Thursday, December 25, 2014

SILENT NIGHT, Holy Shitmas (A Shitmas Post by Haunted House Indy's Nick Mecee)

The year was 1984 and the holiday horror cult classic SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT was released upon the world (on the same day as Wes Craven’s classic A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, by the way – pretty cool seeing two franchises born on the same day).  Slammed by critics and protested by parents and Christian organizations alike, SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT would go on become a sub-genre favorite of slasher fans and aficionados.

But this post isn’t about the ’84 flick.  This is about the 2012 remake SILENT NIGHT, which rightfully dropped the DEADLY NIGHT from the title since most of the kills take place in broad daylight – which, again, I’m okay with.  So technically, the SILENT NIGHT remake is really just a loose remake with some decent subtle homages to the original series, namely the first two SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT films.

I realize there is already a SILENT NIGHT Shitmas post by Jesse Bartel, so I’ll try not to rehash anything here.  So instead of comparing and contrast the original with this re-whatever, this will be somewhat of a straight-up, stand-a-lone, review.  Sound good?  Okay, let’s go.

The film opens with an eerie holiday beat, inside a decrepit house while Christmas songs play on an old radio in the background.  We’re given glimpses of a man “preparing” for the season, decking himself out as what I can only describe as the creepiest Santa Claus ever.  All the while a bound-and-gagged woman squirms in another room.

Downstairs, in the basement, a man is tied to a chair and wrapped in Christmas lights.  The killer taunts him with an axe (an homage to the original, where the killer primarily used an axe as his weapon) before flipping a switch and electrocuting the man to death – his eyes eventually bursting (an homage to SNDN2, where a character’s eyes burst in an identical murder sequence).

And then the title card.  White letters which fade to a deep, blood, red.

Cut to the next day, where we’re introduced to our main protagonist, played by the gorgeous Jaime King, who portrays Deputy Aubrey Bradimore.  King shines in the horror genre and I’d love to see her do more stuff.

And then we meet Sheriff Cooper, played by the whacky Malcolm McDowell (famously known for his stint as Alex in Stanley Kubrick’s classic A CLOCKWORK ORANGE).  I want to say that I liked his character, but it came across as a replay of his Dr. Loomis character in the Rob Zombie-directed HALLOWEEN movies, especially HALLOWEEN II.  It’s almost as if McDowell was still in Loomis mode when he filmed SILENT NIGHT, even though there’s a three year gap between the roles.

As seems to be the norm in slasher movies, the killer is using inventive ways to kill people on Christmas Eve – all the while, Cooper and Bradimore are hunting down the lunatic.  The only lead they have to go in is that the killer was dressed as Santa Claus.  But in their small little town, that proves to be a tougher assignment than usual, as seemingly everyone is dressed as jolly ole St. Nick.

And that how we meet Santa Jim, played by the hilarious Donal Logue.  Although, this is one of the first roles I can’t think of where Logue takes sort of a dark turn (remember, I only ever really knew him from TV’s GROUNDED FOR LIFE).  Logue plays a Santa who wouldn’t exactly find himself on the Nice list.  Get my drift?

But like all the town’s Santas, Santa Jim is but yet another red herring.

Filling the gap between the opening scene and the third act are those broad daylight kills I spoke of earlier.  A few that stand out are a pornographer and his assistant being slaughtered in a hotel room and another being a continuation of that scene.  The porn subject escapes only to be tracked down in a Christmas tree farm, where she finds herself being shoved into a wood chipper.  Not too shabby for the daytime.

Another town Santa reveals a little backstory regarding another Santa from the town’s past – one who went berserk with a flame thrower.  And, thus, it is revealed that our current killer Santa is the son of the previous killer Santa.

And the whodunit mystery is over, if there ever was one.

The film climaxes in the police department, where the killer unleashes all-out war on the remaining officers and staff.  Yes, this includes bringing back his father’s trademark flame thrower.

And no slasher movie would be complete without an open ending.  Despite being believed dead in the fiery conclusion, we are shown the killer, as an everyday town’s folk, still very much alive.

Now for a few things to get off my chest.  Yes, I was a little disappointed that this remake didn’t follow the original’s story of Billy, a boy tormented by Christmas all his life, until one Christmas Eve he snaps.  But, you know, that’s okay.  The original, for being what it is, is a charming little holiday horror flick – and I’m actually pretty happy that SILENT NIGHT didn’t follow that route.

Instead, we got an “original” slasher with some pretty cool homages to the original (like the deer antler kill).

So that’s SILENT NIGHT.  A modern psycho Santa movie with a moderate budget and a respectable cast.  Is it a cinematic masterpiece?  No, not by any means.  But it does hold true to the true meaning of Shitmas.

Merry Shitmas, everyone!

Nick Meece

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