Friday, October 10, 2014

Pledge Night

If PLEDGE NIGHT holds any significance for anyone, it’s because of a brief role by Joey Belladonna, who at the time was the lead singer of Anthrax, the thrash metal band that also performed the film’s score. The directorial debut of Paul Ziller, who went on to a prolific career making awful movies with titles like SNAKEHEAD TERROR, ANDROID APOCALYPSE, and YETI: CURSE OF THE SNOW DEMON, this slasher movie plays like a less mature hybrid of REVENGE OF THE NERDS and SLAUGHTER HIGH.

Belladonna appears very briefly in a flashback as Sidney Snyder, a 1960s hippie (he doesn’t look like one) who dies in an acid bath during a hazing prank gone awry. In 1988, it’s Hell Week at Phi Epsilon Nu, where some dickweed frat guys humiliate their new pledges by making them pick up bing cherries with their ass cheeks and walk around with corn cobs tied to their cranks. These are just two of the interminable procession of tortures the freshmen endure for the sole purpose of becoming one of the douchebags making them do it.

Because producer/screenwriter Joyce Snyder was influenced by the A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET sequels — the ones where the gnarled Freddy would make quips after creative kills — the horror part of PLEDGE NIGHT follows no rules of logic or narrative structure (I didn’t say she understood the NIGHTMARE films). Suffice to say that Sid returns to life twenty years later with his face and body horribly disfigured (and a different actor in the role) and starts killing the pledges, their frat brothers, and their girlfriends (Sid makes sure their breasts are exposed first).

The acting is amateurish, and the characters unlikable and not worthy of rooting for (the exception being Todd Eastland, who is sympathetic as “townie” pledge Larry). PLEDGE NIGHT is a bad film by most units of measurement, but it also is not dull, often hilarious, and packed with bare breasts and surprisingly good special effects. The splatter is expertly created on what must have been less than a reasonable budget, most notably a shot of Sid emerging from the chest of a screaming freshman ALIEN-style.

Is PLEDGE NIGHT worth seeing? Heaven help me, for some of us, it is. The killer is absurd — “That’s for Spiro Agnew,” he says after twisting a guy’s head off, whatever that means — and the ending is beyond stupid. Even though you know how it’s going to end, you won’t be prepared for how inane it really is. But, well, gore, boobs, creative kills, and many laughs — at it, not with it. Filmed on the Rutgers University campus, if you can believe it.

No comments: