Tubi Or Not To Be’ is a series in which each day a member (or members) of the film world (be they an actor, writer, director, critic, podcaster, etc.) tackles a film from Tubi. The only catch being that the film must be one the viewer has either never heard of or never watched before. It’s an intrinsically silly idea, but one that should prove to be a bit of fun.
When asked if I would like to participate in this column, I loved the idea and took a jump into TubiTV to see what kind of choices they offered. Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised to find not only a plethora of mainstream and critically acclaimed horror titles but also a deep and rich selection of gonzo, oddball films, as well. I landed on Night Killer, a title that caused a bit of a stir when Severin released it a few years back.
The plot is mostly nonsensical. Searching back through articles and reviews of the film, most journalists noted that it felt like several bits and pieces of movies that were assembled together. Still, a loose semblance of one does exist. In Virginia Beach, a serial rapist and killer is on the loose. While continuing his killing spree, he’s also out to finish what he started, by hunting down the lone victim to escape, Melanie Beck (Tara Buckman).
The movie was marketed in Italy as Non Aprite Quella Porta 3, roughly translating to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3. Does Night Killer have anything to do with the Texas franchise? Nope. It actually stands closer to A Nightmare On Elm Street, as our killer’s mask bears a striking resemblance to Freddy Kreuger, but it was a common Italian genre film gimmick to help move units. Directed by Claudio Fragasso, the same man behind Troll 2 and Terminator 2 (aka Shocking Dark), you have an idea of the caliber of film you’re jumping into here. Fragasso doesn’t even attach his own name here, instead choosing the moniker Clyde Anderson. Meanwhile, fellow prolific Italian director Bruno Mattei goes uncredited, after being brought in for reshoots to add more gore.
If you think that backstory is the oddest circumstance surrounding this movie, you are wrong. Night Killer is one of those movies that must be seen to be believed. Released in 1990, it feels like it was shot in the early 80’s and exists in that strange place between giallo and slasher. It never really leans towards either enough to really be solidified as one, without mention of the other. For instance, our killer is masked and gloved most of the movie, a trope used in both styles. Yet while the kills and killer mostly feel like a slasher, the unchecked sexuality and heavy sexual overtones tend to make it more recognizable as a giallo. Add in a healthy heap of melodrama and some truly over the top acting and you’re in for a violent bout of camp.
Everything about Night Killer is over the top. The line delivery from our lead and her counterpart, Buckman and Peter Hooten, are so strangely angry and bombastic, but oddly brimming with sexuality. Every person who appears on camera is unforgettable because of some choice made. Whether it’s Richard Foster’s extremely emotive face or Mel Davis’s distinctive delivery of strongly punctuated “f” words, it’s almost as if everyone else is trying to top each other’s performance, in a sense of pure overtness and exclaim. The kills all start off differently, sliced body parts and heads being dunked in wax. All reach the same conclusion, of a mighty clawed hand bursting through their body, as if it were a Ridley Scott creation. Even Carlo Cordio’s score is entertainingly unique. Nestling in somewhere between porno and the sexy jazz scores of noir films, of the era.
A lot of Night Killer is schlocky fun. It plays with traditional slasher tropes like red herrings and whodunits, although lot of it loses its flavor because of some less than favorable implications. It’s an incredibly horny movie. Our killer constantly tells his victims what he plans to do to them, yet often crosses the line from innuendo, into straight sexual abuse. It’s disturbing and uncomfortable. Because of this, these moments actually loses some of the schlocky charm and feels quite distasteful.
Overall, however, Night Killer ends up being dumb fun that should be a must see for any slasher completionist. It takes bits and pieces of other, better movies, but delivers them filtered down as retro-camp sleaze.