Considering the movie starts off with a girl tied up next to a tool kit, I get a definite torture porn vibe from this film and was afraid that’s what I’d gotten myself into. It’s not. It really is a slasher, just like it’s predecessors. However, I’m glad to see the killer in a Santa suit and when he grabs the axe it almost gives me chills.
A soft reboot, Silent Night is slick and filtered and modern with a cool twist on the Santa killer appearance – a clear plastic mask with a beard glued on. Not as over the top as the zombie Santa killer of the fan films, but still creepily effective, enhancing an explosive first kill. We swing over to Malcolm McDowell as a police chief on the phone with a local cop as she does the crossword. We get some squabbling between the cops, the usual getting to know you routine as Christmas comes to the small town, right out of a Hallmark movie. This particular remake was inspired not only by Silent night Deadly Night, but also by the real-life Covina Holiday Massacre which took place on Christmas Eve in 2008.As such, it’s not Billy or Ricky who are the killers, but rather a spurned lover from an urban legend (we get the backstory around fifty minuets in – I kind of needed it sooner).
Donald Logue plays the worst Santa ever, plying his trade on a street corner and for a moment I thought I was in a Bad Santa movie. But 21 minuets in, we get a homage to the catatonic grandfather in the original and it’s twice as terrifying.
The violence itself begins slowly, but just as I was beginning to despair, a leg comes off and out comes the wood chipper. Also, apparently a flamethrower beats a gun. Good to know. It’s gratifying to see an homage to the Linnea Quigley kill from the original (the one involving a set of deer horns) later on. While this film tries to be it’s own entity, it is very aware of the legacy it continues. It’s the simple things like the Santa killer RUNNING full tilt at his victim. We’re so used to seeing these traditional characters like Jason or Michael just walk, relentlessly (and some how still catch up with you) and when we see something like the familiar Santa killer racing towards you, it somehow feels innovative.
The film itself is light on story, and is honestly the vapid slasher that everyone thinks the originals are. Rather than being about the killer and his trauma, this movie spends its time focusing more on the detective and her insecurities. It’s suggested that her father once had to take down an evil Santa himself, and we get a reference to a previous Santa killer four years prior in another town, but they never come out and say if it’s the killers from the original, preferring to maintain a nebulous, peripheral connection to the source material.
Overall, it’s a good, bloody slasher that can hold it’s head high amoungst other holiday themed horror and while not enough to reignite the franchise, still serves to round it out nicely.
The film we’re reviewing today is actually another fan film done for the Silent Night Deadly Night series, and should not be confused with the 1972 slasher by the same name. This fan made Silent Night Bloody Night is shockingly atmospheric, filmed at a beautiful location. It’s short on story though. Billy shows up (in a surprisingly accurate Santa suit by the way, with pockets and bells on the sleeves and everything!) within the first fifteen seconds, prowling the place with an axe. There’s a costume party going and he immediately begins stalking and killing those in need of punishment.
This particular fan film is done up by SAJO Productions, a youtube film producer that specializes in vs match ups like Jason Vorhees vs. Harry Warden, that sort of thing. The focus is to cut to the chase, and give us the good parts, and that’s what this really does. The production values are really good, it’s beautifully shot with actors that seem to know what they are doing. I almost wish the kids behind SNDN 6 had this kind of quality because while their story was really good, their quality was poor. This one is the exact opposite. It’s a great looking short, with no story to speak of. Still, that’s not actually my main beef with it. My biggest problem is the lack of blood. They went to the trouble of getting a good camera to record this and adding cool filters that make it look like 1980, They know how to frame a shot for maximum suspense, yet there’s a sad lack of the red stuff. The axe swings into people with great frequency, but the hits are all dry. Do these guys not know how to set up a squib or a blood pump? Did NO ONE have a spare severed hand laying around (I’ve got like, three in my basement alone)? The gore is the one thing they really need to up their game. If the kids from SNDN6 could bring the blood, I KNOW these guys should be able to.
There’s two of these by the way, with part two starting just as the first one leaves off (it’s pretty much one short all together). In fact, pretty much the first three minuets are just recap and credits. They do a bit better with the blood (not much, just a little bit – like cutting holes in the ugly sweter that’s just been axed) and Berenice Gillham really ought to stop pushing Santa down the stairs. It’s becoming a them and it just seems to piss him off.
It’s worth checking these out, as long as you do it with a kind of “Special Features” mindset. If you like the sort of killer Santa action we get from the first couple films, you’ll have fun with this.
Watch them here:
Can you believe someone actually made a fan film sequel to this series? What’s really surprising is that there’s some genuinely interesting ideas here. I’m giving it a LOT of slack because these guys are obviously amateurs, kids playing with Halloween masks, but they are still headed in the right direction.
According to them, Billy Cauldwell was buried in an unmarked grave because they feared his evil might come back. Blood accidentally spilled on the grave causes him to rise, much like in the Hammer Dracula films. Billy rises, desiccated and zombified, and then wanders to town where he encounters a bell ringing Santa covering a Salvation pot. He rips Santa’s heart out and dons his suit and we are full speed ahead.
SNDN6 continues the long tradition of liberally reusing footage from previous films and seeks to fit itself firmly in the continuity, despite the somewhat mystical angle.
What’s interesting is to see how competent this is. They do fall into some of the amateur traps, excessive swearing, horror posters and movies around (though you can actually forgive the movies – they keep watching the SNDN sequels and that’s actually a tradition in these movies), but they avoid some big ones. They don’t linger too long on the gore. You get just enough to make the pint but not so much that you realize what you’re looking at. They also don’t skimp on the foley or music. The background score is actually quite good. No metal and not overly synthy. The Foley sound effects are actually quite good as well. It’s just as much as we need, and doesn’t come off as hollow or overdubbed. They stay on track – there’s a coherent story here and they not only create their own mythology, they sticks with it, reinforcing it rather than meandering from set piece to set piece.
Their biggest mistake is mostly towards the beginning. The cast is obviously young 16-19 years old.The problem is several of the characters they want in this movie need to be in their forties or fifties. These kids trying to lay old never works; especially when they don’t have the clothes for it. An overcoat isn’t enough to make a detective, especially if you’re wearing shorts underneath. The smartest thing they do here is to move the third act action to a house where a bunch of teenagers are hanging out, allowing Billy to pick them off one by one.
I got to be honest, I dig this so much. They obviously are fans of the series, and they GET it. Billy screams “Punish!” and dresses in a Santa suit. The (unfortunately very obvious) fake axe is ever present and the kills are remarkable clever with beheading, limbs lopped off and the best uses of a snow blower ever. I kind of wish the real studios would take this approach. It’s not strong enough to stand by itself, but it would make a dynamite special feature on a Blu Ray!
You can view it here-
But would you believe, there’s actually ANOTHER fan film out there?
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.
Part three starts out pretty nicely with a Terry Ferrell look alike seemingly lying dead in a white room. No, not dead, she wakes up and finds someone on a slab with their brain exposed in a dome…then a killer Santa. Yeah, this is a good way to start things off. It’s only a dream, during a sleep study, but it sets a creepier tone than your average slasher, which up until now, these things have been. Other good signs involve Robert Culp and Bill Mosely in the credits.
Of course just as it gets good, she wakes up, but the doctors put her right back down. The next dream is the beginning of the the first Silent Night Deadly Night (again? How many times can they re-use that footage???) Brain boy is in the next room, and his chart lists him as Ricky Cauldwell – that is to say, the boy turned killer from the second movie. I’m not sure how he came to be here in a coma six years after being gunned down in a hail of bullets, but here he is and apparently our ingenue, Laura, has some sort of psychic connection to him. It’s okay, it’s cool. The best entries of horror franchises frequently involve evil doctors or psychiatrists, like in Nightmare on Elm Street 3 or Hellraiser 2.
The doctor thinks the Blind Laura is holding out on him and she wants to quit the experiment. As she leaves, we get some foreshadowing that her abilities may be not only telepathic, but premonition.
In the meantime, a drunk Santa is finishing his rounds at the hospital and stumbles into Ricky’s room. His mocking presence is enough to draw Ricky out of his coma, and into a murderous rage. Somehow the dude with the exposed brain manages to thumb a ride into town.
Ricky by the way, is played by Bill Mosely. When Robert Culp’s detective character arrives at the hospital, he discovers they reconstructed Ricky, jump starting his brain and even his memory. Culp (playing much the same character he did in the Greatest American Hero and stealing every scene he’s in) is none to pleases since he was the one who took Ricky down.
Down the road a bit, Ricky has acquired a hat to cover his brain box and found his way inexplicably to Laura’s granny’s house. Contrived as it may be, you know this isn’t going to end well.
With the hospital murders and references like “Maybe the boogeyman got her” and the Doctor /Detective duo hunting the killer, I actually get a sort of Halloween vibe from this film. As much as I like the brainboy look and love the fact that they are still trying that hard to connect the films to some sort of continuity, I do miss the Santa suit on the killer. It doesn’t quite feel Christmassy enough, and the film itself drags. It’s entertaining as part of a series, but it’s too weak to stand on it’s own and that’s a shame. There’s some really good potential here. If they’d upped the creep factor with the psychic premonitions and done some FX work on things like the ghost and the killer as well as adding some better gore this could really be something. They must have though so to because for the next two entries, they contracted the services of Screamin’ Mad George to give them some blood and effects. On to part four….
We open in a prison interview room. The orderly knows what’s up, even if the jerky prison psychiatrist doesn’t. Orderlies always know who the dangerous prisoners are.
It’s Christmas even and they are discussing the events of the last film. Flashbacks! A whole movie later and they’re still showing that initial murder again and again.This time however, it’s not Billy – after all, he was gunned down in the last movie. This time it’s his baby brother Ricky telling the tale (odd, I thought the killer had murdered the baby brother in the car since we never saw him again, even though according to this, he was supposedly at the same orphanage). The flashbacks, (punctuated by occasional inserts of Ricky and the therapist talking) take up a full forty minuets at the beginning of the film,and comprise nearly half of the movie. Fun fact, the sequence where Billy is peeping on the two people having sex in the back room is actually new footage. Contracts would not allow the re-use of this particular scene because of the nudity. It was shot with different actors on the couch in one of the producer’s office to match the shots of billy on the other side of the door. Still, a good half of the film is repurposed.
It turns out the producers of Silent Night, Deadly Night wanted director Lee Harry to re-cut the first film and insert one or two new scenes with Eric Freeman playing a mental patient, to make the story in the original film appear to be nothing more than the ravings of an asylum inmate. The hope was to re-release the movie under a different name. But screenwriters Lee Harry, Joseph H. Earle, Dennis Patterson and Lawrence Appelbaum, wrote short vignettes involving the patient’s youth, as he killed several people, and eventually the movie transformed into a sequel. There still wasn’t enough material for a full-length feature though, so all the flashback sequences from the first were added in.
With all of that re-used footage I still can’t believe this took 10 entire days. To make this more complicated, the reused footage presented a problem since it drove up the body count significantly when the new kills were added. as a result, the kills had a good bit of their gore trimmed to get it past the MPAA.
Those 10 days of shooting go into Ricky’s story, and his life after being adopted out of the orphanage. In fact, there’s some clever merging of the two films, in particular after Billy is shot down. The camera pans up from the axe and they cut the pan into thier new actor for Ricky. He’s freaked out by Nuns, Santa and the color red in general. Ricky’s descent into homicidal mania take a similar path to his brother Billy’s, but feels purer – more intent on punishing people guilty of actual speech or acts he sees (at least until he gets a gun and snaps towards the end), rather than the generalized kill ’em all attitude Billy had (which only paid lip service to the idea of punishment). He’s more charismatic than his brother as well. Both were well built young men, but Ricky is chatty and sinister. It’s an interesting juxtaposition to the semi-catatonic state that Billy walked around the first movie in. Certainly more charming enough to attract a girlfriend. She decided to take him to a movie where the killer dresses up like Santa (and is inexplicably made up of shots from the first movie). This triggers the rampage that lands him in jail.
It’s actually a bit convoluted for a movie of this type and disappointingly enough, the Santa suit doesn’t actually put in an appearance until about 15 minuets from the end though it and the appearance of a desiccated Mother Superior (technically the same character, but played by a different actress – the scars are to help hide that fact) are worth waiting for. That, combined with the excessive amount of reused footage leaves us with a seriously uneven film. However, I could see myself returning to this for the same reason I dig trailer compilations It’s multiple films in one really, without the burden of being an anthology.
The movie opens with little Billy seeing his parents murdered by a robber in a Santa suit (and man, they milk that kill for all it’s worth, rerunning that footage repeatedly). Interestingly, that opening kill is far more brutal than it was originally scripted as. The screenplay simply says Santa yanks open the car door. Ellie’s screams stop and he stands over her lifeless body. there’s no mention of him pulling her our, ripping the blouse and cutting her throat. This is curious considering ti’s the single most re-used piece of footage throughout the entire series.
Of course this all happens right after a visit with the most terrifying grandpa ever, who warns Billy about Santa punishing the wicked. The message is only reinforced at the catholic orphanage (They sure did know how to build ugly buildings in the 70’s an 80’s) he finds himself in as he suffers bad flashbacks. Still, when we flash forward 10 years later to his job at a toy store, everything seems to be alright. He seems well adjusted.
I got to admit, I’m digging the toy store he works at, spotting familiar boxes. Things start to go wrong right after the Christmas banner goes up though, and the flashbacks return.
And then, the store owner asks him to fill in for Santa. Because this won’t end badly at all will it? I’m not sure how the parents don’t notice their kids are terrified by the dire Santa, but the nun from the orphanage realizes just how bad a scene this is.
The killing starts around forty minuets in and it turns into an earnest slasher.Don’t let the early kills fool you, the murders get more outrageous as we go on.
It’s an odd slasher though, lacking a final girl or a defined set of victims. Our Santa killer is more of a wandering villain, popping targets of opportunity.
As Christmas thrillers go, this one has some chilling moments and a very grindhouse feel. It’s cheap but a good VHS throwback.
But does it really deserve 5 Sequels?
I was hanging out at the Christmas party over at Carol and John’s when my buddy Jason cocked his head and asked me “Did you ever watch all five Silent Night Deadly Night movies?”. I strained to remember. I don’t think I even realized there WERE five of those things. He further blew my hair back by informing me that Mickey Rooney appears in on of the late entries.
I know I’ve seen the first one of these. It was years ago when I was trying to hit all the traditional Christmas Slashers; Christmas Evil, Black Christmas, ect. But I don’t remember exploring any further in the franchise. Moreover, since then, there’s been a remake to add to the pile. I’m intrigued now. So I hit the resale shops and collected a stack of VHS tapes. I really don’t know what to expect from this – slashers I think. 80’s gore I’m hoping.
We’ll find out together.