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Old 12-21-2004, 08:52 AM
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Default Silent Night, Deadly Night 1/2




Reviewer: Rhett
Review Date: December 25, 2004

Released by: Anchor Bay
Release date: 10/7/2003
MSRP: $19.98
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes



inline Image Most people have milk and cookies on Christmas, but when cheese is in order, there will always be the Silent Night, Deadly Night series. Followed by a furor of outrage and controversy, the original film debuted in 1984 to buffo box office. The controversy eventually quenched its chances at long term success, but home video became a safe haven where the film would generate a dedicated audience. Three years later came Silent Night, Deadly Night, Part 2 and three more unrelated sequels would eventually follow. As far as Christmas perennials go, Silent Night, Deadly Night pretty much has the horror market covered. Last year Anchor Bay released the first two films after years of anticipation, but with each passing Christmas comes revitalized interest in the adventures of Billy and Mother Superior. Through a log on the fire and let’s tear the wrapping off this bad boy.

The Story

inline Image Silent Night, Deadly Night begins as most slashers do. Normalcy is disturbed when a traumatic death drives one of its onlookers to kill in the future. Except, in Silent Night, Deadly Night, the killer is dressed as Santa, the emblem of holiday cheer. Little Billy, after receiving a bad omen from his seemingly comatose grandfather, witnesses his mother raped and murdered by a man dressed in a Santa suit. The images of sex and violence stay entrenched in his mind, as he forever links the two with the symbol of Jolly old Saint Nick. A mulletted, new Billy is put in a foster home, and continuous mistreatment from the evil Mother Superior (Lilyan Chauvin) further corrupts his morals. As Billy finally ages into adulthood, he views Santa as a man who punishes those who have been naughty…with death!

inline Image Billy (now played by Robert Brian Wilson) gets a job at Ira’s Toys, where he is an instant hit with the kids and with the manager. In a Mentos-like montage, Billy’s endearing persona and hard work ethic are emphasized, capped off with him denying the temptations of alcohol for the calcium goodness of milk. Thattaboy, Billy! But as Christmas begins to loom, Billy starts to feel the old anxieties quell up again. When he is forced to wear the Santa suit for the kiddies, Billy undergoes a horrific transformation. Intent on punishing those abiding by the slasher conventions of drinking and having sex, Billy unleashes a world of “Punish!” Mother Superior is last on his list, but the police are hot on his trail.

inline Image Silent Night, Deadly Night just might be the most mean spirited movie ever made. The kind of torture that Billy is subjected to makes I Spit on Your Grave seem comparatively tame. Billy first has the shock and displeasure of witnessing his grandfather come out of coma just to tell him that Santa is going to punish him. That is followed by Billy watching his parents get shot and his mom stripped and raped. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he watches a nun have sex and is subsequently beaten with a belt for it. Not only that, but the ungodly mullet he is given with is a haircut wished on nobody. He is forced to wear a Santa suit, and then witnesses yet another raping just in time for present giving. The movie goes to such great lengths to make Billy a sympathetic character, but damned if it isn’t some of the darkest setup in cinema history. Not only that, but a deaf, old priest in a Santa suit is also shot down in gory glory. Who said Christmas was happy?

inline Image Yet, despite the inherent mean-spiritedness, the dark tone is offset by a healthy dosage of fromage. Early on, the film establishes a Troll 2 dialectic with the grandpa-grandson relationship, and the results are nearly as cheesy. The grandfather channels a certain Grandpa Seth quality, spouting off overly serious lines that can only be seen by the young protagonist. When Billy grows to age 8, it is impossible not to laugh at how he suddenly gets freckles, a gap in his teeth and a sultry mullet. His line readings are nearly as bad as Joshua’s in Troll 2. The real cheese kicks in though, with each of the older Billy’s murders. Like Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare on Elm Street was oddly released day and date with Silent Night,Deadly Night), Billy utters a one liner with each kill. His verb of choice is “Punish!” although he interchangeably uses “Naughty!” on a regular basis. What makes it all so enjoyable is the seriousness with which Robert Brian Wilson approaches his character. His role is written with a Sandler-esque seriousness, yet he approaches it as if he were Marlon Brando.

inline Image The last ingredient that makes the film a fine yuletide dish is the gratuitous sleaze. Voyeurs will bask at all the naked on-looking that goes on throughout, as Billy seems to possess a raw talent of seeing every beautiful girl acquaintance naked regardless of location. Nuns, co-workers, his mother and even Linnea Quigley all give a little to the leer of the camera. Quigley’s performance is most notable, marking a stunning screen debut alongside her grave-baring in 1984’s Return of the Living Dead. Her scene in this film, where as her boyfriend points out, Santa isn’t the only one who comes, is one of the hotter bits of slasher screen nudity. This movie loves to watch, and Linnea is more than happy to show.

inline Image Silent Night, Deadly Night is one of those movies that tries so deliberately to offend, but it succeeds in eliciting a short of shameful enjoyment in the bah humbugging of one of the cheeriest days of the year. It is not exactly the Christmas movie you want to tell your parents about, but it sure is a fun bit of mean-spiritedness while it lasts.

inline Image Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 picks up a decade or so after the first film, where Billy’s little brother who saw it all, Ricky (Eric Freeman), recollects the traumatic incidents of the first film. Someone needs to tell Ricky about brevity though, as his flashbacking takes nearly half the film until it is complete – easily the longest flashback sequence in history. The flashbacking is poorly covered by the plot device of having Ricky confess everything to a psychiatrist. Later dialogue like “Mother Superior is retired and living alone now” also doesn’t help the prestige of the film. That’s right, Mother Superior (now Jean Miller) is still alive, and Ricky is determined to finish what his brother started those many years ago. Escaped and angry, he roams the streets seeking vengeance.

inline Image Forty five minutes of flashbacks apparently weren’t enough to pad the short 88 minute runtime, so a side story of Ricky and a former girlfriend is also included. It involves a mishap at a theatre that, surprisingly, is playing Silent Night, Deadly Night. This is apparently included to demonstrate the roots of Ricky’s insanity. Ricky goes on another neighborhood massacre before finally dawning the Santa suit and heading over to Mother Superior’s one last time. Together, they will share a nice warm glass of “Punish!”

inline Image Silent Night, Deadly Night, Part 2 is much less mean-spirited than the original. Less concerned with imposing a social message or inverting the cheery clichés of Christmas, Part 2 instead revels in empty gore and comedy bits. If the first film was like A Nightmare on Elm Street, than this one is Freddy’s Revenge – much less accomplished, and more content in exploiting the duality of the scary and witty antagonist. Unlike Robert Englund though, Eric Freeman lacks the charisma or the menace of Freddy, and instead comes off as one big joke.

inline Image Freeman is full of one liners, “Garbage Day!” being his most infamous, but they are memorable in a Mystery Science Theatre manner. Freeman tries to hard to infuse his character with the kind of intensity that Robert Brian Wilson brought in the first film, but it just comes across as forced. The entire movie tries too hard, in fact, always trying to one-up the antics of the original. The first film had impalement by deer horns, so this one has impalement by umbrella (that opens, no less). The car jumper electrocution is much more extreme than anything else in the film, and ends off seeming incredibly hokey. The first film, with all its sleaze and cheese, managed to entertain because it took itself so seriously. Part 2 is in on the joke, like a child that knows he is cute, and spends the entire time consciously trying to show you how funny it is. The results are understandably lesser.

inline Image The main story of Ricky and Mother Superior is actually quite effective. The payoff in the end is worth the wait, and the end is classic sequel starting slasher shtick. It is the core of the film, no doubt, yet it runs only a quarter or so of the runtime. What ultimately bogs the film down, and may just be the attraction, is the excessive padding. Designed, especially on this DVD, to be a double feature with the first film, the 45 minutes of flashback footage from the original becomes numbingly repetitive. The theatre footage, while not as repetitive, is equally as vapid and needless. Still, the not-so-eloquent recycling of Silent Night, Deadly Night, over-the-top performance of Eric Freeman and wild death scenes add up to give the film a bad movie campiness that is good for at least a few disparaging snickers.

Image Quality

Before playing the first film, there is a screen that informs of the two prints used for the transfer of Silent Night, Deadly Night. The majority of the 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer is taken from a high quality film print, while some of the gore footage is taken from what seems to be a tape master. As you can guess, the print quality is radically different and at times distracting. Like the director’s cut of Army of Darkness, the discrepancy in film elements is always noticeable. Still, the transfer presented is the most complete transfer possible, and most fans will be happy to take it anyway they can get it.


inline Image inline Image
Tape Footage
Film Footage



The majority of the footage looks very sharp, clean and detailed. The textures of each brick can be seen in the exteriors at the orphanage, and every pit on grandpa’s face comes through. Color saturation is also admirable on the parts of the transfer taken from the high quality print. The footage from the tape master unfortunately looks much worse. The most noticeable imperfection is the softness – it looks as if the film was being shown through a foggy glass. Not only that, but the colors are much more washed out and aged, overcast with a slightly yellowish hue. Blacks lack depth and appear more as shades of grey. There is even some print damage noticeable on the tape portions of the master. Still, as noticeable as the added segments are, the majority of this transfer is still very nice and a major improvement over VHS and Laserdisc.

Silent Night, Deadly Night, Part 2 looks better on the whole than the first film. Without any tape footage to hold it back, the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks very good, especially considering its extremely low budget. Colors aren’t quite as vivid as they could be, as everything has kind of a cold palette, but saturation is still acceptable. The print is very clean, with virtually no marks or damage of note, and the transfer is comparatively as sharp as the good footage from the first film. There is a bit more grain and the print looks a smidge blurrier, but for a film approaching twenty years old, it looks pretty good. Considering the relative obscurity of these two films, Anchor Bay has done a nice job in working with the footage they had available.

Sound

Both films are presented in no frills mono, and its sounds as one would expect. The cheesy Christmas music comes across without distortion, and explosions register without hiss or pop. But it all sounds pretty flat, but for these kind of movies, that will do just fine.

Supplemental Material

inline Image Despite being a double feature flipper disc, Anchor Bay has still managed to amass a fair number of supplements on this release. The first film contains a 35-minute phone interview with director Charles E. Sellier, Jr. and he is pretty talkative regarding production, his involvement with Grizzly Adams(!) and the need for filmmakers today to be more responsible than he was when he made Silent Night, Deadly Night. His slight drawl and roundabout way of discourse is both personable and at times boring, as he seems to extend everything much longer than it need be. Still, he remembers quite a bit from the production, and his stance on moral and responsible filmmaking is admirable, seeing as most people would decline altogether to discuss a film with as much controversy as this.

inline Image Anchor Bay fleshes out the controversy with a few slide galleries. The first is a very engaging “Santa’s Stocking of Outrage”, which features complaints from newspapers, petitioners and even Mickey Rooney on why the film deserved to be banned. Unfortunately there were no comments by Siskel or Ebert, despite their anti-slasher campaigning on their Sneak Peaks show. Still, it gives a good historical context to all the outrage that the film had to endure. The poster and still gallery further exploits the controversy, as many of the posters make mention of the film being what everyone didn’t want the viewer to see. If the film succeeded at anything, it was definitely marketing.

inline Image Part 2 has a much more expansive set of supplements, first of which is a feature length commentary with writer/director Lee Harry, writer Joseph H. Earle and actor James Newman. While right from the start the exclusion of Eric Freeman is a slight distraction, the three more than make up for it with some collected and reminiscent banter. The three enjoy looking back on this cheapie and thankfully do not take it to seriously. They are kind of pressed for substance to discuss for the first half, given they are watching footage from a film in which they had no involvement. But when the real footage from Part 2 kicks in, they divulge more pertinent information. Still, the three are always cracking jokes, and that is really how this film should be seen in the first place anyway.

The next big extra is the shooting script, included as a DVD-ROM exclusive. Providing further proof that the film was full of needless padding, the screenplay runs a slight 62 pages, which in standard filmmaking terms should translate into 62 minutes of actual screen time, not 88. The screenplay is fairly amateur, but still, it is interesting to see for those wondering how to write in flashbacks in their own future screenplays. The disc is rounded off with a bad theatrical trailer and a fairly brief still and poster gallery.


Final Thoughts

For those looking for horror this Christmas, and for those looking for something a little less serious than the masterpiece Black Christmas, the Silent Night, Deadly Night films are just what Santa ordered. Filled with cheese, sleaze and everything else that good slashers are made of, both the first and second installments have their qualities. The video transfers on both films look very good despite some intermittent cuts to tape footage in the first film. The sound for both is run of the mill mono, but the supplements on both films are much more satisfying. There could have been a little more extras, but what is there will no doubt satisfy fans of the series. For $19.98 for both films, it will be the perfect stalking stuffer for any slasher fan.

Rating

Silent Night, Deadly Night

Movie - B
Image Quality - B+
Sound - C
Supplements - B

Silent Night, Deadly Night, Part 2

Movie - C+
Image Quality - A-
Sound - C
Supplements - B+

Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Running time - 1 hour 25 minutes (Part 1), 1 hour 27 minutes (Part 2)
  • Not Rated (Part 1), R (Part 2)
  • 1 Disc (Flipper)
  • Chapter Stops
  • English Mono
Supplements
  • Silent Night, Deadly Night
  • Audio interview with director Charles E. Sellier, Jr.
  • Santa's Stocking of Outrage
  • Still and poster gallery

    Silent Night, Deadly Night, Part 2
  • Audio Commentary with writer/editor/director Lee Harry, writer Joseph H. Earle and actor James Newman
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Poster and still gallery
  • Screenplay (DVD-ROM only)

Other Pictures

 

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Old 12-31-2004, 04:36 AM
Thanks for the review of one of my favorite Xmas movies ever. SN, DN Part 1 and Black Christmas are mandatory viewing at Xmas time every year in my house.
 
 
Old 02-24-2005, 04:50 AM
The first SNDL scared the hell out of me when I was like 12 or 13, so I was eager to see it again 20 years later to see how it held up. It's still kind of creepy and has some very hip anti-Catholicism undertones. Part Two, however, is a waste of time except for the immortal line, "Garbage Day!"
 
 
Old 03-11-2005, 08:52 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Coverdale
Part Two, however, is a waste of time except for the immortal line, "Garbage Day!"
You took the words out of my mouth, Coverdale.

Haven't stopped by horrordvds.com for a while, but it is nice to see my all-time favourite "good bad" movie reviewed.

The first one is truly a classic of the sub-genre (i.e. Christmas-related slasher pics), which had me yelling "PUNISH!" at just about everything. As Coverdale rightly pointed out, the second film is kind of pointless, although it is kind of fun in its own way, with REALLY bad overacting (contrasting the underacting in the flashbacks), and the "Garbage Day!" line will forever be comedy gold.

Hopefully we will see the rest of the series on the round and shiny things soon.
 
 

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