The film we will be discussing today can best be described as the Ray Parlour of the slasher genre. If you think that sounds strange or don’t know who Ray Parlour is, then let’s have a brief history lesson. He was a football (soccer) player; or more specifically, a hard midfielder for Arsenal who never really got the recognition that he deserved. It was only after he was allowed to leave and then hung up his boots that his contribution was really noted.
Looking back now, it’s easy to see that the “Romford Pele” was an energetic cog in the midfield engine room, who wasn’t flash or trendy and perhaps solely because of that, he never reached superstar status. A few years ago he was voted as one of the most underrated players of all time, so now, post playing days, people think of him more fondly than they had when he was in the midst of his career.
1982’s Girls Nite Out (aka The Scaremaker) is a similar case as in it doesn’t have gore effects by Tom Savini, it doesn’t boast a soon to be superstar in its cast and it wasn’t banned or heavily scrutinized by censors upon its release. What it does offer however is a slick stalk and slash adventure with a few sublime touches.
Directed by Robert Deubel, the film follows a group of college students celebrating a basketball victory who are about to take part in the radio station’s annual scavenger hunt. Unbeknownst to them, a lunatic from the local asylum has escaped and kills the student who is the university’s bear mascot before stealing the costume. As the students embark on a night of fun and frolics, they fall victim one-by-one to the killer.
It takes a good half hour or more for the killings to begin, as Girls Nite Out tries a bit too hard in its first section to make us sympathetic to the many throw-away characters that they present (including a character played by Lauren-Marie Taylor from Friday The 13th Part 2). There are also a few subplots that don’t amount to much, and it’s quite difficult to keep from giggling whenever the bear-suited killer shows up. It’s like watching a fully grown homicidal Teddy Ruxpin (which, admittedly, is actually pretty awesome).
Like most ’80s slashers, there are suspects all over the place, and a couple of kill scenes are quite brutal (especially one poor lass who is ripped to pieces then left to die chained up in the shower).
Tracking the killer is a security officer named Jim MacVey (played by Hal Holbrook); Jim lost his daughter to a serial killer during a scavenger hunt at the school several years earlier.
Girls Nite Out differs from a lot of other slasher movies in-as-much that it doesn’t have a final girl. However, that probably wasn’t any attempt by the filmmakers to do something different. There are in-fact no central characters in the movie. People drift in and out; get killed or not, but the viewer isn’t really given anyone to identify with long enough and that kinda means there isn’t really anyone to empathize with.
At the end of the day, however, despite its many flaws, Girls Nite Out might just be one of the most criminally underrated slasher films of its time. Most of the harder to find and obscure titles in the genre are buried deep for a reason, but this film is a shining example of what atmosphere, creativity and a great ending (which we won’t spoil for you) can do for an otherwise basic film. Don’t let IMDb or some horror blog fool you, this one is crucial.