Monday, December 8, 2014

Why 2012's "SILENT NIGHT" Fails to Understand the Original (A Shitmas Post from Jesse Bartel)

In 1984, Charles Sellier directed a low budget horror film called SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT. To briefly sum it up, it’s about a boy who goes on a killing spree dressed like Santa after years of repression. It’s one of my favorite horror films and not because it’s great on a technical level, but it has heart. There is more to pick apart in that 1974 film than anything that hits theaters these days for the genre. After several sequels, we thought we would never see another film in the series ever again. But the remake bug bit SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT in 2012 and the titled was changed (shortened) to SILENT NIGHT. Steven C. Miller directed this mess starring Malcolm McDowell, Jamie King, Donal Logue, and Ellen Wong. It’s a horrendously boring movie that completely misses the point of the original film that came out all those years ago. Sure, it wanted to take a different approach to the material and yes, there are people who like it, but it doesn’t work. It’s an orgy of unoriginal ideas and clichés.
I wrote about SILENT NIGHT , DEADLY NIGHT last year for Shitmas and discussed its depiction of sex and murder being one in the same. It is a story of repression, the dangers of the church, and what happens to people who witness traumatic events, but never explore it. So, I felt I should follow it up with what I felt about the remake. Maybe next year I’ll rank all of the SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT movies? Hmmmm.

Now, on its surface, SILENT NIGHT is objectively bad. Yes, please give us another horror film that follows a cop around as they try to solve murders the audience already knows who the culprit is. Why are horror films fixated on police? I guess violent crimes attract the law, but I’m tired of watching a bunch of numbskulls try to figure out who’s going to die next.
Malcolm McDowell is thrown into an embarrassing role with dramatic lines that feel like they’re right out of an episode of CSI: MIAMI. I mean, he starts off the movie saying “MEEEEOOWWW.” Oh, how the might have fallen. I remember when he was playing Caligula and fucking Helen Mirren. Oh, and a GLEE reference? Go fuck yourself, SILENT NIGHT.

The score is a bit whimsical like it was ripped out of a Family Channel movie, the shaky cam is nauseating, the shaky-cam during deaths takes me out of it, and Donal Logue shows up to remind me that he is deserving of better roles (BRING TERRIERS BACK). Although I hear GOTHEM is alright but I have enough shit to watch, AMERICA.
But even with the technical stuff in the way, the main gripe I have with SILENT NIGHT is its abandonment of the original material for a low-rent slasher film. Listen, I don’t mind new takes on old material. I really liked the EVIL DEAD remake because reinvented the series without deviating from the original themes. I know people hate it and some of you might be clicking out of this post just because I said that but whatever, I’m open minded.
SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT, if I can briefly recap for you, took an orphan named Billy who was thrown into an orphanage after the tragic death of his parents. Since that moment, Santa represented the rape of his mother, therefore merging violence and sex in Billy’s mind. It didn’t help that he was in an institution that’s run by nuns. Billy had to repress his thoughts and sexuality until one night where his brain broke and he slashed his way to his old orphanage.
The original is not a “good” movie or directed well, and it’s only remembered for the protests it started outside theaters. But, there are interesting, Freudian themes there that makes it fun to watch and pick apart. Like FREDDY’S REVENGE, it’s a movie that works on a level that you wouldn’t expect and that is why I enjoy revisiting it.

Now take SILENT NIGHT which, alright, I’ll list off what I think is decent about it:
The kills are usually well done enough to watch. Well, aside from the fucker having to tilt his head every time which is apparently what every director thinks a killer should do. We have HALLOWEEN to blame for that.
Donald Logue is charismatic enough and helps brighten up the uninteresting script.
Deputy Bradimore is the most fleshed out character with plenty of impetus to find the killer.
The opening scene is alright, I guess.

SNDN followed the life of Billy so that when he threw a girl up on some antlers like he doesn’t give a fuck, we knew why he did it. The Santa in SN is turned into an imitation of Leatherface or so they would like you to believe in the opening clip. The difference between SNDN and SN with the kills, is that in the original, they were warranted, at least in the mind of Billy. In SB, Santa looks to only show up randomly and kill shitty kids who want to go shopping and dads who smoke? The randomized killing makes SN out to be just a slasher with no impact. It’s as if they wanted the Santa to be like Sam in TRICK ‘R TREAT. Also note the millions of Santas walking around. It’s not Halloween and no town has a fuck-ton of Santas unless it’s Santa-Con in NYC.
There are a few homages in SN that miss the point, as well. The first being the grandpa. If you remember from SNDN, the grandpa was a foreshadowing of things to come. It was cheesy and creepy, but set the tone for the film. The grandpa was the grandpa of Billy, too, so it added to that fucked up layer in the kid’s head. In SN, the grandpa tossed in to yell at a grandson (who is boning Tiffany with regularity, now) who later gets offed because whatever.
Which leads me to the second homage which I found annoying. Tiffany, I assume, who the deadbeat, Hanson-looking motherfucker was going to bone, gets impaled on the antlers. Now, in SNDN, that scene added to the idea that violence was sex in Billy’s mind. The antlers were phallic and you can put the two together, right? Once again that death had meaning, as trivial as it was.
Oh, and then there’s the “garbage day” reference. Good job, guys.
Then there is the ending of SN which decides to dump a backstory in the last five minutes. By the time we get to the end, no one cares it was some limp dicked revenge story. It comes out of nowhere, seemingly. I guess they wanted to give Santa a reason to kill people? But if he was after Bradimore, why didn’t he just show up at her house? The killer does all this extra legwork to avenge his daddy from years ago. He moves around the town like he’s Dr. Manhattan. It hardly resonates (even with that slow-mo burning dad scene) with me as a justification for anything he was doing. The end of SNDN on the other hand made much more sense. Billy was out to destroy what started it all – the orphanage. That was a logical conclusion to an otherwise clunky movie. I could get behind it.
SN misses the point of SNDN and does nothing with its new spin on the franchise. It’s a boring slasher with solid kills. It’s worth watching a highlight reel on YouTube, maybe, but there are other films you could waste time with. Like, watch the original again.

Silent Night (Trailer)

 - Jesse Bartel

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