In her third horror remake within as many years, Jaime King (My Bloody Valentine 3D, Mother's Day) stars as Aubrey Bradimore, a crossword-loving sheriff’s deputy forced to work on Christmas Eve — in particular, the annual Santa parade. She lives in a dreary small town where nothing really happens, but she's in luck: There's a killer Kris Kringle on the loose!
While the jolly old elf's plastic mask is unsettling, he's cast in the Jason Voorhees/Michael Myers mold of mass murderers, taking care of business largely with an ax, but sometimes with a flamethrower and a woodchipper. Needless to say, his fake beard doesn't stay snow-white for long.
Bringing the same coat of competency polish that he did to the nasty little thriller The Aggression Scale earlier this year, director Steven C. Miller has given gorehounds an early Christmas present with this psycho exercise that shines brighter than its modest budget. As the sheriff, A Clockwork Orange’s Malcolm McDowell is too jokey than called for, but the horror lover in me was made too jolly by the film’s knowing, B-level jolts to make me mind too much.
Making Anchor Bay’s release of Silent Night extra-special is that it gave the label a good reason to bring the ’84 original and its 1987 sequel back into print (take that, eBay sellers!), which it has done in a double-feature disc.
Finally, in 1984, one of the nuns helps a teenaged Billy (Robert Brian Wilson) secure a job at a local toy store, arranging Poochie products and whatnot. Things are good for the milk-drinking young man until he’s asked to don the Santa suit in the store, and he snaps.
Taking up an ax, and equating sex with death, he embarks on a rather random rampage across town, bellowing "Naughty!" and "Punish!" at his victims like he's a monosyllabic Hulk. Among the film’s more notorious scenes of slaughter are a sledder gliding his way into a decapitation, and the naked torso of scream queen Linnea Quigley (The Return of the Living Dead) being mounted — literally, this time — onto a pair of antlers.
When I first saw Silent Night, Deadly Night — on VHS, when I was 14 — I was soundly disturbed by the ugliness of the opening. Today, on a second viewing, I’m still put off by it, but am able to see it for the cinematic junk it really is. I recall the furor over the film during its abortive release, which one can relive via a collection of critics’ quotes on the disc’s “Santa's Stocking of Outrage.” Elsewhere in the special features, in an audio interview, Sellier relays his regret for being involved in the picture.
For outrage of a different kind, however, watch director Lee Harry’s Silent Night, Deadly Night Part II. For starters, it really should be titled Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 1.5, because approximately 40 minutes of its 88 total are clips from its big, bad brother!
On Christmas Eve, Ricky (an ever-growling Eric Freeman, Children of the Corn) tells his psychiatrist about his how his brother, Billy, once went ape-crap over the holidays — cue all the previous footage, coming off like a CliffsNotes summary.
Then, in the second half, where the movie dares to do something on its own, Ricky loses his virginity, goes to the movies (to see the first Silent Night, Deadly Night — how meta!), and promptly follows in his brother’s black-booted footsteps. Watch as he thrusts an umbrella through a guy’s tummy, then opens it, or as he jumper-cables some punk's mouth until the dude’s eyeballs explode.
Strangely, this stuff is so incompetently done, it plays like over-the-top comedy (as do some of the three subsequent sequels, unrelated to this pair). And that’s why I highly recommend Part II to bad-movie fanatics. It’s ripe for a clubbing, if not annual viewing as counterprogramming to Frank Capra and Rankin-Bass. —Rod Lott
Hey! Read This:
• A Clockwork Orange: Anniversary Edition Blu-ray review
• The Aggression Scale Blu-ray review
• More Brains! A Return to the Living Dead DVD review
• Mother's Day Blu-ray review
• My Bloody Valentine 3D film review
• Silent Night, Deadly Night: Three-Disc Set DVD review
• Still Corny after all these years: OCU professor reveals how he harvested Children of the Corn