Directed by: Lee Harry
Written By: Lee Harry and Joseph H. Earle
Starring: Eric Freeman, James Newman, Elizabeth Kaitan, and Jean Miller
Reviewed by: Wes R.
“You stood me up, you cheated on me, you ruined my best sweater, and I would rather die before I’d go out
with you again!”
“What are you trying to say?”
with you again!”
“What are you trying to say?”
Could a horror movie that was reportedly filmed in 10 days be any good at all? Many of Roger Corman’s better (and lesser) efforts can boast a similar filming schedule. However, let us also add the fact that the movie in question is a sequel to one of the most over-the-top and out-right fun holiday slasher movies of them all. The 80s was the decade of the sequel, so how could someone possibly screw up a sequel about a killer dressed as Santa? Seems like such an easy task. The Friday the 13th films followed a very similar formula to the original throughout their run, as did the Nightmare on Elm Street films. If the original Silent Night, Deadly Night’s formula worked, why then did the makers of this (the first of many sequels) take such a bizarre turn? Well, let’s find out.
After Billy (the killer in Silent Night, Deadly Night) is killed, the implication is that his brother Ricky (seeing his demise first-hand) will take up the reigns in the next film. No surprise, as this is exactly where we start off in Part 2. Of course, we don’t see Ricky’s rampage…yet. Things begin with Ricky in a mental ward being taped talking to a psychiatrist. For most of the film, there really isn’t a “plot” so to speak. Instead, we just get Ricky talking to the doc, accompanied by flashbacks of the first film and flashbacks of events which we have never seen before. All the narration and flashbacks lead up to Ricky breaking out of the psych ward and then engaging in a showdown with Mother Superior (played by a different actress this time out). Will Ricky finish the job that his older brother Billy started in the first one? Will the viewers really care, either way?
No doubt, you’ve probably heard the main complaint about Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2 dozens of times. You’ve likely heard that the plot is mostly comprised of footage from the first film, via plentiful flashbacks. Some fans dislike the film to such a degree that they would rather not even talk about it. When the prospect of reviewing this one for Christmas came up here at Oh, The Horror, one reviewer who shall remain nameless, got upset to the point of using a string of profanities at the thought of having to sit through the film again for review. Never having seen the film before, I figured “It can’t be THAT bad” and thus, stepped in to tackle the writing duties for what I can safely say now is probably one of the most ill-conceived sequels of all horror history. Most of what you’ve heard is true. Although to be honest, only the first forty minutes or so are made up of flashback footage of the first movie. The middle section is devoted to flashbacks of what I'm assuming a true sequel to the first movie would’ve been (making the "present day" of the scenes of Ricky and his doctor more or less the third story/sequel, I guess?) Then we get a fifteen minute finale of Ricky stalking and attacking Mother Superior during Christmas. What shocked me most about the film was its over reliance on footage from the original film. Sure, you get an opening montage in the first few Friday the 13th that catches audiences up to speed with what all has gone before. However, here, footage is used with such frequency (nearly 40 minutes worth), and length that you almost wonder if they even had a script when they started shooting. It reminds me most of a film version of the type of compilation show that some sitcoms would use to pad out their episode count once they had a few seasons under their belt. You know, the kind of show where the characters would be stuck somewhere (like an elevator) and talk about all the nutty things they’d gotten into in past episodes, accompanied by clips of said moments. That’s exactly what the first half of this film feels like. Forget any notions of originality. It's a “best of” Silent Night, Deadly Night.
While the original Silent Night, Deadly Night is far from a classic, scary horror film, it’s one heck of a fun slasher flick. And we see a number of the most fun moments from that movie played out at length in this one. Why then, am I panning this? As a movie, it just feels unnecessary. It feels like a budget-less cash-in. It’s as if someone said “hey, think we could repackage the original as a sequel and no one will notice?” It’s a waste of time with any notions of new story as an afterthought. It's the kind of thing Toho used to do with some of the lazy, latter day 1970s Godzilla films that reused footage from the earlier ones. A number of new scenes in the movie are also written off as flashbacks, so why should the audience care if all that we’re seeing has already happened? Where is the fear? Why can't we see the "movie" where those scenes happened in real time? The one flashback from the original that really would’ve made sense for inclusion would’ve been the moment at the beginning when little Billy is pulled aside by his crazy grandpa and told the horrors of Christmas. Of course, Ricky wasn’t around for that, but why should that matter? Ricky recollects the murder of his mom and dad, despite the fact that he was an infant during said sequence. The point is, if you’re going to go to the trouble to watch the best parts of the first film... just watch the first film. It’s never boring, it has good kills, it features Linnea Quigley’s amazing rack fully exposed... some of these things are presented in flashback here, but c’mon. Just watch the original. It’s worth nothing that the death scenes in this one are from the R-rated theatrical cut, so again, you’d be better off getting a copy of the original movie on DVD, where you can experience the uncut version.
The script, though moderately successful in creating memorably cheesy dialogue, is a true groaner. At one point, one intended victim actually says aloud “Uh oh!” as Ricky zeros in on her. I kid you not. The acting ranges from paltry to passable. To be honest, for the small amount of time that I’m sure he had to prepare for his role, Eric Freeman isn’t all that bad as Ricky...as far as over-the-top, hilarious horror film villain portrayals go. He’s certainly crazier than Billy was and also shares that 80s prettyboy thing (looking more like he should’ve been on a sitcom than a horror movie). It doesn't help that his motivations for killing is kind of hokey too. Does Ricky have something against Santa? Not really. Here, he's prompted to kill merely by seeing the color red in any form. That's it. Red. The kills themselves weren’t too bad, but not nearly as good as those in the original. My favorite would have to be the umbrella scene. It came completely out of nowhere and made me smile with its audacity and style. The jumper cable one would’ve been pretty decent too, if the actor playing Ricky hadn’t kept his hand on the victim’s throat during the electrocution (in real life, Ricky himself would’ve likely gotten as bad of a jolt, if not worse than the victim). The most memorable moment, though…upon finding a random guy outside taking his garbage out, Ricky yells the phrase “Garbage day!” and then shoots the man in the chest. The line is delivered with such gusto and passion, and is such an obvious attempt to inject Freddy Krueger-like humor into the series, that it truly leaps beyond bad and enters a category entirely its own. It's hard to believe that a film so inept as this actually had a director, but we are reminded that someone is controlling the camera movements by the fact that nearly all the main characters are introduced by first showing close-ups of their feet. Not sure if Lee Harry has some sort of foot fetish going on or what, but this trademark was quite noticeable.
The film doesn’t even really try to create a good Christmas ambiance, which for a film with “Silent Night” in the title and having the killer dress up (with only fifteen minutes to go) as Santa Claus, is kind of unforgivable. I realize the budget for this thing was pretty slight, but c’mon. We’ve all got Christmas decorations. The director and/or producers could’ve brought their own or even borrowed some from family and friends or bummed some from the local Salvation Army or the hair and makeup people. Someone could've made sure that there were ample decorations to give a good holiday feeling to the film. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be able to say “hey, my decorations can be seen in a movie!” But, there are very, very minimal decorations, and Christmas atmosphere during the film’s final fifteen minutes (and only what was seen in the original movie during the earlier flashback section). The music of the original film had a great, creepy Christmas synth thing going on. Here, there’s plenty of synth, but it sounds more like something you’d hear on meditation tapes circa 1985. Seriously, it’s bad. I keep mentioning the first movie, but it’s kind of hard not to when the film at hand uses it so much. One thing that throws everything into question however... at one point in this film, Ricky and his lady fair are watching a movie about a killer Santa Claus (what else would he be watching, right?) and the footage we see on-screen is, yes... from Silent Night, Deadly Night. So, if the first movie was just a “movie" in the universe of this film, and this movie is supposed to be “real”, then... ah, who cares.
When it comes to DVD, the film has only received one legit release in R1 and that was on the bottom half of a double feature with the original Silent Night, Deadly Night. As of this writing, that disc is out of print and Anchor Bay has since re-released the original, but not this sequel. Audio and video are fine, more than adequate for what this film probably deserves. Extras included are an audio commentary track and a photo gallery with behind the scenes photos, storyboards (!), and original promotional material. When it comes to the question of “would I recommend this film?” I’m a little bit torn. I think there is great merit in the film as a “so bad it’s good” type of situation. I laughed out loud more than once while watching it, and I have to say, it moderately kept me entertained with how awful it was. “Garbage day!” is a scene that has to be seen by every horror fan. I’ve definitely seen worse (I’m looking at you, Criminally Insane II) but if that film is a pile of poo, then this film is sort of like a fly that makes its living buzzing around, landing on, and rooting around in said pile. Where Criminally Insane II was painfully awful to sit through, Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 is simply in the laughably bad category. There were no smiles or giggles in Criminally Insane II, but I did have a minor bit of fun with this one, even though it’s pretty pointless in the extreme. Lacking originality, holiday cheer and chills, I wish I could say to toss this one. Deep down, I think everyone should see it at least once, especially if you’re into getting a group of friends together and watching bad movies this holiday season while funneling cold ones. In that type of scenario, my verdict is a very hesitant:
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