1984’s Silent Night, Deadly Night is one of my biggest slasher guilty pleasures that I make sure I watch every festive season. I wrote in my conclusion to my write-up of the film - “Formulaic but it is what is. It is an enjoyable slasher with boobs and splatter galore. There are many highly memorable moments in this mean spirited festive carve up. The murder set-pieces while lacking a suspenseful build up in their set-up are executed with merciless callousness putting down bloody presents under the Christmas tree for any gorehounds. There are some surprisingly nice camera shots thrown in also. Even a snowman is decapitated. If the filmmakers set out to entertain a demographic of bloodthirsty slasherholics then they achieved in what they set out to do. However, if it is solid writing, direction and acting with the exception of Chauvin then avoid at all costs. It is the impossible to ignore charm of its cheesiness and an interesting emotional narrative of its protagonist/antagonist of Billy, which aids Silent Night, Deadly Night along with its stand out kills in being a cherished slasher in my collection.”
A direct remake was in the works and for a time it had its own IMDB page. A screenwriter was working on the script that would have apparently been a faithful recreation of the plight of poor Billy. Unfortunately, according to Scott Schneid who was a co-executive producer of the original movie because of legal woes with the rights of the source material not being able to be sorted out between two individuals for no other reason than hating each other pre-production was halted until an agreement could be made.
It does not look as if an agreement was made then because Steven C. Miller’s ‘Silent Night’ not only loses half of the title but is also a pseudo remake in the very loosest of terms. It does not have that much in common at all with its predecessor save for its killer Santa premise and scenes that are variations of the 1984 film’s most famous moments employed as nothing more as nodding references in homage that add nothing substantial to the plot. Although, the infamous deer antlers kill is reused as one of the movie’s main set-piece highlights. Better writing, direction and acting with superior production values is a plus here and unpretentiously the film never forgets itself knowing what it is with intentional tongue firmly in cheek black humour. This is something it’s so called predecessor never had as anything funny to be had there was just unintentional laughs from its ubercheesiness. Like that movie though, this one is most certainly has its mean spirited moments as well with its murder showcases pushing the envelope where most mainstream American modern horror fears to tread.
Sheriff James Cooper (the always great Malcolm McDowell) and his deputy Aubrey Bradimore (the always beautiful Jaime King) start a manhunt for a mass murderer Santa Claus who is slaughtering the citizens of a small Midwestern town who have made his naughty list. What with the town’s annual Christmas parade, their job is made even harder as there are Santas everywhere.
The deepest depth of character development here is with the female protagonist Aubrey as she is dealing with the baggage of guilt from apparently causing the tragic accidental death of her husband. It is never explicitly explained as to what happened but enough references are made throughout the film to her backstory and coupled with King’s convincing turn as a nervous wreck when forced into intense situations due to her character’s previous trauma but eventually finds the courage to face her fears makes for a flawed and endearing heroine. McDowell is well McDowell. His performance provides some hilarious comedic relief with one of his usual over the top hammy performances (that is a good thing) that suitably supplements the unpretentious approach to the material here. He is provided with some sharp witty dialogue as he delivers some sarcastic comebacks to his colleagues with on the ball comic timing as a rather pompously irrational head of the town’s local police force. It is important to get the right balance of horror and comedy when injecting humorous aspects into what is essentially a serious horror movie. Here it is done right as when it comes to the violence and the severity of the situations the characters react with serious naturalism and the comedy is left for the film’s lighter moments. For an elaboration on this go to Fright Night (1985) and the Differences Between Horror Comedy and Horror with Humour.
The cast of characters making up the majority of the killer Santa’s victims are just downright sleazy and despicable. There are other bad Santas, cheating lovers, drug dealers, a lecherous priest, porn filmmakers, thieves etc. I know that one of my frequent complaints about most slashers is the obnoxiously annoying characters that are written for the victims thus putting a block on us caring about them and being frightened for them that destroys the real horror of the supposed to be terrifying situations and instead we root for these wankers to get done in (go to my review of 2006’s Dark Ride). However, as the material is very aware of what it is purposely setting all this up for us to cheer on the psycho Santa slayer to tick them off his naughty list I could not help but enjoy myself here.
Furthermore, one brutal kill scene involving the prolonged graphic murder of a child cleverly questions our morality in what we seek out for entertainment. This girl is written to be a vile spoiled brat who is disgustingly disrespectful to her mother (it is probably her mother’s fault her daughter is this way though). Right after we witness this, she is punished and is made to suffer getting it very nastily. As this happens right in the heat of the moment during our immense distain for this little madam we take much glee in her getting on Santa’s bad side but we forget for a moment that we are at the end of the day watching the sadistically cruel murder of a child. This forces us to judge ourselves morally. I will not go into detail about the stalk and slash set-pieces here as so to avoid spoilers but the best chase and then kill is a daylight sequence involving a topless model surrounded by Christmas trees and the gruesome dismemberment of her body. The practical special make-up effects for the gore and splatter are top notch with though just a little bit of lazy CGI thrown in.
This is a very good looking movie as well with some nice cinematography with creative shots and angles all fluidly edited that compensates the clarity of the action of the scenes in what is a well paced affair. The lighting techniques accompanied by vivid colour schemes throughout the course of the film are an extremely attractive touch. If the movie comes up short on something, it is plot. There is little development of a story here, as it just gets straight into the murders and the local police’s pursuit of the Santa maniac. An urban legend is told in flashback from one of the suspects in their search for the killer that relates to the antagonist’s backstory. At the time though, we do not know this. All the exposition you are going to get on the villain here is when his motive is revealed lazily during a continuation of this sequence as his own flashback in the film’s final scene. The writer Jayson Rothwell here just resorts to how most 80’s slashers cack handled the unravelling of the mystery with either a flash back like this or with the murderer telling the final girl their backstory for their motive.
Overall, despite being far from great doing nothing innovatively ground breaking for the sub-genre ‘Silent Night’ is ultimately a good time for any genre enthusiasts with a soft spot for slashers. I do not see the movie appealing to a demographic outside the geek show brigade but it does not try for this aiming for this audience and doing it exactly what it says on the tin - to entertain its core viewership. Recommended fun for not all of the family on Christmas Day.
*** out of ****
Dave J. Wilson
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