DeWitt University, Westville, Ohio, and on the basketball court the DeWitt Bears eke their way to victory in the final seconds thanks to Pete “Maniac” Kriziniac; it’s going to be an all-night party at the fraternity house but Pete is down, recently dumped by his girlfriend, and his best friend and teammate Teddy Ratliff gets called out when his girlfriend Lynn Connors catches him flirting with beautiful Dawn Sorenson whose own boyfriend Bud Remington is passed out. So far, so high school, and it will all be forgotten when the hangovers fade.
Except across town at the Weston Hills Sanitarium there has been a suicide, Dickie Cavanaugh found hanged in the cell where he has been held since he was committed for the murder of his girlfriend Patty, daughter of security officer Jim MacVey, still on campus as the university gears up for the annual scavenger hunt which this year will have a very different surprise for those sorority sisters who solve the clues as the bloody legacy of DeWitt University plays out.
Shot and initially promoted as The Scaremaker but released in 1982 as Girls Nite Out, only one of many odd decisions in a marketing campaign which perplexed the cast, Arrow have exhumed the grave of Dickie Cavanaugh for a Blu-ray release restored from the best possible sources, the occasional minor scratch on the periphery of frames only adding to the grimy atmosphere of a largely unknown slasher from the golden age.
Many of the ensemble early in their careers, even making their feature debuts, the partially ad-libbed performances are enthusiastic in the lively costumed party scenes, far from bland victims-in-waiting despite the obvious archetypes of jocks, cheerleaders, stoners, nerds and kooky girls, while weight is carried by The Fog’s Hal Holbrook as Jim MacVey and Amityville II: The Possession’s Rutanya Alda as cafeteria mom Barney, always looking out for her kids.
The scavenger hunt an excuse to split up the girls to be picked off, Girls Nite Out loses energy in the second half, the characters not so interesting in isolation and the killer dressed in the bear costume of the team mascot far from threatening despite their innovative pre-Freddy Krueger weapon of choice, the final act of the consciously misogynistic narrative largely handed over to adult authorities who other than MacVey played no part in the story until then.
Arrow’s new edition of Girls Nite Out gathering many of the cast, Julia Montgomery (Lynn), Lois Robbins (Leslie), Paul Christie (Bobby), Lauren-Marie Taylor (Sheila) and John Didrichsen (Ralph), the four decades since shooting means recollections are emotional rather than insightful and all the interviews tend towards the fun the cast had together despite the rushed filming schedule, though Laura Summer (Jane) remembers clearly that while some of her scenes only got a single take the producers ensured there was plenty time for the bikini-clad dancing girl.
Girls Nite Out will be released on Blu-ray by Arrow on Monday 16th May