Night of Horror (1981) (part 5 of 6)

Later that night, Colleen is wandering around in the woods by herself. She then starts talking to herself. Well, technically, she’s talking to some spirits, but all we hear is Colleen having a one-sided conversation, vaguely reminiscent of when you used to overhear your college dorm roommate calling his mom.

“What’s wrong?” she calls out. Well, there’s this awful movie on and… “What can I do? What’s wrong? I… I can’t. Why can’t you rest?” Well, actually, I was sleeping just fine until you started yapping. “So… so sad,” she says. “We won’t hurt you. The hate is over now.” No, not by a long shot.

After a minute of this, we cut from Colleen to random shots of tree branches [?]. She continues to have cheeseball conversations with the spirits that make John Edwards look terse and eloquent. “We don’t hate you!” she says. “Our… our lives are so different. [laughs] No, I’m not afraid of you. Not… of any of you. Please… let me help!” Well, first you can start by shutting up. “I’m opening myself to you.” Eww. “Please, tell me what to do.”

The Three-Chord Wonder is pounded out on the keyboard again as we watch Steve wandering around in the woods alone. Oh, and it’s broad daylight again, but I’m sure you already guessed that.

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This goes on for literally a minute and a half, until Steve sees “something” (he’s facing directly into the camera, so we don’t know what) and looks scared. By this, I mean he stares straight ahead for a while, then finally takes off running. This leads to a lengthy “Steve running through the woods” sequence, which at least (in some perverted way) is more action-oriented than the “Steve walking through the woods” sequence.

Night of Horror (1981) (part 5 of 6)

Steve, can you stay over in the nighttime where the rest of the cast is?

Back at Excalibur, Colleen tells Susan and Jeff that some spirits just spoke to her. Before they get a chance to laugh in her face, Steve runs up, freaked out because while he was back in the woods “taking care of business”, he heard “something like, like crying or moaning” and that he saw somebody “off in the mist.” Jeff says, “Yeah, with his head tucked down under his arm, no doubt!” And wearing a really tacky scarf, I’m so shore!

Steve derisively calls him a “funnyman”, then promises to have Excalibur running in an hour so they can “cut out of there”. Colleen starts whining that they can’t leave, because she wants to stay and hold “a séance! That way I can find out… what their problem is!” Um, they’re dead. What do you think their problem is? I mean, it’s not like they’re cable’s out or something.

Jeff and Susan go along with this for some reason, so all three of them go down to the campfire and hold hands. Colleen tells the other two to “try to stop all thoughts of evil, of hate. All thoughts of fear.” How about I just stop this movie? That’ll take care of all three.

She recites some stupid speech to call forth the spirits, telling them that no one fears them, yadda yadda yadda. “If you need a voice,” Colleen says. “Speak through me!” After all, we already know she doesn’t care what lousy dialogue comes out of her mouth.

Night of Horror (1981) (part 5 of 6)

I recommend not telling them who finally won the war.

Abruptly, a raspy, scratchy voice (I mean, scratchier than all the other dialogue we’ve heard so far) is heard, talking really, really slow. Yep, it’s the same Confederate ghosts from the “teaser” opening finally making good on everything their original appearance promised. Whatever that was.

The voice says, “We need your help. Yes, you all, please try.” Then we see Steve standing, um, somewhere, while his VO relates that he looked past the campfire and saw ghosts. Accordingly, he rubs at his eyes and face like he’s trying to shake off a hangover.

“I saw people who had fought and died in the Civil War,” his VO says, “Over a hundred years ago!” Oh, that Civil War. Steve says he heard the ghosts talking, “but their lips didn’t move.” Yes, that’s right. As the raspy voice delivers an interminable monologue, the supposed ghosts do absolutely nothing but stare straight at the camera. If there is a Hell, and I have no reason to doubt it after Tony Malanowski’s film career proved there is a Devil, then this movie must be showing there nonstop, around the clock, every single day of the year.

Night of Horror (1981) (part 5 of 6)

Colleen reacts to seeing ghosts.

The Confederate ghost with the sore throat tells the kids a story about the captain who led their unit in “campaign after campaign, in battle after battle, through all, he led us bravely!” We also learn that the captain “never lied to us. Any time. About anything.” That’s good to know. “My God,” the ghost kvetches, “How could anything happen to someone so honest? So brave?”

We then cut to a Civil War battle as the ghost goes on and on about how they were “outnumbered”, and then a Yankee attack “left us reeling!” As the battle footage continues, it’s difficult not to notice that this means we’re now seeing one flashback (the Civil War battle) happening inside of another flashback (Steve’s story to Chris). If this isn’t the sign of a well-crafted screenplay, I don’t know what is.

Night of Horror (1981) (part 5 of 6)

Susan reacts to seeing ghosts. Or is constipated. One of the two.

As soldiers fire back and forth, an acoustic guitar is heard in the background. Meanwhile, a bland singer begins warbling something about fighting in battles and blah blah blah, eventually getting to a chorus where he moans, “One morrre soldier, how many morrre?”

As you might have guessed, the band playing here is none other than Off the Wall. Obviously, their careers (if they can be said to have even had careers) went nowhere after this, and if you’re wondering why, this song is Exhibit A. Also, my keen hearing reveals no trace of a harmonica at all in this song, making me wonder what the hell Steve was even doing in the band in the first place.

Soon, we find out that the Three Chords of Legend come from this song, and are played behind the chorus and a lengthy slide guitar solo. As this goes on and on, it soon becomes painfully apparent that we’re not seeing anyone in the Civil War flashback who could possibly be the captain that the ghost was talking about. In fact, all of it is random, disconnected battle footage with no discernable events to relate. Obviously, Malanowski just went out and filmed a local troupe performing a Civil War re-enactment, thus sparing the expense of hiring extras and preventing his budget from exceeding the price of a Happy Meal.

Eventually, it hits us that this entire scene exists solely for the purpose of showcasing Off the Wall’s first single. That’s right, as if things weren’t bad enough already, Tony Malanowski has decided to drop a music video into the middle of his movie. But wait, you haven’t heard the best part: This video goes on for over seven minutes.

Night of Horror (1981) (part 5 of 6)

Still, more coherent than that Don Johnson video for “Heartbeat”.

For over seven minutes, we watch random soldiers milling about, some other guys pretending to limp off the battlefield, and cannons being rolled into position. And just think, there are old newsreels in university collections dissolving into powder right now, and this turd has been preserved on videotape for (relative) posterity.

As the music video draws to a close, we cut back to the Confederate ghosts standing in those car headlights. The VJ ghost returns to tell us that this video is number 3 on the Zombie TRL countdown. Then he gives mad props to the captain, saying they won the battle “because of his va-lor and brav-e-ry. We owed him much, and we vowed that we would do what ever we had to to ensure he would make it back to where he belonged!”

They hit a little snafu along the way, however, when “the Yankees, they attacked our train!” and killed everyone on board. Those evil Yankees saw the captain, and since he was an officer, they cut off his head [?]. Some time later, “a company of our fellows came and found us” and buried all of them, except for one teensy tiny problem when it came to the captain. “They couldn’t find… his… head!” Whoops!

The ghost continues babbling as we get intermittent shots of our four travelers looking extremely bored. Unfortunately, I have to break the news that what we are now witnessing is in fact the titular “night of horror”. Judging by the looks on everyone’s faces, however, perhaps a better title would have been Night of Slight Discomfort. Or, given the continuity errors, perhaps it should have been called Night of, then Day of, then Night Again, then Day Again of Slight Discomfort.

Multi-Part Article: Night of Horror (1981)

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