Pledge Night (1990) – Film Review

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Director: Paul Ziller
Cast: Todd Eastland, Dennis Sullivan, Craig Derrick
Certificate: 18

by Sarah Morgan

During the 1990s, I largely ignored then-modern horror, preferring the delights of Hammer and their copycats.

Now, as an adult, I’m trying to make up for lost time by watching as many offerings from that decade and the one that preceded it in order to fill the admittedly huge gaps in my cinematic knowledge.

pledge night film review coverHowever, occasionally I feel as if I was right to ignore them and stick to the classics – and watching Pledge Night is one of those moments.

“Nasty trick”

At its worst it’s an inept low-budget piece of nonsense with no scares whatsoever; at its best it’s a curiosity piece, due in no small part to the fact that Anthrax lead singer Joey Belladonna pops up in a flashback and his band provide some of the music on the soundtrack.

The ‘action’ takes place in a fraternity house on an American university campus, during which wannabe members have to undergo a variety of uncomfortable and often humiliating tasks to prove they’re worthy candidates. Although frankly, you imagine that the obnoxious organisers would be more likely to get a smack in the teeth than find anybody willing to comply to their ridiculous orders.

What the latest batch of wannabes and their tormentors don’t know is that back in the 1960s, somebody played a nasty trick on a student and now he’s returning from the dead to take his revenge, which involves killing everyone in the most hideous way possible.

pledge night film review horror


As is usually the case in such slasher flicks, the nasty and sexually active get their just deserts early on, with the pleasant and pious able to fight back; there’s also a supposed twist in the tale that everyone can see coming about 10 minutes into the movie.

Pledge Night clearly hoped to be another in a long line of horrors that belied its low budget to become a mainstream hit. And perhaps that was its downfall – it tries too hard to tick all the boxes and ends up missing every one of them.

It was certainly an inauspicious debut for director Paul Ziller, who has since had a decent career making TV movies. He also discusses himself and the production process in a documentary included on the disc which is far more interesting than the film itself.

Special Features:
• "Hell Weeks" - a video interview with director Paul Ziller
• "Graduating to Horror" - a video interview with writer/producer Joyce Snyder
• "Hazing From Hell" - a video interview with actor Robert Lentini
• "The Bad Man" - a video interview with actor Arthur Lundquist
• Locations featurette
• Original theatrical Trailer
Pledge Night is released on Blu-ray by 101 Films, £12

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