Girls Nite Out Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Release: May 17, 2022
Audio: English LPCM 1.0 Mono
Subtitles: English SDH
Run Time: 92:72
Director: Robert Deubel
The students of DeWitt University are preparing themselves for a night of fun and frolics in the form of an all-night scavenger hunt. Little do they know that they are in fact the ones being hunted… An unhinged assailant, disguised in the college’s goofy bear mascot outfit – and bearing knives for claws, two years before Freddy donned his famous gloves – is stalking the campus hellbent on carving up co-eds. (From Arrow’s official synopsis)
Originally released regionally in 1982, Robert Deubel’s Scaremaker changed its name to Girls Nite Out (note: not Girls’ Night Out) in 1983 and was re-released on double-bills with Jeffrey Bloom’s Blood Beach (1981) and Juan Piquer Simón’s Pieces (1982) to a market still hungry for cheaply made slasher movies. Soon after, it was largely lost in the fray that was mid-’80s home video, where it waited patiently for future generations to grow bored with slasher’s classic canon.
The plot mixes elements of post-Friday the 13th (1980) slashers, rowdy, post-Animal House (1978) college movies, and post-American Graffiti (1973) nostalgia vehicles (there’s even a chatty, Wolfman Jack-style disc jockey). Screenwriters Joe Bolster, Gil Spencer Jr., and Kevin Kurgis also find a somewhat unique framing device in a scavenger hunt, which combines the typical party atmosphere with a good reason for characters to break off into groups and explore the dark, dangerous corners of the campus (though the actual events of the story are spread out over several days, not a single night). What makes this device interesting (if not good) is the lack of a traditional slasher structure or, frankly, even interest in its horror subplot. As Joseph A. Ziemba so perfectly puts it in Bleeding Skull!: A 1980s Trash-Horror Odyssey (Headpress, 2013), Girls Nite Out is like “the vignette-styled slasher that Robert Altman never made.” It comes close to achieving the hang-out, coming-of-age vibe of early Richard Linklater or Paul Thomas Anderson movies, just with a mad killer twist. And it is during these slice-of-life scenes where Girls Nite Out shines, even to someone like myself, who isn’t particularly fond of Animal House or Linklater’s Dazed and Confused (1993).
Girls Nite Out loses its confidence during scares and, as a result, it struggles as a straight horror movie. Suspenseful sequences are impatient and the level of performance drops to what we’d normally expect from a forgotten, low-budget slasher from the early ‘80s. The inclusion of red herrings and the killer’s supposed back-story sometimes have an air of satire – and surely the killer wearing a full-body, googly-eyed bear mascot suit is meant to be funny – but, regardless of the writers’ intentions, Deubel at least attempts to play this exposition straight. Occasionally, he even gets the tone right, specifically where one of the suspect’s focused misogyny is concerned. Once the bodies are discovered, Girls Nite Out loses almost all of its steam, turning into a bland police procedural type thing, wild last-minute twist notwithstanding. The gore effects are pretty impressive, too, though it can be hard to tell through the gloom of murky photography. While not incredible, the slasher scenes are also satisfyingly brutal, thanks to the killer’s choice in weapon (an improvised bear claw made out of broken steak knives). Some are even stylish, such as the first on-screen murder, where the victim bleeds out to the sounds of Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City.” They were designed and executed by Tom Brumberger, who also created the convincing burn effects for Joseph Ellison’s Don’t Go in the House (1979) and became actress Olympia Dukakis’ make-up artist of choice from the early ‘90s into the ‘00s.
Girls Nite Out was easily available on US VHS via Thorn EMI clamshell and eventually made its way onto anamorphic DVD in 2005 from Media Blasters. This Arrow Blu-ray debut was “restored from the best available film elements, which were a selection of 35mm release prints from the producer’s personal vault.” They cut & pasted the sources and filled the empty spots with footage from a standard definition tape master. For the most part, the 1080p, 1.85:1 transfer’s shortcomings are in keeping with other print-based transfers. Shadows are a little over-crushed (sometimes, a character wanders into a shot that’s so dark you can’t see anything for a moment), fine detail is a tad softened, grain is a smidge clumpy, and the colors have a purplish tint (neutral hues and skin tones also have that strange, homogenous quality). Actual print damage is less than the on-screen warning might lead you to assume. There are plenty of small scratches and a few green lines, but, aside from the SD inserts (which I barely noticed), the elements have been really well-preserved and just looks like an aged 35mm print, which is a lot better than the digitally compromised, compressed, and DNR’d mess it could have been.
The original mono soundtrack was sourced from the 35mm optical track and remixed/restored to correct damage. It is presented in uncompressed LPCM 1.0 and also shows minor signs of wear. Volume levels are even throughout, aside from some quieter vocal moments. The tone is consistent, there’s no shrieking distortion during loud moments, snaps & crackles are minimal, and there’s almost zero notable hiss. One audio artifact, incidental background dialogue repeating, is a filmmaker issue, not a problem with the track. The real surprise here is the abundance of pop songs that play over the action. Again, the filmmakers borrowed a device from George Lucas’ American Graffiti, in which a DJ is constantly introducing and playing hits from the previous decade (he also acts as clue-master for the scavenger hunt), like Tommy James & the Shondells’ “My Baby Does the Hanky Panky,” “Yummy, Yummy, Yummy” by Ohio Express, and a couple of Lovin’ Spoonful tunes, including “Do You Believe in Magic,” “You Don’t Have to Be So Nice,” and the aforementioned “Summer in the City.” The licensing must have cost a fortune. There is no credited composer, so I assume the spooky string cues are library music.
Commentary with Justin Kerswell and Amanda Reyes – The Hysteria Lives’ Kerswell and Reyes, author of Are You in the House Alone? A TV Movie Compendium: 1964-1999 (Headpress, 2017) delve into the film’s production and the careers of its cast & crew, and explore Girls Nite Out’s place in the early ’80s slasher canon, comparing it to similar films and noting its unique improv qualities.
Staying Alive (19:25, HD) – Actress Julia Montgomery discusses her career, commercial and soap opera work, and having genuine fun making Girls Nite Out.
A Savage Mauling (15:30, HD) – Actress Laura Summer remembers auditioning, doesn’t remember getting a script, and fondly recalls her character and co-stars.
Alone in the Dark (8:44, HD) – Actress Lois Robbins thinks she got the job, because she used to date one of the producers, and chats about her character, ad-libbing, shooting her death scene, and lasting friendships from the movie.
It Was a Party! (20:55, HD) – A laidback Paul Christie chats about acting, enjoying his role as comic relief (alongside Gregory Salata) that is mostly separate from the slasher story, the speed of the production, making the director laugh, seeing the film, and moving on to mostly voice acting (he played Stick Stickly for Nickelodeon and one of the chameleons that try to kill the Budwiser frogs).
Love and Death (16:56, HD) – Actress Lauren-Marie Taylor and actor John Didrichsen close out the new/exclusive interviews via Zoom. They also discuss auditioning, performance choices and improvising, and share sentimental memories of the director and their co-stars.
2005 interview with actress Julia Montgomery (6:45, SD) – This final, shorter interview is taken from the Media Blasters DVD.
Alternate The Scaremaker title card
The Scaremaker and Girls Nite Out trailers
The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.