|Girls Nite Out|
|Directed by||Robert Deubel|
|Produced by||Anthony N. Gurvis|
|Written by||Joe Bolster|
|Edited by||Arthur Ginsberg|
Girls Nite Out (originally titled The Scaremaker) is a 1982 American slasher film written and produced by Anthony N. Gurvis, directed by Robert Deubel, and starring Julia Montgomery, Suzanne Barnes, Rutanya Alda, and Hal Holbrook. The film focuses on a group of college girls who are targeted by a killer in a bear mascot costume during an all-night scavenger hunt on their campus.
Shot at Upsala College in New Jersey, the film received a test-run theatrical release under its original title, The Scaremaker, in June 1982, before being subsequently released under the title Girls Nite Out in 1984.
At Weston Hills Sanitarium in Ohio, Dickie Cavanaugh is found hanging in his cell. Cavanaugh's sister gives permission to two gravediggers to bury the body. While the two men are digging the hole for Cavanaugh's body, they are attacked and murdered by an unseen killer who throws their corpses into the burial plot.
Meanwhile, at rural DeWitt University, the basketball team won a championship game, and an all-night scavenger hunt will take place the next evening for the female students. Lynn and her boyfriend-star player Teddy Ratliff celebrate the victory at the campus diner, and the waitress Barney is thrilled for the team. Lynn, Teddy, and other students attend a party that evening, where the story of Dickie circulates among freshmen who are unaware of his recent death; they are told that Cavanaugh murdered his girlfriend Patty in a jealous rage and is locked away in the sanitarium. Lynn becomes jealous over Teddy's attraction to Dawn Sorenson and misfit Mike Pryor gets into a fight with his girlfriend Sheila. Soon, school mascot Michael Benson is stabbed in his dorm room after arriving back from the party, and his bear mascot costume is stolen by the killer.
The following day, Mike Pryor is questioned by campus security officer Jim MacVey over the fight with his girlfriend; MacVey's daughter Patty was Dickie Cavanaugh's girlfriend. Later that evening, the campus radio DJ broadcasts the clues to the scavenger hunt, which are received by the girls on their portable radios. Meanwhile, the killer who is dressed in the bear costume, is armed with serrated knives mimicking bear claws.
Jane is brutally killed in the girls' locker room after finding the first item of the hunt, and her body is tied up in the showers. Her friend Kathy discovers her body and tries to run before getting murdered by the killer. The DJ at the radio station begins receiving phone calls from the killer, who tallies his victims; the killer also calls officer MacVey and claims to be Dickie Cavanaugh. Sheila goes down to the pond to search for another item and runs into the bear-clad killer, whom she believes to be Benson. Teasing the killer, she goes into an abandoned shed by the pond, but has her throat slashed by the killer, who smashes their hand through a window.
Meanwhile, Lynn is searching for items on the scavenger hunt and Teddy has sex with Dawn. Lynn's friend Leslie goes to search for an item in the attic of the old chapel, where she is murdered and her body is discovered by Lynn. After calling, the police arrive and find all of the bodies, where they are suspicious of Mike Pryor and question several of the students. Dawn gets into an argument with her boyfriend, who kicks her out of their house after he tells her he knows about her affair with Teddy. Officer MacVey studies the phone calls placed to the radio station as well as files and photographs of Dickie Cavanaugh, whose death he became aware of by Dickie's doctor.
On her way home, Dawn senses that someone is following her and makes a call from the cafeteria phone to Teddy's house, where he is consoling Lynn. Teddy leaves Lynn to get Dawn, and finds her bloodily wounded in the cafeteria. As Teddy is comforting her, he is then stabbed by Barney, who was the killer all along. Officer MacVey enters the cafeteria and confronts her, who he addresses as Dickie's twin sister named Katie Cavanaugh. She suffers from multiple personalities (with her speaking in different voices) and claims to be Dickie. After MacVey tells Katie that Dickie had committed suicide, she calmly tells him that Dickie isn't dead and that she brought him from the hospital. She opens the freezer, displaying Dickie's frozen body clothed in a wheelchair and with the bear-claw weapon in his hand.
Girls Nite Out was shot in 1982 under the title The Scaremaker, but was given the alternate title of Girls Nite Out upon its 1984 re-release. The film was shot on location in Dobbs Ferry, New York, and at Upsala College in East Orange, New Jersey. Director Deubel had previously worked as a documentarian, while the film's producers, Anthony N. Gurvis and Kevin Kurgis, were two attorneys from Ohio who helped finance the film.
According to actress Rutanya Alda, the principal film shoot spanned a period of only three days due to budgetary and location restrictions, and most scenes were shot in one to two takes. Due to the fact that the film was shot on a real college campus, the filmmakers were forced to shoot over a weekend. The shoot began on a Friday and concluded on a Sunday, meaning the cast and crew had to work for twenty-four-hour intervals. Alda stated that the final shot of the film in which Dickie's corpse is revealed freezer (which Alda herself played) was shot after the principal shoot. In a 2013 interview, Alda claimed that the producers of the film still owed her $5,000 for her work that they never paid her for.
The film received a brief theatrical release under the title The Scaremaker on June 20, 1982, with additional regional screenings in December 1982 and into early 1983, as a double bill with Blood Beach. It was re-released in 1984 under the title Girls Nite Out. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the film was released in December 1986, with twenty-two seconds excised from the original cut.
Variety described the film as "a routine slasher picture, offering little entertainment..." Scott Cain of The Atlanta Constitution wrote that the film "has all the predictable ingredients... There must be 50 supporting roles and, as a consequence, none of the characters has much chance to make a favorable impression." Mike Hughes of the Hattiesburg American wrote: "By horror standards, it's almost adequate... Where they failed--thoroughly--was in their frequent passes at campus humor... Where they succeeded was in filming the story smoothly and giving it a solid cast."
There have been numerous retrospective reviews of the film published after its initial release. Online movie guide AllMovie awarded the film two out of five stars, writing: "Girls Nite Out might be one of the most forgettable of the early '80s slashers", calling it "dull" and "routine". Bill Gibron, writing for DVD Talk in 2005, called the film a "poor excuse for entertainment holds the grand distinction of hosting two members of the Holbrook family (Hal and son David) as part of its cast," also criticizing the lack of variety among the murder scenes, and adding: "In the end, when the slayer is revealed, we rest easier knowing that it takes a certain strangled mindset to turn serial killer and that we are safe--at least for now. Girls Nite Out offers none of this nuance. Instead, we get boredom on top of balderdash, never a good fright night combination."
Film scholar John Stanley awarded the film two-and-a-half out of four stars, writing: "This imitation of Friday the 13th (originally shot as The Scaremaker) is strengthened only by the presence of Hal Holbrook as a campus security chief." Steven Scheuer in Movies on TV '88-'89 referred to the film as "bloody and borderline offensive" and deemed the villain's costume "simply laughable," ultimately giving the film a one-star rating. Critic James J. Mulay gave the film zero stars in The Horror Film: A Guide to More Than 700 Films on Videocassette (1989), noting the film's surprise ending but that it overall "scarcely succeeds," also criticizing the film's actors, who he deemed "old enough to be teaching higher education."
Girls Nite Out was released for the first time on DVD by Media Blasters on August 30, 2005, as part of the company's "Slasher Collection" series. The release features an interview with actress Julia Montgomery, as well as the film's theatrical trailer and original opening titles bearing the film's original title of The Scaremaker.