The end of the year’s come.
Was 2018 all you ever wanted? Was it a total pile of turd? Did you accomplish anything? Nothing at all?
Who gives a shit— here’s a bunch of movies and an episode of television to enjoy on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, each of which are set around the holiday or at least have a particularly good scene involving the night in question.
Dig in, find something to pass the time, and remember: you’re one year closer to death, so it’s not ALL bad.
As far as gimmicky slashers go, Terror Train is up there with the best. A bunch of students are holding a costume party on New Year’s Eve aboard a train. And what do you know, there are awful secrets lurking amongst a group of friends! This is one of those slashers involving a traumatic event at the beginning that creates the eventual killer, and it’s a brutal, wildly macabre setup. The killer uses the costume party to their advantage, changing from one costume to another as victims fall. Add in perpetual babe Jamie Lee Curtis, as well as random as hell David Copperfield – yes, the illusionist – and ’80s singer-turned-evangelist Vanity, and this a horror movie you just CAN’T FORGET.
Three directors – David Bruckner, Jacob Gentry, and Dan Bush – envision a twisted mix of horror, science fiction, dark comedy, and romance with 2007’s The Signal. Although New Year’s Eve isn’t a significant aspect of the story itself, the events of the plot occur around the end of the year, and the second segment, labelled “Transmission 2: The Jealousy Monster,” involves a New Year’s party gone terribly/hilariously wrong. It isn’t often movies that aren’t anthologies cross genres so wildly. Bruckner, Gentry, and Bush offer a stunningly intense, weird, and emotional movie that has the urgency of a night out on the last night of the year. Also has a killer ending that’ll leave you thinking.
The Wax Mask
The production history of The Wax Mask is better than the movie itself. Dario Argento felt bad for Lucio Fulci, whose health had gotten bad in the early 1990s, so he wanted to put a project together for them to work on and help Fulci financially. It began as a potential remake of House of Wax. Argento was busy with his own movie The Stendhal Syndrome, then Fulci passed away in ’96, so directorial duties were handed over to special effects artist Sergio Stivaletti (Demons, Opera, Dellamorte Dellamore), who changed the story to focus more on the effects.
Honestly, The Wax Mask isn’t great. Even tougher as a Fulci fan, imagining what could’ve been! Nevertheless there are several stellar effects, and the whole thing’s undeniably mindless fun. Takes Father Gore back to days as a teen in the ’90s, renting videos at the local rental shop just for the cool VHS covers. The story kicks off as the 20th century’s emerging, December 31st of 1900, and it involves wax figures, masks, and a gory killer.
End of Days
Ahh-nold’s got charisma and energy and isn’t afraid to be cheesy when the audience demands it. Schwarzenegger’s mostly a stranger to the horror genre, even with the recent Maggie and its horror premise. The closest he’s come are the quasi-horror elements in The Terminator and his jungle battle against the ugly motherfucker Predator. This apocalyptic religious horror-thriller is somewhat outside his general wheelhouse.
Something interesting about seeing the big man play this down-and-out cop character, the headache-inducing, blatantly religiously named Jericho Cane. He gets caught in an apocalypse scenario on the eve of the new millennium involving Satan (Gabriel Byrne) and a woman, Christine York (Robin Tunney), doomed to carry his child.
A guilty pleasure worth tossing on with a few friends on NYE. And, hey— maybe Lucifer really is out there trying to knock a lady up to ring in the New Year, you never know!
Fun fact: Sam Raimi and Guillermo del Toro were offered to direct, though they were busy with projects at the time. Imagine if this were tackled by one of those two masters of horror.
Father Gore is in the minority with this one. Ghostkeeper isn’t anything overly unique, and it doesn’t top many, if any, favourite horror lists. But the movie’s atmosphere is pure icy despair. The plot sees a trio of friends spending New Year’s Eve snowmobiling in the Rocky Mountains on the West Coast of Canada. Like you might expect, they wind up stranded in a snowstorm, stumbling across a remote hotel where they stay the night. It’s there they meet a strange old woman and her two reclusive sons, all hiding a horrible secret from the outside world.
This is a real creep show. John Holbrook’s cinematography captures the bleakness of a Canadian winter deep in the wilderness. You can feel the sense of isolation the characters feel caught there in the forest, out in the middle of nowhere. Lack of money wound up scrapping plans for a larger ending. Still, the finale’s spooky, and the old woman (played by Georgie Collins) is an unforgettable villain who could’ve been immortalised in the genre if this movie were better known. One of her final lines will haunt you forever: “You don‘t want to be crazy, do you?”
A lot of Christopher Denham’s Home Movie centres around holidays, given the story involves the deterioration of a family unit, so one scene does take place on New Year’s Eve. The plot: two parents conduct an experiment in family by moving to a big isolated house where they can care for their slightly damaged children. The father’s a minister and the mother’s a psychiatrist. Their relationship has a religion v. science dichotomy happening, further playing out in the overall theme(s) of the movie.
But it turns out the kids are past damaged. The family home turns into a house of horror, gradually getting worse. Around New Year’s Eve is often when all that normal personal and familial stress of the year, and a lifetime really, comes together on the final night of the year. Here, the Poe family experience a horrific, disturbing event over the course of the evening that begins to reveal the father’s tragic past, as well as potential reasons for why the kids are turning into little demons in the flesh.
This screenplay contains one of the more disturbing lines of dialogue in any horror of the 21st century so far, maybe more so without any context: “Who‘s been biting the children?”
“You know, my dad says you‘re full of crap!”
Even if Ghostbusters II isn’t as good as the first one, it’s fun, it’s funny, and Vigo the Carpathian creeps Father Gore the hell out. When the Ghostbusters return for this sequel, they’re in trouble for wide scale property damage, despite saving everybody from Gozer, and they’ve essentially been discredited, or at least smeared by everyone who doesn’t believe in what they do. So, naturally, a new threat’s encroaching on New York City, and the Ghostbusters are the only ones who can stop it. Again, everything’s going to happen on New Year’s Eve. The world’s about to end in fire and pink slime.
Unless our boys can save the day— again.
Brad Anderson directed Session 9, so he’ll forever get Father Gore’s attention, even if every one of his movies can’t be THAT amazing. Stonehearst Asylum is an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe, set at the turn of the century in 1899 at a mental asylum where the supposedly modern practises they’re using aren’t so modern after all. The plot plays out over the holidays, starting just before Christmas, and there’s a bit of New Year’s Eve in the mix for the staff and its patients. May not be the greatest use of Poe, neither is it the best use of the many talents involved. All the same, this is a decent Gothic treat, and its holiday atmosphere is a proper watch for this time of year.
The Mephisto Waltz
As pictured above, The Mephisto Waltz has a weird costume party scene. The movie isn’t New Year’s Eve related. The party is, and it’s a disturbing moment amongst the plot. If you’ve never seen them, you should look at these pictures taken at a 1972 surrealist ball held by one of the Rothschilds— found here. These photographs are highly reminiscent of this scene, which is super creepy given the one year between the movie and the ball itself. The whole movie’s interesting, though this NYE ball’s worth seeing all on its own.
Fun fact: The mask above is being worn by a dog on a leash. It’s a William Shatner mask, the same one John Carpenter and the Halloween team would bleach to put on The Shape a.k.a Michael Myers a handful of years later.
Don’t want to ruin this one, even though the spoiler alert doesn’t cover movies made nearly 70 years ago. So, just imagine showing up to a New Year’s Eve party only to discover things aren’t exactly as they seem and tragedy’s only around the corner.
Sure, it’s vague. But if you’ve never seen this Billy Wilder picture, it should be enough to whet that whistle. Go. Watch. Be unsettled!
The Godfather II
One of the best and simultaneously worst kisses in American cinematic history.
And if you’re getting a smooch from Michael Corleone on the verge of a New Year, ya done fucked up! Poor Fredo. This significant moment on NYE is a revelatory one that forever alters the Corleone family, and goes on to influence perhaps the sole act which goes corrupts Michael most.
Assault on Precinct 13
John Carpenter’s original Assault on Precinct 13 is one of the greatest action-thrillers ever made. The original’s intensity came from its senseless re: the violent blood oath taken by the gang attacking the precinct, as well as its strong characters. This loose 2005 remake keeps the strong characters, opening up a new, dramatic backstory for them in the story.
Along with the cop shop shutting down, New Year’s Eve and snowy weather outside increases the isolation the police officers experience trapped in their precinct.
But there’s also a great subversion here, as the cops and robbers scenario’s muddled, and the cops aren’t all the good guys like they’re depicted in the original, which reflects the changing attitudes of the public about cops over the years. This is a solid little remake that’s so different from Carpenter’s movie that it treads totally new ground, giving the audience fun, fights, and Laurence fucking Fishburne on some gangster shit.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights is one of the greatest movies of 1990s. In the New Year’s Eve scene, the 1970s go out with a literal bang when William H. Macy’s Little Bill arrives to the party, again discovering his wife cheating on him, and decides to light the place up with his brilliant smile and a bit of blood. Happy fucking New Year!
The Poseidon Adventure
This one’s not a disturbing movie like most of the others on this list. Then again, the ocean’s terrifying as much as it is fascinating. So, in that sense, The Poseidon Adventure is as much as horror movie as any other. Who can’t find the horrifying fear in being on a cruise ship that gets tossed upside down during a tidal wave? Add in the fact it’s all because of capitalism on the high seas and it’s the sort of unintentional Marxist adventure Father Gore can get behind. There’s an all-star cast, including Gene Hackman, Shelley Winters, and Ernest Borgnine, among others, and the action is utterly thrilling. This 1972 romp on the ocean has aged well. A perfect, adventurous slice of cinema for any New Year’s Eve/New Year viewing.
Season 3, Episode 8: “Out o’ Time”
HBO hasn’t stopped churning out excellent one-hour dramas since the days of Oz, and no matter how much it pumps out there’s still no way it’ll ever beat its very first. Oz was a brutal, bleak, uncompromising show that dealt with everything behind prison walls: the politics of prison life, as well as the politics outside that dictate what happens inside, homosexuality, racism, class, and everything in between. Certainly there’s no shortage of violence, either.
“Out o’ Time” comes at the end of Season 3, on the verge of a new millennium, when things are changing. There’s Sister Peter Marie and her criss of faith and Shirley Bellinger on death row having religious delusions. There’s Keller and Beecher finally reunited, back in the same cell and each others’ arms. Then there’s a brewing race riot on the verge of erupting at any moment, culminating in a gun being left in Adebisi’s cell by a disgruntled black guard, setting up Season 4 – the show’s longest season – for plenty of wild action. As Wangler so eloquently puts it: “Happy New Year, motherfucker!”