Retro Review: Night Killer
Italian director Claudio Fragasso has cemented himself in film history by making Troll 2, a film argued by many as being the worst movie ever made. But a little research will show that this is far from his only flick as he has been in the movie business cranking out work for years. He found a niche making cheap Italian flicks which would coast on the success of big American movies. Which is why Troll 2 had nothing to do with the film Troll and his 1989 movie Shocking Dark was advertised as Terminator 2. In fact in 1990 the same year Troll 2 came out he had another strange flick, Night Killer. The film was advertised as being part of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise despite having nothing to do with Leatherface and his cannibal clan. Despite this the movie has carved its own spot in moviedom.
A pervert serial killer with a grotesque rubber mask and an oh-so original razor glove strikes Virginia Beach and begins to rack up a body count. One woman, Melanie Beck manages to survive an attack from the killer but is left traumatized. Suffering from amnesia following the attack, she goes through a strange character arc where she is suicidal and held captive by a lunatic. All the while the killer who attacked her continues to find victims.
As you may already suspect this is not a good movie, but it is a better flick than you would think. Judging by the gore fx and the killer’s costume if you had told me the budget of Night Killer consisted of a Wal-Mart gift card I would believe you. But in his defense, Claudio Fragasso hoped for a more suspenseful tone for the film and disapproved of the gore which was added in later at the behest of financiers. Unfortunately Fragasso’s incompetence as a director means there is no way Night Killer is going to be the giallo-inspired sexual thriller he no doubt hoped for. The story is an absolute mess and many of the decisions characters make will have the viewer going “huh?”. When the killer makes his intimidating phone call to Melanie before attacking, she legit carries on a conversation with him. Questionable directorial decisions are on full display. Melanie’s daughter is consistently referred to and treated as a “baby” despite the fact she is at least 10 years old. There are even some shots from the killer where the opening in the mask show that whoever is wearing the costume at that time is not the one who is revealed to be behind the murders. But it is not like the final reveal of the killer makes much sense anyway.
While Night Killer is entertaining it does not reach the “so bad it’s good” level of Troll 2. Those used to bad horror movies will find all of the trademarks of the style from wooden dialogue and bad acting to a plot which is all over the place. It is level of work one would expect from the infamous Claudio Fragasso.