Valley of the Cheapjack Franchises: SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT
This is about as high-budget as Valley of the… is going to get, parts 1 to 3 of the Silent Night, Deadly Night five-piece franchise. Part 4: Initiation (a.k.a. Bugs) is not a slasher film and Part 5: The Toy Maker, allegedly belongs alongside Halloween III in the kill-kids-with-toys subset.
So, une, deux and trois… Yule be sorry!
SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT
“You’ve made it through Halloween, now try and survive Christmas.”
Director: Charles E. Sellier Jr. / Writer: Michael Hickey / Cast: Lilyan Chauvin, Gilmer McCormick, Robert Brian Wilson, H.E.D. Redford, Toni Nero, Britt Leach, Nancy Borgenicht, Randy Stumpf, Linnea Quigley, Leo Geter, Will Hare, Danny Wagner, Tara Buckman, Jeff Hansen, Jonathon Best.
Body Count: 13
Dire-logue: “Children, listen to me. I know that you’re very upset and I understand. But I want you to stop that moping. We’re gonna sing.”
There’s no such thing as bud publicity, they say. Well, rewind your mind back to Utah, circa Christmas ’84 and the release of this Santa-slasher certainly whipped up a shit-storm of angry parents who picketed and protested after TV commercials showed a scary Santa and a couple of kids cried. What does this teach us as a society? That it’s alright to deceive your own child by leading them to believe a magical old man visits each and every house in one night to leave presents before unveiling the lie a few years later but said lie cannot be exposed via a film for non-children…
OK, so the producers were stupid to include the killer Santa in the ads or play them too early in the day – but if parents are allowing their kids to be raised by the idiot box then they surely must take some responsibility if they want to continue spinning their ‘inoffensive’ lie.
While the film suffered from the backlash and was withdrawn, Silent Night gained cult status enough in the later years and is now freely available in all its uncut glory. Suck on that, puritans!
Anyway, the film itself – gadzooks it’s a sleazy little number! A nuclear Mom-Pop-two-kids family go and visit Grandpa at the rest home and he tells little Billy that Santa is evil and likes to punish and if you see him – run, little Billy, run to the salt flats! Unfortunately, Billy’s new-found Santa-phobia is compacted when an actual real life killer Santa shoots dad, rapes mom and slashes her throat and tries to kill him too.
Traumatic past-event in the can, we’d normally skip forward to the adult years where something triggers Billy’s psycho-spree but, instead, Silent Night somewhat refreshingly opts to build on Billy’s to-be-fucked-up mental state as he and baby bro Ricky grow up at an orphanage overseen by an immensely strict Mother Superior (Chauvin – who is all kinds of awesome evil). Mama Soop delights in punishing bad kids and forcing Billy to sit on Santa’s lap at the annual Christmas party, which doesn’t end well.
Another ten years later, Billy has grown into a tall, athletic teen (Wilson) who is found a job at a toy store by kindly Sister Margaret (McCormick) and a montage of happy smiling Billy working takes us to the festive season where he has to stand in for the in-store Santa and his psychosis unravels and he massacres his ‘naughty’ co-workers before going off on a murder spree, ‘punishing’ a pair of teen lovers and a nasty bully on route back to the orphanage to get even with the now-wheelchair bound nasty nun.
It’s reputation aside, Silent Night is actually a lot better than most other yuletide slasher movies (Black Christmas excepted, of course), it’s examination of the killer’s state of mind far more thought out than your common-or-garden wronged-nerd looney toon and the ensuing slay-fest is pure Friday the 13th, with grisly demises by fairy lights, bow and arrow and notably Linnea Quigley being impaled on a pair of deer antlers! The sweaty Wilson does it all with an impish sneer that would make even Jason envious.
The climax, however, appears rushed and doesn’t exactly pan out as you’d expect, although an indignant Mother Superior continues to chew up the scenery with her delivery and the kids at the orphanage are nothing short of adorable – though the poor angels were probably traumatised by seeing no less than two Santa’s gunned down before their eyes within minutes of each other…
The two-on-one DVD (with Part 2 on the flip) incorporates the restored cut footage with a little more gore and flesh.
* * *
“Prayers won’t save you in the silent part of this night…”
Director: Lee Harry / Writers: Lee Harry, Joseph H. Earle, Dennis Patterson & Lawrence Appelbaum / Cast: Eric Freeman, James L. Newman, Elizabeth Kaitan [as Cayton], Jean Miller, Darrell Guilbeau, Kenneth Brian James, Frank Novak, Randy Baughman.
Body Count: 13
Dire-logue: “You tend to get paranoid when everyone around you gets dead.”
GARBAGE DAY!!! If nothing else, this bizarro sequel will be remembered for the almost viral status of those two words, which the killer shouts at some poor bit-parter who is gunned down whilst taking out the trash. It’s truly something that needs to be seen to be appreciated.
Often hailed as the worst in the series, Silent Night Part 2 began life as a project for the producers, who were asked to re-cut the events of the first film in an attempt to regain some of the revenue lost after all the moral guardians succeeded in eradicating it from theaters. Merging the footage with new film creates an awkward situation: the entire first half is made up of ‘flashbacks’ to Part 1 interspersed with scenes of Billy’s now as-traumatised little brother Ricky (Freeman), who tells his story to shrink Newman.
Some 40 minutes in, after we’re done recapping the events of the first film, little Ricky grows up with a fear of red things and Christmas and a low-tolerance for people who act like assholes, such as violent loan sharks, cinema blabbermouths, his girlfriend’s ex and, finally, a random selection of poor ‘burb dwellers who get shot down before the now immensely beefed-up Ricky is caught and carted off to the asylum, but that won’t stop him from going after the wheelchair-bound Mother Superior. Who is no longer played by Lilyan Chauvin. And is now hideously scarred. And no longer has her accent.
There’s far less Christmas-themed carnage this time around though, Ricky’s serial killing career doesn’t much relate beyond providing additional victims, who are killed by jumper cables in the mouth, being repeatedly run over and, most memorably, impaling someone with an umbrella, which then opens.
The DVD commentary from director Lee Harry, writer Joe Earle and actor James Newman only confirms that not too much on this project was taken seriously, although it’s worth noting that there’s a peppering of decently composed shots amidst the trash, which is plentiful as Freeman gleefully over acts with intense eyebrow acrobatics and a hilariously wicked laugh. This and some other (intentionally?) funny bits coupled with the unforgettable “garbage day!” moment, Part 2 is a weird viewing experience but nevertheless an entertaining one.
* * *
“When your nightmare ends, the real terror begins.”
Director: Monte Hellman / Writers: Steven Gaydos & Carlos Lazlo / Cast: Samantha Scully, Bill Moseley, Robert Culp, Richard Beymer, Eric Da Re, Laura Herring, Elizabeth Hoffman.
Body Count: 8
The final slasher flick of the series is stock late-80s stuff in which the comatose Ricky is revived to deck the halls with blood n’ guts thanks to his inexplicable psychic link with blind heroine Scully. Of course, when awake it is she he begins to stalk, doing away with hangers-on as he goes.
Not much to celebrate this Christmas, but it’s kind of satisfying to know that the moaning, whinging parents’ groups didn’t totally get their way as the series grinds on – although the distinct lack of Santa is disappointing. Instead, Ricky (now played by genre icon Moseley) wanders around sans clobber with a plexi-glass bowl on his head filled with fluid.
There’s some bloodshed to lap up and a variety of subtle jokes but it’s just not as fun as the first two. I saw it years and years ago just the once and have hazy memories of the psychic Grandma (extent of ability: “the phone’s gonna ring.”) and heroine’s brother’s girlfriend saying; “Chris tells me you’re psychic?” / “He tells me you give good head.” But that’s it for entertainment.
Overall blurbs-of-interest: Robert Culp was in another Santa slasher, Santa’s Slay; Leo Geter was in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers; Elizabeth Kaitan was Robin in Friday the 13th Part VII and was a bit-parter in Silent Madness; Britt Leach was in Night Warning; Leonard Mann was in Night School; Bill Moseley turns up in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, and the 2013 sequel, Home Sick and Blood Night; Linnea Quigley’s other slasher credits include Graduation Day, Kolobos, Jack-O, Spring Break Massacre and a shower scene in Fatal Games; the toy story employee shot with the arrow was the nurse at the start of Halloween 4.