Monday, June 27, 2022

Hazing Is Hell


Maybe one day I'll meet someone who participated in college Greek culture who can tell me the value of hazing. As someone whose freshman roommate would come home crying about mean hopeful sorority sisters circling the fat on her body and making her do laps at 4AM, it's a tad difficult to understand why any (seemingly) intelligent human being would subject themselves to utter humiliation in order to, what, have new friends?

Quick Plot: It's hell week for the hopeful pledges of Phi Up, which means life is about to become a horror movie even if Pledge Night wasn't actually a horror movie. Seriously: a good 40 minutes before we get murders, we have to watch some harried freshmen enact a relay race wherein they go from one side of the room to the other to retrieve a cherry on an ice block...with their buttcrack. And yes, the winners/losers are forced to celebrate by, you know, eating said baton.

Giardia risk aside, young townie freshman Larry REALLY wants in. His mother, a former student at the same university, warns him about some of the frat's dark history. It was just 18 years earlier when an underclassman died in a vat of acid during a prank gone wrong. 

Still, what could possibly go wrong when the big brothers lock down the frat house? Surely the vengeful, hard rocking ghost of said slain student wouldn't, like, possess the bodies of other students, then materialize to brutally murder them in creative ways, right?

Thankfully, wrong! We get PLENTY of wacky kills, including a hand-mixer-to-the-head. Skulls were a lot softer in the '80s. 

Pledge Night was the directorial debut of Paul Ziller, a busy filmmaker who's since gone on to steadily work in television series, Hallmark-adjacent love stories, and a whole lot of cheap Asylum-sounding thrillers. The script is credited to adult film writer/producer Joyce Snyder, and maybe it did indeed take a female perspective to put frat life in such a clear and ridiculous light. Yes, we get a heavy dose of unnecessary boobs at opportune times, but female nudity aside, there is a certain sharpness in perspective regarding the absolute stupidity of college dudes.

Don't get me wrong: Pledge Night is aiming for a gross-out over grad school thesis. The practical effects are Black Roses adjacent and the score is composed by Anthrax, which gives you a good idea of what kind of tone you'll be getting. Fun and dumb. What more do you want from a slasher?

High Points
There's a rather brilliant sequence where the frat president is enthusiastically giving some long-winded history while one by one, his brothers are lured upstairs to die horribly. It's such a funny, weird scene that elevates Pledge Night into slightly smarter than you might think black comedy

Low Points
This is a very dumb movie about very dumb young people and when in doubt, there are boobs. What can you say? 

Lessons Learned
An accident is best defined as something that wasn't done on purpose, but happens

If you own three Toyota dealerships, nothing can hurt you

Back in the '60s, hippies had kids out of wedlock but never achieved anything for themselves

It's strange that Pledge Night isn't better known in horror circles. While it's far from the greatest or dumbest slasher of its era, it's a whole lot of fun with a lot of genuinely memorable and kooky twists. Find it on Shudder. 


  1. I don't know how I missed this one back when it came out. I remember watching both Black Roses (didn't realize you had reviewed that one) and Trick or Treat (from 1986 and which was essentially the exact same movie as Black Roses), so you think another schlocky horror of the same era, especially one with Anthrax on the soundtrack, would have been the first thing I would have grabbed off the video store shelf. It's a shame because I definitely would have appreciated it more then than now! Dang!

    1. Right? I'd never even HEARD of this one, which seems really odd. Maybe it came out just a little too late?