Night of Terror (1986)

The one and done directorial work of Felix Girard, Night of Terror was written by Renee Harmon, who went from being in an acting group in Texas with fellow Army officer’s wives to roles in Al Adamson’s Cinderella 2000 as well as Frozen ScreamLady StreetfigherVan Nuys Blvd.Jungle Trap and Hell Riders. She also stars Chris Nilsen, who is being kept in a mental hospital against her will by her philandering husband Alex (Henry Lewis) and Dr. Seymour Harper (Frank Neuhaus), who just wants to experiment on his patients in a very Hellhole scenario.

Her lawyer finally gets her released and she moves into the former home of Harper — bad idea — and becomes friends with Harper’s wife Ellen (Lynn Whitmire) — bad idea again — and stays there even after learning that Harper’s mistress Inez (Susette Andres) was killed there in the worst of all these ideas. If that doesn’t just beat all, there’s also a hooded would-be giallo killer in the form of Harper’s patient Paul Peterson (Steven Neuhardt) who is haunting the house as well.

Somehow, in the midst of all of this, we get to see Chris’ stepdaughter Becky (Lauren Brent) go to a pool party where a new wave band plays and by plays, I mean we hear the entire song and not just a clip of them.

As all of this is happening, Chris also meets Paul’s psychic mother Celeste (Arline Specht) who uses an Ouija board — oh man, Ouija and SOV in the same movie, alert my Letterboxd lists — to introduce our protagonist to her spirit guide Julian.

Obviously this was also produced by Harmon, so no one told her not to speak in an impenetrable accent — to be fair, she was born in Mannheim, Germany but had lived in the U.S. for some time and there’s usually always a second take but come on, there wasn’t we all know that — or play scenes from Frozen Scream as happening at the same time as this tale, despite that movie being made ten years or more before that.

That said, I kind of love this whole enterprise. From Paul wearing a full set of fancy pajamas while supposedly in a mental hospital — topped by the bald female patient who looks to be wearing an outfit from a combination fast food restaurant and Nickelodeon game show — this is a movie full of choices, so few of those choices being ones that make the slightest sense. It also has a Night Killer-level scene of its lead character having a long conversation with herself in a mirror and you know how much I love that.

This is also a film that ends with potential forced surgery and a ghost melting her face in front of everyone, as well as Paul being absolved of all the murders he’s committed and yet stalking our heroine in a twist sting that made me laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of it all.

Keep in mind as you watch this that Renee Harmon was an acting teacher in East Texas and yes, of course she was. She should have been. More people should make movies like Night of Terror, which is also called Escape from the Insane Asylum. There are Dutch angles, sure, but there’s also a scene where Harmon screams at herself and puts lipstick all over her face and man, that’s cinema.

You can watch this on YouTube.

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