Night Warning (1982)

Genres - Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Gothic Film, Slasher Film  |   Run Time - 94 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Night Warning is an especially unique entry into the slasher film cycle in the 1980s because its plot and style draw more inspiration from 1960s gothic horrors like What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? than it does Friday the 13th. For instance, the script is built on the kind of "dark family secret" revelations that hadn't been seen since the days of Psycho, and Susan Tyrrell's completely unhinged performance as batty Aunt Cheryl conjures up memories of Joan Crawford's work in Strait-Jacket. However, Night Warning manages to update this formula to fit 1980s standards of content with a large dollop of gore and more than a few moments of kinky sexuality (including a scene where Tyrrell spills milk on her nephew's chest so she can lick it off). The end result is entertaining, but suffers from some notable problems. Its young protagonist is a bit too thick-headed for viewers to sympathize with and William Asher's pedestrian direction doesn't fully take advantage of the story's opportunities for gothic theatrics. However, Night Warning's blend of perverse psychology and wild acting make it worthwhile for fans of horror kitsch. The key hook is Susan Tyrrell's performance, which goes through an elaborate array of method-actor fireworks to make Aunt Cheryl into one of the most memorable screen psychos of the 1980s. Action film vet Bo Svenson also turns in some jaw-dropping work as the racist homophobic cop out to pin the film's murders on Billy, and sharp-eyed viewers will notice a young Bill Paxton in a fun cameo as a jealous basketball player. In the end, Night Warning is a bit too bizarre for general audiences, but its one-of-a-kind blend of kitsch and shocks make it a fun for horror fans with a sense of humor.