• Nathan Erdel

Merry Ax-mas; Yuletide Screams with the Latter Silent Night, Deadly Night sequels

It’s Yuletime, and I write this horror blog… so, naturally, the idea pops into my head to write Top Ten List of my favorite Christmas Horror flicks, but, then I thought, what is the ultimate point of that list? I’m sure that half of you could fill out at least 40% of that list, and even if your guesses for the other 60% were incorrect, they’d probably still be understandable, if not predictable, choices. Sure, the odd duck might pop up that not everyone knows about - the haunted Samurai-armor holiday horror Blood Beat, or the Norwegian-Home Alone-meets-psycho-Saint-Nick action-thriller Dial Code Santa Claus, but the rest of the list would be everyone’s greatest hits of Holiday Horror: Christmas Evil, Gremlins, Krampus, Black Christmas… (maybe even Jaws: The Revenge, because I’m THAT guy). And, of course, Silent Night, Deadly Night.

Silent Night, Deadly Night is not my favorite Christmas slasher (that’s the OG Black Christmas), but it’s up on the list, and it’s definitely one of the most enjoyable films in the Holiday Horror canon. It’s a sleazy and mean movie, and an instantly controversial one at that, making a Santa Claus dressed murderer of its main character, traumatized Billy Chapman, who is turned psychopathic after seeing his parents murdered by a man in full Santa drag. It’s sequel, the so-bad-it’s-good Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2, has become a meme; it’s a sequel largely comprised of footage from the first flick, and then rounded out by a completely crazy performance by Eric Freemen, playing Billy’s now murderous little brother Ricky, which cumulates with the now internet-famous “Garbage Day!”

What is not discussed, however, is that Silent Night, Deadly Night has THREE MORE SEQUELS (not to mention a quasi-remake, simply named Silent Night), each more batshit insane that the last? Yes, Silent Night, Deadly Night III-V exist, three direct-to-video sequels, each released in the Novembers of 1989-1991, from the makers of films ranging from Two-Lane Blacktop to Re-Animator, and featuring stars ranging from cult star Clint Howard to irascible Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney (more on him below!).

So, this Yuletide season, I’ve decided to forgo the predictable Top Ten List, shy away from more talked-about Holiday Horror films, and subject myself to a three-movie marathon of the latter Silent Night, Deadly Night sequels. I’ve never seen these films, and it’s high time (or, more aptly low time) to change that. That’s me, subjecting myself to four-and-a-half hours of early 90’s direct-to-video nonsense, all for your Spookeasy reading displeasure. I’ve got two growlers of Dorian Millionaire, Scarlet Lane Brewing’s Oatmeal Stout with Sea Salt and Caramel, a bowl full of popcorn, and a sinking feeling that I should have just watched Boris Karloff in How The Grinch Stole Christmas instead.

Alright, St. Nick, let’s do this…

Silent Night, Deadly Night III: Better Watch Out!

(Nov 17, 1989, directed by Monte Hellman, starring Bill Moseley, Richard Beymer, Eric Da Re)

If this flick is any indication of where the next two are heading, holy shit am I in for a rough sleigh ride. Bill Moseley stars as a now comatose Ricky, with an inexplicable transparent dome bolted on the top of his head, displaying a fully-visible brain, complete with fluid sloshing about the see-through encasement. If you can believe a flick can be subdued and boring when it stars fucking Chop-Top from Texas Chainsaw 2 as a serial-killer with a Pop-It Bubble surgically affixed to his damn head, his brain fully visible the whole time he’s committing Christmas-time mayhem, then this may be the movie for you. Director Monte Hellman, who directed the cult-cassic Two-Lane Blacktop, once called this his greatest work… and, believe me when I say this is the moment whomever was interviewing him should have called the mental health experts. This movie is an absolute slog, despite basically being a weird precursor to The Cell.

Richard Beymer, one of two Twin Peaks villains doing the Lord’s work in this turkey, plays a doctor trying to psychically connect with Ricky Chapman (Moseley), now in a coma and with the aforementioned brain-under-glass head accouterment, by attaching electrodes to Ricky and attaching them to possibly psychically-powered patients. Only one patient, a blind woman Laura, seems to connect with him, but is traumatized by the experience, seeing flashbacks of Ricky (and his older brother Billy) witnessing the violent acts that turned them both into homicidal holiday hellraisers. Laura leaves the experiment after being picked up by her brother (Eric Da Re, Twin Peaks’ Leo Johnson) to spend Christmas with their Granny. Soon, Ricky is revived, and blazes a trail of carnage, beating Laura and her brother to Granny’s house. The doctor, is hot on the trail, too, with a dad-joking homicide detective, both determined to stop Ricky once and for all.

Ok, like I said before, this movie is ridiculously dumb. Most of the cast are pretty helpless to redeem themselves from the terrible script and lackluster direction and editing. Beymer and Da Re fair the best, with Beymer pretty much coasting through on his chops, and Da Re actually making his character sort-of likable, but, of course, cannot save the character for being one of the dumbest characters in a film FULL of dumb characters. Moseley is surprisingly dull in this role, but, knowing Moseley’s supreme talents and consistency as a quality actor, it’s most likely that he was either directed to be completely zombified, or he pulled a Vampira-in-Plan 9 and acquitted himself to silence in order to save his dignity as much as possible. Samantha Scully, however, is absolutely atrocious as Laura, with many of her performance choices seeming to be completely disconnected from the proceedings. The whole thing is pretty much awful, with some of the kills being ok - mostly aftermath stuff - and, at the very least, the pacing is surprisingly brisk, with some of the more ridiculous moments rife for a drunken group watch - everything from the fact that Laura, her brother, and the brother’s girlfriend arrive at Granny’s house, where food is literally cooking on the stove, and not seeming overly concerned that the elderly grandmother is missing, to the moment where the girlfriend asks the blind-but-fully-capable Laura “How long have you been handicapped?” (and this moment is not the last of the cringeworthy “handicapped” dialogue).

So - worth a watch? Maybe, if you have inebriating beverages and a group of likeminded, cinema-mad friends ready to mock the hell out of a stupid, stupid movie. The Dorian Millionaire I drank alongside this fuckery was the high point of this experience to this point, with its delicious-but-less-sweet-than-you’d-expect dessert flavors soothing my palate, the sea salt helping to tame the bitter taste of cinematic defeat in my mouth.

Silent Night, Deadly Night III: Better Watch Out gets two murderous Santas out of five… if you get a chance to see this flick, you’d Better Watch Out unless you have a good beer at your side.

Silent Night, Deadly Night IV: Initiation

(Nov 21, 1990, directed by Brian Yuzna, starring Neith Hunter, Reggie Bannister, and Clint Howard)

Ok, guys. Really. You all owe me big time. Bah, humbug, this movie SUCKS.

So, I didn’t find confirmation on this - not that I dug too deeply - but I have a sneaking suspicion that this was a stupid, pre-The Craft, witches-meet-the-bug-coven-from-Halloween III movie that someone just slapped "Silent Night, Deadly Night 4” upon, like it was some sort of 2000’s direct-to-video Hellraiser sequel. This flick has nothing to do with the original Silent Night flicks, and very little to do with Christmas, really - yes, at some point in the flick some dude named “Ricky” strangles a man to death with Christmas lights, but, if that’s what makes this flick a Christmas horror flick, count me out.

Ok. So, a wannabe investigative reporter picks up the lead on a story involving a woman who was set on fire on was either thrown off of a building or leapt — whichever the case, the journalist-to-be investigates the death as a spontaneous combustion, leading her to a bookshop run by Fima, the head of a local coven of Lilith-worshipping witches, whose witch-goddess, in this telling, is the queen of the bugs, hence the copious cockroach-infestations, larvae-birthing, and bug-squirming throughout the film’s insufferable runtime. This one tries to match the ludicrous dialogue of Part 3 with some insane (and admittedly solid) special-effects, but between this flick, and the action in the next film, I suspect this film was really just an excuse for effects artist Screaming Mad George to have fun with some fake bugs.

Anything good about this flick? Nope. Not really. Even Reggie Bannister was wasted and disappointing in this flick. But, hell, the Dorian Millionaire really hit the spot. The notes of salt and caramel make for a wonderful after-dinner treat, but the taste isn’t the sugar bomb one would expect. I’m grabbing another pint before we jump into our finale…

Silent Night, Deadly Night IV: Initiation gets one-half of a disemboweled Santa out of five… avoid it.

Silent Night, Deadly Night V: The Toy Maker

(Nov 7, 1991, directed by Martin Kitrosser, starring Mickey Rooney)

Usually, when V is marking a sequel, we’re in for bad times: either slapdash and rushed (Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Child, The Revenge Of Michael Myers) or highly divisive (Friday the 13th: A New Beginning - fuck you, it’s awesome!), so going into The Toy Maker, especially after the stupid Initiation, I wasn’t expecting much... but, I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, The Toy Maker is still pretty stupid, but the performances are a touch better all around, and, while not believable nor groundbreaking, the narrative is at least mostly straightforward, and the whole experience makes for a more satisfying watch.

Mickey Rooney - the Mickster, and previous outspoken critic of the original Silent Night, Deadly Night, stars as Joe Petto, a toy maker who lives with his odd son Pino. Yes. Joe Petto and Pino. Clever. And you can call me Not A. Mused. Anyway, before you can say “Killer Santa,” a body count starts to mount, deaths seemingly caused by toys from Joe’s workshop, with the death starting to target themselves toward young, newly fatherless Derek and his mother. Is Joe Petto after the boy, or is there another Yuletide killer stalking the festivities? Does it even matter at this point?

Ok. Yeah, this movie is still pretty dumb, featuring weird cameos from the previous film, even though the plots are completely unrelated, but it’s a mostly enjoyable flick, providing some dumb-but-fun Full Moon-esque kills by killer toys and some more inappropriately bug-and-creature themed toys/effects by Screaming Mad George (Larry the Larvae?!?! REALLY??!!). If you have some decent egg nog, maybe a fresh bag of frankincense, or, like me, have a couple of howlers of Dorian Millionaire, you could do worse for a holiday horror film (like I did, watching films 3 and 4 of this series). I mean, it’s Mickey Rooney, slumming his heart out and losing his shit in a Christmas horror flick that features Clint Howard. It’s exactly watch it sounds like.

Silent Night, Deadly Night V: The Toy Maker, gets two and a half terrorizing toys out of five, and a “Let’s put on a show, Judy” for good measure.

Dorian Millionaire gets a solid five pints out of five, and should be on your Christmas list year.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Festivus, or just happy nearly end-of-2020.

However you celebrate, be safe: watch anything other than these three films, or yule be sorry…

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