest and abhor fraternities and their hazings. It’s nothing more than psychological (and sometimes physical) torture, bolstered by nothing but pointless tradition and the psychology behind sunk costs. You can find a list of those who have died during hazing practices, and once you understand that many in Greek life still willingly join organizations that haze, and don’t speak up about it, you may be able to understand my utter disgust with sororities and fraternities.
I bring that up because the first forty minutes of this movie deals with the hazing of six pledges to [insert random Greek alphabet here]. Is some of it harmless? Sure, but almost all of it is psychological torture, and shows that the organization is not one worth being in to begin with. As a few of the pledges say, though, if they hadn’t attempted to pledge to a frat, their fathers would be disappointed (macho men wanting their sons to go through abuse – great parenting).
After forty minutes of this, we get to the horror, in which the zombie/demon of a previous pledge who died during a hazing (which is within the realm of possibility, as to this day, kids are still being killed by Greek life) returns and goes on a rampage. Oh, also another Greek brother also kills a few people, but it’s not entirely clear if that guy was just driven to his behavior by his own mental instability or somehow possessed by Sid, the returning pledge.
Of the six pledges, only James Davies fails to make an impression. It’s true that both David Neal Evans and Robert Lentini don’t add much, but as this is the only acting role from either, I don’t much hold that against them. Dennis Sullivan (who is memorable only due to his hella slick haircut) and Craig Derrick are both fun, but neither really gets that much to do past a certain point.
The two main characters, played by Todd Eastland and Shannon McMahon, are good, though I will admit to McMahon being virtually indistinguishable from the other Sorority girls there (all three had small nude scenes, so kudos there, I guess). Michael T. Henderson is pretty solid in his role, and Arthur Lundquist, who played the potentially possessed Frat brother, really did come across as reasonably insane at times (that cackle was top notch).
I wouldn’t say many of the kills are really good, but there are a few memorable ones here regardless, such as the cherry bomb scene, a strangulation sequence, an okay electrocution, and this dude getting stabbed in the back multiple times. That last kill mentioned was almost my favorite, but then a girl got killed by an electric egg beater, which wasn’t much in the way of gory, but it did have character.
The problem here is that the killer, Sid, spews these one-liners which really lack comedic value. Up until his appearance in the film, one could easily be excused for not seeing this as a comedy-horror, but then Sid comes in and ruins the perception. It’s not as bad as Freddy later got, but it wasn’t really worth it either. Related, there is one scene in which Sid emerges from someone’s body, which reminded me of a much lower quality version of the classic scene from Freddy’s Revenge, so hey, that’s worth seeing.
I will say, though, there was one funny line – ‘Maybe we should turn the light off as a group’ – that cracked me up considerably.
Pledge Night isn’t a movie I loved when I first saw it, but it is reasonably watchable. It’s enjoyable to an extent, and while I wish they had gotten to the horror aspects quicker (forty minutes in seems a bit of a long wait), it’s still okay. If you’re a fan of late 80’s horror, this movie fits the bill, so give it a go. Just be aware that it may not stand out come the credits.
This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss it below.