A Nineties Giallo? THE NIGHT BRINGS CHARLIE (1990) Review

Besides Scream, Dr. Giggles, Mirage, and a few others, the nineties were a pretty bad year for the slasher film. In the early-nineties, we were still getting some low-budget efforts that came in way too late in the game, and in the late-nineties, we got a whole bunch of slashers trying to replicate Scream with horrible results (The Clown at Midnight). So imagine my expectations when I came across The Night Brings Charlie, a 1990 slasher. I found the artwork to be provocative, so I watched it despite the negative reviews I had read. Is this actually a nineties slasher worth watching?



Someone is killing people in the small town of Pakoe. A vicious killer is using a tree saw to hack through the necks of various people around town, taking the heads as souvenirs. The local sheriff is baffled, and the coroner is concerned for his two daughters’ well-being. The prime suspect emerges as Charlie Puckett, the disfigured local tree surgeon, but when they take him in, it soon becomes clear that the murderer is still out there. Can they catch the killer before more heads roll?

Just to come right out with my opinion, I don’t think The Night Brings Charlie is all that bad. I have seen some really scathing reviews, calling it “The worst slasher ever” and stuff like that. Seriously? The absolute worst? Have these people seen Backwoods? Anyway, I thought it was decent, but had the potential to be much better. For one thing, I love the title. It’s not your typical slasher title, and it’s very provocative. The artwork itself is very atmospheric as well.

I love, and I mean I LOVE, the killer’s look. It’s very simple, just a wool hat, goggles, and a sack covering the lower half of the face, and a lot of people say it makes the killer look like a Tuskan raider (and it does), but I still think it’s awesome. The look itself was cool, and it came across as rather creepy when it was shot just right. Sure, it was reminiscent of Jason's look in Friday the 13th Part II, as well as the Phantom Killer in The Town that Dreaded Sundown, but weren't the looks in both of those effective? Same for The Night Brings Charlie.

There’s a decent body count as well, and while some kills were a total cop-out (offscreen), some of the others are really great! There’s a great decapitation early on, someone gets hedge clippers through the hand and getting run over, and there’s also a kill I’ve never seen before: someone gets killed via a piece of farm machinery grabbing his throat (imagine one of those claw machines at the arcade (only huge) picking up someone by the neck).

There is an interesting twist that occurs forty-fifty minutes in, but other than that, the film plays it almost completely straight. There a few brief moments where you can tell the writers are having fun with the material, like one scene where the killer marks the population sign down one after killing someone, or the sheriff’s secretary, who’s such a miserable attempt at comedy, it actually does come across as humorous how hard they’re trying to make her funny as she spouts such classic dialogue as, “I told you that coffee would give you diarrhea!” after the sheriff says “Oh, no.”

The film does have the tendency to drag when we follow the sheriff investigating or the coroner’s two daughters, and none of the characters are very interesting. Some characters seem like they’re going to be important later in the plot (I’m thinking of one of the daughters’ ex-boyfriend (I think; it’s never explained) with the horrendous hair). The film did feel like an Italian giallo in its pacing, mystery, and even reveal of the killer. Of course, it doesn't even come close to being as stylish, but the similarities are still there. The acting wasn’t anything special either, but the film itself is competently made. It’s well-shot and well-edited, despite some poor writing. Oh, and another point of interest is the HUGE amount of Pepsi product placement all throughout.

I like The Night Brings Charlie. It’s a well-made movie for sure, but there’s not a lot that stands out. Sure, it has a fantastic looking killer, some inventive deaths, a few spurts of really good gore, and one neat twist, but that’s about it. At times, it does feel sort of like an early-nineties version of the giallo, what with the police investigating, and one scene that happened forty-fifty minutes in was very reminiscent of just that. This is another slasher that hasn’t been released on DVD, though if it is released, I’m curious if it would carry the same rating as on the VHS by the Film Advisory Board: EM for Extremely Mature, because this movie has “Extreme Language, Extreme Violence, and Nudity.” I wish the movie could live up to that extreme rating.

The Verdict: The Night Brings Charlie is an entertaining watch, even though it’s really nothing special.

Score: 6/10

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