The opening with the boy peeping on his mom is actually reminiscent of the first SNDN. Downstairs he goes and notices a package on the doorstep, but it warns “don’t open till Christmas”. Dad stops him, but curiosity gets the best of him as the package moves and dad finds a strange device inside.
Hang on, did this just turn into a Hellraiser movie?
Between killer toys, optic trauma and Clint Howard (It’s just a cameo, sadly. Funny though, he’s still credited as “Ricky” so it’s the same universe as the last film! I wonder how he survived that stabbing and worm attack?), Screamin’ Mad George and Mickey Rooney…I’m feeling pretty good about this one. Brian Yuzna isn’t back for this one, but he is listed as co-writer and producer. That may explain the similar feel, even though the director for this one is Martin Kitrosser, a long time script supervisor with no previous directing credits to his name.
As the film continues two weeks past he credits, we see the boy is mute. I’m amused that he’s watching the Rambo cartoon, but don’t understand why that killer toy is still on his shelf. In the mean time, he’s freaked out by Santa and afraid of Christmas presents, depositing a big wrapped box (of killer Roller Blades) addressed to him in the outside trash can.
Mickey Rooney is actually quite charming in this, and feels like he belongs in a toy store. I have to wonder if they got some more funding for this one because the killer toys coming out of that store are well done animetronics with lightning FX (Before the days of AfterEffects) on them and the gore is surprisingly up to par for this series. It’s unexpected for a fifth entry, especially at this point where they were releasing these things direct to video yearly. Because it’s completely disconnected from the previous entries, I almost wonder if this started life as a completely different film. Did Mickey Rooney even know what he was signing on to?
Rooney’s character hides a hard drinking dark side, but it’s difficult to tell who’s crazier. him or his son whose overt creepiness is an interesting juxtaposition to Rooney’s subtextual madness. Indeed, the whole point of this film seems to be to keep you wondering who the killer will be in this installment. Once we discover our mute boy lives in Rooney’s old house, we start to understand why he and his son are unusually fixated on him and his mother.
I’m pleased to see a Santa clad killer in this film. He’s not quite so hands on though, the toys seem to get the lion’s share of the blood. They are fun kills, though things get a bit confusing until we hit the twist at the end – and it’s actually a pretty good idea. The twist ends up being a little more high concept than you’d expect from this property, but Screamin’ Mad George is contributing a lot to the visual here. Still, he doesn’t seem to have quite as much to do this time around as he did in part 4. I wonder if the money had dried up around this time?
Part five is one of the best of the sequels. Not quite as creepy as part four, but definitely more in line with the Christmas horror genre and it actually makes me want more. It’s a shame that the franchise was running out of steam at this point. Time to reboot.
Clint Howard watching a flaming corpse fly off a roof? Now THAT’S how you start a movie! Between this, Reggie Bannister and Allyce Beasley (the receptionist from Moonlighting), I have high hopes for this film. Seeing Brian Yuzna in the director’s chair is another good sign. The director of Return of the Living Dead 3 (arguably the most iconic of the series with it’s pierced heroine) and several of the Re-Animator films, this is a guy who gets how to make a solid, memorable piece of horror, especially a sequel. He also knows enough to hire someone like Screamin’ Mad George to sling latex and create horrific monster FX, not to mention bringing Full Moon alumni Richard Band along to do music.
We find ourselves in the bullpen of a newspaper with a classifieds clerk who wants to break in to reporting and thinks the jumper, being ruled a suicide, is her big break. She heads to the jump site where the chalk outline is still fresh and encounters Clint Howard – “Ricky”, as she browses books on spontaneous combustion. He’s a creepy homeless person who follows her to the roof as she checks out the ledge the victim jumped from. Cockroaches seem to follow her home – a problem that will escalate around the half hour mark with the most terrifying giant roach I’ve ever seen, a skull airbrushed into it back. It almost feels like our slasher series is morphing into a horror edged fantasy as our reporter drifts into nightmarish visions.
There’s nothing particularly Christmassy about this story of a young woman, being initiated into a coven of witches. No real connection to the rest of the Silent Night series either unless Clint Howard’s “Ricky” is meant to be Ricky Cauldwell, somehow still alive and now having grown some skin over that brain box from the last film. It’s possible. He almost hints at it during a scene where he watches the dream sequence from SNDN3 and answers “Santa Claus Killer” when asked who he is. He serves the witches and I suppose they could have magically shoved his brain down and generate some flesh to cover it.
In any event, the creepy FX are spectacular and the dreamlike confusion of the film give it a “Serpent and the Rainbow” kind of feel. It’s actually a really good film on it’s own, but feel like it should be it’s own thing and not a part of this franchise. That’s kind of ironic, because it may just be the single best film in this series. No worries though, the crew will be back for the next entry too.
It’s hard to pick a favorite role for Ron Howard’s brother….I was tempted to try and get him to sign an Ice Cream Man poster, but really, Star Trek is one of my first loves, and the fact that he was on it is just amazing to me.