Wednesday, December 24, 2014

MR:Quickies Silent Night, Deadly Night series

#MerryChristmas Everyone! (just putting this up here for my twitter peeps!)

Did you think I skipped Xmas this year? I promised a couple of Christmas-related reviews, so let's start with GARBAGE DAY!!

Friday the 13th series - Friday the 13th (2009)
Book One (Wildstorm) - Book TwoFriday the 13th (Avatar Press)
Jason vs Leatherface / Freddy vs Jason
Elm Street series - A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
A Nightmare on Elm Street (WildStorm)A Nightmare on Elm Street (Avatar Press)
Halloween series - Halloween (2007) - HII (2009)
Halloween (Chaos! Comics)
One Good Scare - NightDance - 30 Years of TerrorThe First Death of Laurie Strode
Final Exam
Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 1 & 2
Pumpkinhead 1
Chucky series - Curse of Chucky / Chucky (Devil's Due Publishing)
Candyman series
 Re-Animator series
Hatchet 1Hatchet 2Hatchet 3
Hack/Slash: My First Maniac - Me Without You - Omnibus Vol. 1 - Friday the 31st
Series 1 (DDP)Hack/Slash Meets Zombies Vs Cheerleaders - Series 2 (Image)
Revival Vol. 1 - Vol. 2
Tucker & Dale / Cabin in the Woods
Darkman series
It's Alive series
Gremlins - Gremlins 2: The New BatchCritters seriesTremors series
The Faculty / James Gunn's Slither
 Troll 2
The Thing from Another WorldJohn Carpenter's The Thing
John Carpenter's Prince of DarknessJohn Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness
Jacob's LadderJohn Carpenter's The WardEvent Horizon
DeepStar Six / Leviathan / Lords of the Deep / The Evil BelowThe Abyss
Deep Blue Sea

This year, let's celebrate Christmas with one of the most infamous slasher horror film series out there! And for all the wrong reasons

The Silent Night, Deadly Night series is a very uneven horror "franchise" centered around Christmas day. More or less.

The first Silent Night, Deadly Night released in 1984 became a huge cult classic thanks to a lot of controversies, it was quickly followed by four sequels. Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (in 1987), Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out! (1989), Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation (1990) and Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker (1991). A remake would follow decades later, simply titled "Silent Night" in 2012.

The first two films are the only ones that are really connected in a more traditional way. Taking place one after the other, as it is usual in these sort of films. While the 3rd one follows the same narrative, it goes into a (cheaper) more supernatural direction, while part 4 and 5 take a note from Halloween III: Season of the Witch... which surprisingly enough worked better here than with Michael Myers.

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

 [Movie already reviewed here]

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

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

 It's actually a pretty decent, if a bit generic, 80s slasher flick. I'm sure it could just have come and gone, unnoticed. Only the controversial reactions really helped sell the film at the time... this notoriety following it to this very day. Fun fact, this movie also feature Scream Queen legend, Linnea Quigley!

And the creepy soundtrack is simply perfect!

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

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

[Movie already reviewed here]

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

Let me put this clearly - Is is an absolute Garbage film.. or is it 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.

As far as notoriety, like the original this movie also featured another classic Scream Queen in Elizabeth Kaitan, as Ricky's "short-time girlfriend".

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. But enjoyable.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Movie title: Silent Night, Deadly Night III: Better Watch Out! 
Directed by Monte Hellman 
Release date 1989
Genre Slasher film/B-movie

Don't let the cover fool you, from here on these movies don't even feature any killer Santa whatsoever...

Our story picks up six years after Part 2. We find our notorious "Killer Santa" in a coma apparently. Yes. That's right. If you remember correctly Ricky Caldwell was last shown being gunned down by police at the end of the previous film. But is brain was seemingly saved and reconstructed (I don't remember him being shot in the head, though..?).

This Dr. Newbury has been experimenting with ESP, and using our Santa Claus Killer as a test subject. He has put Ricky on life-support. Lately he's been really interested in a young girl named Laura. Despite being blind she seems to have some "clairvoyance" abilities.

We find Ricky with some kind of giant obviously-plastic metallic shell over his head, with a now very visible brain floating inside. (????)

But because of these experiments, Laura's been having some nightmares (or visions?). She decides to take a break. She's going to her grandmother's house on Christmas Eve, with her brother and his girlfriend.

One night a drunk hospital employe dressed as Santa comes to check on Ricky... which of course awakes Ricky from his coma! While it seemed his brother was a Christmas-obsessed killer, Ricky has always seemed to focus his rage more on the color red directly, for some reason. Ricky kills a few people along his way and heads for grandma's house. Ricky makes it before the family arrive on the scene...

It's easily the worst entry in the entire "franchise".Ricky is this time played by genre legend Bill Moseley (best known as Chop-Top from Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2!) with a strange robotic skull cap and a brain psychically linked to Laura. We get a few more flashback scenes to the first film (not on the same scale of Part 2, thankfully!). And the only good thing to come from this entire film is TV legend Robert Culp as this wisecracking old cop, lieutenant Connely, on Ricky's trail, following his bloody trail of dead bodies.

This was also the last entry to follow the original storyline of the vengeful Killer Santa, the next two films would be standalone stories only "loosely connected" to the rest of the series.

The movie ends with a ridiculous ghost (?) of Ricky wishing the audience a "Merry Christmas... And a Happy New Year!" at end, which almost implies Ricky would be back... which he never does as you're about to see below...

Overall: It's a really cheap looking film despite some of the talented involved in the film, like Monte Hellman (who worked on the original RoboCop no less!). It feels like such a cheap amateur project. It's barely coherent. It features such cheap low budget acting. The only real reason for Ricky's fishbowl over his head is to detract from the fact it's a different actor now and that the film lacks any sort of plot whatosever...

We don't get a single murder from anyone dressed in a Santa suit! It was the best thing in these films! And since Ricky's brain-damaged now, he doesn't get to say any cool one liner in the entire film aynmore (Garbage Day anyone?). By this point the production, despite being the same as the first two films, had completely forgotten the spirit of the original first film. It's just boring. Unenjoyable. Bad. And generic. The kills are so dull, there's no thrills, no scares, nothing. We do get to see a young Laura Harring though.

While the second film was pretty bad, badly written/directed/and acted, at least it was kinda silly and fun. Entertaining, in a Troll 2 sort of way. It's a guilty pleasure. Meanwhile, Silent Night 3 is just a film with no energy, no fun, it feels completely boring. And since it really lacks any blood or gore there's simply nothing to save it as far as special effects or slashers go. No tension, nothing...

The second film might have been almost completely filled with footage from the first movie, but this one's all-new material is so bad you end up kinda wishing it also recycled some stock footage from the previous better films.. The best thing to come in Part 3 is in the form of a dream where someone dressed as Santa almost kills our protagonist at the beginning of the film!

It never manages to actually give us a Killer Santa (so many missed opportunities for Ricky to stole a Santa costume from the first guys he kills, or a Santa hat later in the film... why teasing us like that, movie??). The film is also awfully slow, such an awful pacing, we even get to see someone cooking a turkey in real time!! It's poorly shot, actions seem to be shot in real time without any editing... Part 2 might have its own share of problems, but this is fairly worse!!

For this occasion I'm gonna do something I've rarely done until now. There's only one thing I can grade this movie. And it's to say you all to Avoid at all Cost!! It's not cheesy or hilariously badly done. It's simply awful and boring. There's nothing to gain from watching this glorified "fanfilm".

I give this one a: 0 / 3 Score!

Movie title: Initiation: Silent Night, Deadly Night 4 also known as simply Bugs
Directed by Brian Yuzna
Release date 1990
Genre Horror/B-movie

The third sequel to to the controversial Silent Night, Deadly Night, and the first to entirely drop the Killer Santa storyline.

Our story follows a female reporter investigating a case of "spontaneous combustion" which turns out to be about a whole lot more than she ever hoped for...

Kim Levitt is an aspiring journalist. She works as a newspaper reporter. One time there's a story about a spontaneous human combustion, her boyfriend Hank gets the job but Kim decides to investigate it on her own nonetheless...

This whole unexplained death leads her to look where the burning woman leapt off the building to her death. She discovers a very strange cult doing some rituals on Christmas Eve.

She decides to enter a book store and do some research on the subject, the librarian offers her another book, "Initiation of the Virgin Goddess". She befriends her and her circle of friends, even gets to meet them in a park.

There's also this homeless man Ricky following her around. (So... wait a minute. Are we expected to believe this is the same "Ricky" as in the Killer Santa from Part 2 and 3???? This bum looks nothing like the serial killer from "Garbage Day" nor the dome-brained Frankenstein from the awful third episode... Did he grow a natural head back over the dome? Is that why he's bald? I don't get it... and I don't plan to...)

Kim is having some strange visions.. Nightmares about her place being filled with all these kinds of disgusting bugs.

She finds out her new friends are part of a cult dedicated to some Egyptian deity, apparently looking for a "new queen" for their order. Kim is forced to sacrifice Hank's younger brother, following Hank's death at the ends of their slave Ricky. They want to use Kim as a conduit for some sort of spirit goddess... She fights, she escapes, they get her back, rinse and repeat... 

It's a lot of random non-sense, but well directed with a great creepy atmosphere. There's also some footage from Silent Night, Deadly Night 3 on a TV, as per Silent Night tradition. (This series seems to love using previous episodes as stock footage on TV and cinema screens...)

Overall: Written and directed by  horror veteran Brian Yunza (best known for his fantastic work on the Reanimator series). I don't get why it's called "Initiation: Silent Night, Deadly Night 4", and not the other way around, "Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation". And also, why is it a Silent Night film at all...

Usually when horror franchise run way too long they always find themselves going into space (looking at you, Critters and Jason!) or they either jump track completely and start something else far off anything they began like. And this is what happened here with Part 4. The Silent Night, Deadly Night had by that point zero connection to the whole killer Santa storyline from the first three films, and is only very loosely connected to Christmas (Christmas is only peripheral and barely used in the backdrop of this story).

My guess is that following the awful third movie, Brian Yunza was brought in (since he also wrote it) and he was allowed to do whatever he wanted with the budget, as long as it could make a profit. Which he used to produce this original concept he probably already had in mind.

The story is interesting. Captivating. Following this young reporter, Kim, in Los Angeles and taken into a coven of witches. Attacked by bugs. It's a great body horror in pure Croenenberg style. If anything this marked the first time since the original the series went back to the much darker, mature and violent nature of the first film.

The film also features Clint Howard as a creepy bum (SNDN2/3's Ricky?).

It's a fairly similar idea to what Halloween III did with the original Halloween series. Not only breaking from the rest of the series by this point but also exploring some kind of similar subjects (a conspiracy of murder during said season). Only here it was much better handled and thought of in my opinion.

This "Part 4" features some great gruesome and creepy FXs, the giant maggots look fantastically disgusting.

Some decent gore and kills. Lots of disgusting things, some really horrific scenes here and there. It perhaps strayed way too far away from the original... . At least it's a much better film than the previous episode.

It's kinda stupid and silly, but fun. The only thing that kinda really connects this story to Silent Night is that the witches perform their ritual on Christmas...

I give this one a: 1.5 / 3 Score!

Movie title: Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker 
Directed by Martin Kitrosser
Release date 1991
Genre Horror/B-movie

For this final installment, our story is back to following a young traumatized boy.

Our story opens during a late night of December, about two weeks prior to Christmas. After catching his parents having sex (as he tends to accidentally do the entire film, with a babysitter later on), this young kid named Derek Quinn finds some kind of present outside the house. His dad is not happy to see him open the door late at night. And suddenly Derek sees his father brutally killed by some kind of toy that was mysteriously delivered to their home! Derek is so much traumatized by these events he doesn't speak after that...

After the loss of her husband, the mother is now trying to raise Derek as best as she can. She decides to offer him some early Christmas present the following weeks. They go to see this local old toy maker named Joe Peto ( in "Geppetto"...?). Joe seems to have an abusing relation with his own son Pino.

There's also this mysterious man creeping around both the broken family and the toy store.

A larvae toy (from the previous film?) comes to life, burrowing into someone's face. Who's the titular "Toy Maker" of this film?!

We are lead to believe either the toy maker, his creepy son or that creeper are possibly our bad guy/killer toy maker. The movie builds up the mystery. There are several red herrings throwing us off concerning the real killer. Who is making these killer toys?

Dangerous roller skates end up badly hurting this neighbor friend of Derek. Killer toys are sent after Derek's babysitter and her boyfriend.

The guy stalking Derek and his mom turn out to be..... the real father! So that means Peto's actualky the killer, making the booby trapped toys! The movie teases Joe being a killer Santa.

But, nope. It ends up actually being Pino("cchio"!), the creepy abused son! But he's not really is sone, but a machine really. A mechanical being Joe build from scratch thanks to his impressive toy-making skills to cop with the death of his own wife and unborn son! And Pino seems to have some kind of creepy Oedipal feelings going on for Derek’s mom!! Ewww...

And Clint Howard's back, didn't he die in the previous film? Apparently not! People are dressed in Santa Claus outfits again on several occasions. We're lead to believe people are being murdered by a killer stalker dressed in a Santa outfit. The film teases the same set up, what with a young boy seeing something traumatizing at the start, sadly we don't get no return of an ax-wielding Santa Claus... Clint is back in a short appearance of Ricky the bum, this time dressed as a Santa maul (so he really was SNDN2's Ricky then?). And we also get to see the characters of Kim and Lonnie from Part 4, Kim is now in charge of this kid Lonnie she was about to sacrifice in the previous episode.

(There's also a fun random allusion to the infamous cartoon Rambo: The Force of Freedom on a TV.)

Overall: It's a serviceable sequel. On one hand, it's a much better film than anything we've ever gotten since the original, but I kinda miss the original Killer Santa storyline...

Brian Yuzna wanted to get back some loose connection to the original film(s). So the story builds a lot of misdirection and allusion to it. He even didn't want to have the subtitle of "The Toy Maker" giving the twist away to the audience to make us believe a return to form for the series.

It's a decent finale episode for this so-called franchise that has more than overstayed its welcome by this point. Like Part 4 it has nothing to do with the first film. But at least it's a fairly decent entertaining Christmas horror film. With great special effects, visuals and even some dark humor to it in its creative kills. The film even has twists along the way! But the thing is that there's been so many killer toys films, it's nothing that hadn't been done by this point!

Veteran legend Mickey Rooney (famous for voicing Santa Claus) who originally famously condemned the first film plays in Part 5 one of the main leading roles! Ironically hilarious for someone who was so much in favor of the first film being banned and openly wrote negative letters to the producers of the original film, only to star in a "sequel" a few years later.

The franchise concludes with some references back to the series. There's lot of weird stuff going on (particularly with Pino at the end), which remind me of good ol' horror flms actually.

Pretty fun. Enjoyable and not that bad, really. It actually had something to do with Christmas time and some of that old spirit of Chirstmas back like the original. It's both a Christmas movie and a horror movie, not bad! It might just be another stand alone episode, but it's not a bad one. With some great decent deaths. It kind of remembers me of those old anthology feature films like Creepshow or Tales From The Crypt stories.

It's even more loosely connected to the previous films if you except a couple of character from Part 4 showing up as cameo. The deadly presents under the tree return the franchise to the original Christmas terror, exploiting  this innocence from the anticipation of Christmas morning. The movie features some great scares. And for the first time since the second film people wearing a Santa costume! It's a decent little return to form, despite the lack of an actual killer Santa like most of these sequels. Rooney as this Joe Petto brings back this kind Christmas figure twisted with a dark tone, a nice homage to the beginning of Silent Night, Deadly Night.

It has a fairly decent twist ending. It's easily the best SNDN sequel, fun and enjoyable. Worth Checking it Out!

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

And that's all for this so-called series spawned from the controversial 1980s "Christmas film" that got most of its fame and cult status due to being quickly yanked out of theaters back in the day where it went on getting a successful second life on home video. All these films are sadly unavailable on Bluray and the DVDs are currently now out of print.

The later three episodes were actually direct-to-video released (only presented in Full Screen rather than Widescreen presentation), which actually kinda explains their lack of quality, but doesn't justify it.

As the series stand, they all have their share of couple fun moments, lots of bad acting and cheesy dialogues and deaths. It's only a shame they completely lost the original storyline of the killer Santa, in my eyes.

The series would be resurrected and rebooted in a very loose remake by Steven C. Miller, for Anchor Bay who now has the rights of the first two original films. Thanks to the Garbage Day scene of Part 2 which brought the entire series back in the forefront I'm sure. Not clearly a straight remake of the original, but a new original story, simply going back to the original idea and spirit of the first film.

All in all, it's a really mixed bag in terms of series and sequels. Some more enjoyable and others just plain awful. At least all trying to offer us, the audience, a fun disturbed look at the whole Holiday experience, placing Christmas under the horror genre. Not all equal (but, really, which long on-going series really is all the way through?). Naughty or Nice, enjoy your Holidays,

Merry Christmas everyone! Stay NICE!

"Santa's watching, Santa's creeping, 
Now you're naughty, Now you're sleepy.
Santa knows if you've been bad!

That's all for this time's Quickies!

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