Thursday, December 26, 2013

#DoubleFeature - Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 1 & 2

Today, for this DoubleFeature, let's have a look at 2 infamous slasher films!

Because that's all you really need to see, on Christmas.

Both of these films are entries in the very uneven "franchise" Silent Night, Deadly Night. A series of horror films centered around Christmas day.

These very first two films are the only ones really connected in a more traditional way. Taking place one after the other, as it is usual in these sort of films. Te 3rd follows the same narrative but goes into a more supernatural direction, while Part 4 and 5 take a more Halloween III approach... which surprisingly enough worked better here than with Michael Myers. Then again, this killer Santa wasn't than an original or memorable boogeyman...

Without further ado, let's take a look at....

Movie: Silent Night, Deadly Night 
Directed by Charles Sellier 
Release date 1984
Genre Slasher/horror film
Country USA

Right off the immense success of John Carpenter's Halloween in 1978 came several new slasher flicks, most trying to tie-in specific Holidays or dates. It was a way to ride off popular days of the years, tap into the general audience's psyche and copy-paste the Halloween formula while they were at it.

Amongst those were Friday The 13th in 1980 or also My Bloody Valentine in 1981. But no other dates were as immediately recognizable or sacred as well as "Christmas". And thus we got the first gory seasonal slasher in the form of Christmas Evil. Shortly after this first obscure attempt came another killer Santa...

Silent Night, Deadly Night would have probably simply come and go if it hadn't the chance to get some controversy upon its release. The trailer alone cause a huge backslash with the mainstream audience. Parents started protesting the film's incoming release.

I believe there's no such thing as bad publicity, as such between this and renowned film critics such as the late Roger Ebert damning it to pieces, it all only helped boost the film's popularity to its now-current cult status. In the end, it only probably made SNDN more popular than it could ever have been on its own!

The film opens on Christmas Eve, in 1971.

The Chapmans are on their way home, after a little detour to see some family on the way. Passing through a psychiatric Hospital, the parents leave their eldest son Billy with the catatonic grandfather who hasn't spoken in years.. Yet the old man awakens temporary to tell Billy he better be good or Santa Claus will punish him!

What!? Exactly. This film takes a pretty step-by-step approach of the slasher genre, crossing every possible cliché on the way.

A murderer dressed as Santa comes out of nowhere and kills his parents in front of his eyes. While he wouldn't become a vigilante* to avenge his parents' senseless murder, Billy did end up with his baby brother Ricky at the local St. Mary's Orphanage. In the Catholic orphanage they grew up in a pretty screwed place, under the very strict authority of the Mother Superior - who almost appears to be the real villain of the film. Sister Margaret is the only one to think these boys should be taken care of, still haunted by the memory of that tragic childhood.

Under the abusive upbringing, Billy's insanity and fear of Santa only grows stronger...

The story jumps a couple times around more problems on Christmas day.

It's the present. Billy is now 18 years old. Finally ready to join back "real life", Billy gets a job at a toy store. Everything was going perfectly fine, Billy settles in his new life pretty easily. He looks "plain", and it works for the film, he seems normal and approachable at first impression. Apart some troubles with one of his colleagues, he did finally learn to accept life as it is and even dreams about one of his co-workers.

That is... until Christmas Eve as Billy is forced to take on Santa's role for the store!

Billy finally snaps and starts punishing everybody "naughty" in his eyes! The killing spree begins!

Silent Night, Deadly Night is actually your typical 1980s slasher, with plenty of T&A, a pretty high body count and some fun creative kills... what's more to ask from it?!

What is original is that Billy Chapman is not entirely presented as the villain here, but he is a victim as well, due to his trauma and the living hell he went through growing up. Billy goes from this little wimpy kid suffering a traumatic experience into a big-built crazy killer. It starts sort of slow and over 30 minutes are given to the exposition of his character, establishing the rampage witnessed in the final act. But once past his breaking point, the film gets somewhat formulaic.. but it still works.

The movie does the job, what is advertised. That is showing an insane sociopathic "Santa Claus", and on that aspect you get more than your money's worth.

It's actually a pretty decent, if a bit generic, slasher flick. I'm sure it would just have come and gone, unnoticed. Only the controversial reactions really helped sell the film at the time... this notoriety following it to this day.

There's some nice visuals here and there though.

And the creepy soundtrack is simply perfect!

I give it:
2 / 3 Necronomicons!

Movie: Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 
Directed by Lee Harry 
Release date 1987
Genre Slasher/Clipshow
Country USA

Fresh off the unexpected success of the original Silent Night, a sequel was an obvious course of events, as it is custom with the genre.

Only problem is, the production didn't want to bother much making the film. They knew they had to cash in the success the polemic granted the original film. But producing it? Forget it!

Thus began the problems of Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2. A movie that had to happen despite anyone involved wanting to actually produce the damn' thing.

The original plan was to simply recut the film and release it again for Christmas '87 under a new title.

The director wanted more money to actually produce a worthwhile sequel so he simply did a hackjob "in the meantime" to shoot more scenes. Suffice to say, the producers were pleased with it and were okay enough with that to greenlight the film and release it as it was. The director never got his better budget.

And that is how SNDN2 came to theaters, part clipshow and part sequel.

Over 45 minutes of the total 88 minutes worth of runtime are actually spent as flashback recounting the events of the past film.

The film follows this time the original killer Santa Billy's younger brother, Ricky. Ricky finds himself in a mental hospital now. He is being interviewed by Dr. Bloom, his 13th psychiatrist already there.

Ricky starts by recapping the events of the original film. The first film is told via a "flashback". If you watch both films back-to-back you better skip past the first 45 minutes... or simply ditch the first film for this! Ricky remembers Every. Single. Detail. From the first film. Even the scenes he was either too young or absent, every minor plot point.

Although there's some minor better editing in some clips here and there.

The film only comes to form once Ricky catches up with the present and snaps...!

Ricky watched his entire family get murdered. First his parents (but wasn't he just a baby? how could he even remember that??) and finally his older brother shot down by a cop as the killer Santa. Now it's time for Ricky to turn to a killing spree on a revenge against the abusive Mother Superior from the original film (with a face half-burnt or full of tumors for some reason... or just to hide the new different actress).

Picking up where the first film left off, the film finally switches to new footage. First Ricky tells how his life seemed to find some sense of normality as he was adopted by a new family. But still the trauma followed Ricky.

While Billy had some troubles with Christmas, Ricky seems to be focused with the religious aspect of their upbringing, the mere sight of nuns triggering his painful memories.

Ricky starts some random series of murders, punishing people he claims to be "naughty". He finally find some peace as he starts dating Jennifer Statson. But some trouble with her ex Chip finally makes Ricky go over the edge!

From there Ricky snaps into slasher mode and starts killing people senseless. It begins...


The film (I mean, what little left of the new material there is) as a certain B-movie charm to it. Sure it's really bad. But intentionally bad.

A scene at a movie theater has no problem recycling more material of the original Silent Night as it is some movie they are watching about a "Killer Santa". "Whaaaa...?" asks Ricky? Yeah. How is that even possible. Another character shouts it's all recycled material, it's boring or so slow.

But when the murderous rampage begins in the suburbs, it's brilliant! Random! Unlike any other bad movie I've ever seen.

Ricky escapes the institution, steals a Santa suit and goes after the sinister Mother Superior.

They had not enough money and tried their best. Sure it looks so cheap after the original creepy slasher film. Showing tons of unnecessary recycled footage. Intentionally bad, overacted.SNDN2 is a bad film. Its unique qualities come from the crazy acting, random scenes and bad plot.

The way it ties-in naturally into the original to continue the story is nice enough.

Eric Freeman plays this Ricky character so over-the-top.. you have to wonder if it is either done on purpose or by total accident. His "eyebrow acting" is like nothing I've ever seen before. 'Stuff of legend!

Ricky grows up into this garbage day-shouting hulking figure unequipped to deal with real life. A sociopath with the most inhuman interactions ever put on film. How did he even manage to get a girlfriend!?

In the end, our main character is shot down by the police... did he blink, how did he survive that?! Were they finally embracing the slasher aspect of these films to turn him into a psychotic supernatural killer in the sequels?!

In the end, it is still a pretty fun random film to enjoy actually. Cheesy beyond words, and with only about 40-minute worth of material.

The film originally had a really bad reception due to the amount of recycled footage.

Is is an absolute garbage film.. or one of the finest cinematic experiences ever put on film?

It certainly isn't a great film, probably one of the worst sequels the Silent Night, Deadly Night series dished out over the years.

I would honestly give this one a 0.5/3 by my usual rating system standard (aka avoid it). But the hilariously entertaining suburbs scene alone force me to rank it amongst the best bad movies I've ever seen... No, better yet. That scene alone by itself is a thousand times better than any blockbuster film Hollywood has been cranking up these last few years combined.

So let's say

I give it:
2 / 3 RebBrowns!

Overall, while Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 1 is the much better horror/slasher film, Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 is a thrill unlike any other experience out there!

I absolutely wouldn't recommend watching them back-to-back, as the second film contains the entire plot and side-stories of SNDN1, albeit minus the original's creepy atmosphere (thanks to Ricky for ruining the mood, narrating those segments...).

The Silent Night, Deadly Night "series" would go on spawning three more sequels (no less!), and even if none were able to be genuinely as good as the original, they were at least all much better than the first sequel by far.

If you can compare the first film to Rob Zombie's Halloween, kinda, both trying to rationalize and expose the background that spawned that deranged killer, the second Silent Night can be sort of compared as well to the 2nd Halloween film, diverging from the original plotline by a landslide and losing the entire first act to an unnecessary thread you might as well skip entirely. Also there's not much Santa Claus killing in the second film either. I almost wonder why Rob Zombie didn't remake this series instead of Halloween.

Speaking of which, there was a recent reboot of the series only last year.. but that is the tale for another review!

That's all for this time's DoubleFeature!

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