A few decades ago, Italian horror directors like Argento and Fulci were playing loosely with a formalist derivation of Andre Bizan’s concept of a “total cinema”. The idea was to create in the viewer a subjective experience of reality through a barrage of visuals and sound. Intelligible plots were often an afterthought in these movies, but that only contributed to the intentional disorientation of the audience’s senses. The resulting films such as Suspiria and The Beyond are now considered classics of the horror genre, and as long as you don’t require coherent stories, watching them can be the closest thing you’ll get to feeling like you’re in a waking nightmare. With Bloody New Year, Director Norman J. Warren appeared to be going for some kind of jolly old English take on this technique. Unfortunately, about all he got right was the incoherence. Rather than being total cinema, Bloody New Year is just a total mess.
Still, there’s plenty of cheesy fun to be had in Bloody New Year if you’re in the right frame of mind. People get attacked by table cloths, fishing nets, and random blasts of snow. People get menaced on a Tilt-A-Whirl by weird carnies who look like the old doo wop group Sha Na Na. People avoid attacks from ghostly ping pong balls by riding a billiard table. People get laughed at by shrubberies. It’s all entertaining rubbish up until the moment they try to explain it.
You see, In Bloody New Year, with little to no foreshadowing, the movie just up and tells you that all the craziness might be due to an experimental plane crashing on New Years Eve in 1959, an event which somehow trapped an entire island in a time loop. Why said time loop also created killer stair rails, touchy feely elevators, and frosting faced zombies is beyond my, or the movie’s, ability to explain. All the sudden revelation really does is cause more confusion. In the aforementioned Italian films, however, even though the plot (and common sense) were often given little attention, the movies at least dropped hints here and there to let you piece things together. It might take a few weeks, but eventually you’d have that “A-ha” moment where you finally figured things out.
Our life as Christians often work this way as well. As this week’s readings in which the Old Testament passages prefigure the New Testament ones make it clear, although epiphanies may be sudden, our minds have usually been made ready for them beforehand. Even the Church’s calendar recognizes this. We’ve got Advent (preparation) followed by Christmas (revelation) followed by Epiphany (understanding). As Pope Benedict noted in a 2007 homily, even the Magi didn’t really have their epiphany overnight. “What convinced the Magi that the Child was "the King of the Jews" and the King of the peoples?” asked the Pope. “There is no doubt that they were persuaded by the sign of the star that they had seen "in its rising" and which had come to rest precisely over the place where the Child was found (cf. Mt 2:9). But even the star would not have sufficed had the Magi not been people inwardly open to the truth.” In short, they had been preparing themselves all along so they would recognize the sign when it came. And we must do the same. God’s answers may come to us in sudden blinding flashes at times, but we have to keep our hearts and mind prepared to recognize those moments when they come. Otherwise, much like Bloody New Year, we may miss the point altogether.