The movie I'm writing about here today is not the movie I'd originally intended to write about her today. I had the other movie all picked out, the DVD in my hand. But as I was about to open the case, it was like something came over me. I entered a weird fugue state, or maybe I was momentarily possessed, I don't know. Whatever happened to me physically or metaphysically compelled me to watch Girls Nite Out (1982), a slasher movie that I absolutely hated the first (and only!) time I saw it, way back in 2005, during the very first SHOCKtober at Final Girl.
At the time, I found it to be not only dull and plodding, but also insanely misogynist. It's strange to me that I would willingly revisit it at all, but I think that subconsciously the spirit of SHOCKtober (her name is SHOCKtobra, obviously) was speaking to me...or maybe through me?...and saying "It was called a favorite film by one reader in 2020. Why not revisit it? What's the harm?"
There was a part of me that was vehemently against the idea. Why waste time on garbage, especially on garbage I'd already seen, hated, and called misogynist?But another part of me, the cool mom part, said "Lighten up, narc, you can burn your bras some other time! This is SHOCKtober, baby! Get it while you can"
Let me say it right up front: I guess all sides of me are now cool mom because I actually...loved it this time. What a world!
I look for and respond to most horror movies much differently than I did in 2005, and Girls Nite Out is a great example. I appreciate random elements that either breezed right by me or didn't fit within the parameters of what constituted "a good slasher" to me. Maybe I've just seen a lot of movies that are more extreme or more hateful since then--movies that both predate this one, and movies that were produced long after. Maybe I'm just tuckered out by outrage, as public discourse about every single thing has become an endless series of Two Minutes Hates. We had a pandemic! That I guess is over? I just kind of feel like...I got that worked up because the killer in Girls Nite Out calls the victims "whore" or "slut" before they're killed? I get it, I suppose, but nevertheless, I don't feel like persisting. This movie is pretty fucking harmless in the scheme of things and of all the words I'd use to describe it, at this point "misogynist" is pretty far down the list. I'm going to turn in the Susan B Anthony award (for baby feminism) I won in 6th grade the next time I pass by my elementary school.
Now then, if you're still here, what exactly do I like so much about a shitty slasher movie that I am willing to surrender prestigious (AND WELL-EARNED OKAY) awards over it?
I love the story we can infer by the casting of Hal Holbrook and his son David. By 1982, the elder Holbrook was already a revered actor, beloved for his Tony-winning one-man show about Mark Twain and his Emmy-nominated performance in ABC Movie of the Week That Certain Summer. His star was still on the rise, really, and he had no business being in a low-budget horror movie about a wackadoo who dons a mascot costume and goes around killing college girls during a midnight scavenger hunt. But when you see "Introducing David Holbrook" in the opening credits, you know what's up: Hal is here so his son would be cast in the movie. And every time Hal Holbrook appears on the screen in Girls Nite Out, you can see another little chunk of his soul leave his body and flutter away, never to return.
Was it worth it? Well, David Holbrook has maybe five minutes of screen time total. Girls Nite Out has a fairly large cast, and he's the worst actor of the bunch by an Antonio Bay mile. But my goodness, he acts so hard. He is doing a lot of acting. He gets to work with Lauren Marie-Taylor of Friday the 13th Part 2, and he gets to deliver the best speech in the film, which I did not acknowledge as such in 2005:
You little bitch! You just take what you can get. All of you--you're nothing but a bunch of whores! I won't forget this.
So again, I ask: was it worth it?
Fuck yeah it was! Thank you for your service and sacrifice, Pater Holbrook.
I love all the characters in this movie. While there is one that is clearly designated "the nerd," every single character in Girls Nite Out is a nerd. The "cool" college radio station DJ who plays nothing but the Lovin' Spoonful? Nerd.
The two star jocks of the team and who share a nice bromance? Nerds.
They're all nerds. Many of them are charming as hell, and I was even a titch bummed when a few girls (who reminded me of the queens in Killer Party) got killed.
What else do I love? Hmm. Well, I love that it emerged during the slasher heyday and plays with tropes juuuust enough to not have your typical "Final Girl vs the Killer" ending. I'm not even sure if the final girl would qualify as a "Final Girl" here. But she is played by Julia Montgomery, who looks like a 1982 Mena Suvari in this and would go on to star in all the Revenge of the Nerd movies, so who cares about narrowly-defined archetypes!
I love Detective Nikola Tesla.
Once upon a time, I did not at all appreciate the killer's signature weapon, which was a "bear claw" fashioned out of steak knives. Now upon a time, I say "Freddy Krueger WHO?"
With visions of misogynistplums dancing in my head all these years, I was surprised to see on this revisit that the body count, while nearly all women, is shockingly low, and the violence is not at all brutal or sadistic or explicit. Though these are a bunch of ostensibly horny college students, there's no sex and no nudity. It's really tame as far as these things go, and much of the runtime is spent (deep breath) getting to know the characters. They are even afforded opportunities to react to and grieve for their friends' deaths. That's such a rare thing in slasher movies, where bodies are usually only there to add to the count.
Of course, it's not trying to be anything other than a slasher flick. The killer's costume is goofy as all hell. The ending is completely silly and bonkers and I was so into it.
If rewatching Girls Nite Out at all was shocking to me, well, enjoying it as much as I did makes me question every opinion I've ever had about anything. What would happen if I, say, ate a circus peanut? Would I love that, too? Who even am I anymore? What other changed opinions about horror movies are waiting in the wings of my brain manor? Can I trust myself? Should I have ever trusted myself? Sigh. I feel untethered! There's only one thing I can still be sure of:
You're nothing but a bunch of whores! ❤