Fear of Santa Claus Part 6 (Silent Night, 2012)

sndn_remake_posterIn this 2012 remake of the original film, Santa has something he was missing in the first film.  A freaking flame thrower.

The film opens right away with Santa killing an adulterous couple.  He then shows up at the front door of a greedy little snot and kills her.  Yeah, we see the killer off a kid in the first ten minutes or so.  Jaime King is a deputy in a small town with about one hundred Santas, so you know it is going to be hard to find the one in the creepy mask killing people.

This film is largely about the kills.  The original has it’s cult following for some of it’s kills (including using deer antlers-repeated in this film).  But here they are far more elaborate, and bloody.  Fargo’s wood chipper has nothing on this film.  And a flame thrower.  Santa has a flame thrower.

Unlike the original, this film opts for a mystery.  We are not given the killer’s identity right from the start.  We do not know his or her motive.  And this is one of the more effective parts of this remake.  A lack of discernible intent often makes for an effectively unnerving movie monster.

The cast here is pretty decent.  Malcolm McDowell turns in a performance that admittedly is more about it being Malcolm McDowell.  King is dependably sympathetic. Donal Logue is pretty entertaining as a lazy Santa who tells kids stuff like their parents might sell their gifts on Ebay and that you cannot trust parents.

One area where the film follows the original is a general undercurrent of sleaze.  McDowell’s police chief even wonders just when the town got so sleazy.  In place of mean nuns, there is a lascivious pastor.  He seems like a creep from the get go when he tells King’s deputy that he will do anything to help her.  There is a local porn industry, drug users, adulterers.  Sometimes this works in the film…other times it feels like a cheap excuse for nudity

In certain respects, this is a far better film than the original or it’s sequels.  But that is what they call damning with faint praise.  The positives are about even with the negatives, and that is not enough to make a film worth the time to watch.

Fear of Santa Claus Pt 5 (Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: the Toymaker, 1991)

sndn_5_posterOh boy.  I genuinely feel bad for Mickey Rooney having this in his resume.  On the other hand, the fact that he blasted the original film…well, it is kind of poetic.  Rooney is kindly elderly toy-maker Joe Petto.  Obviously, subtlety is not a priority for the film makers. Along with his son Pino (again, subtlety is a lost art), he runs a toy store. In case you missed it, there is a scene where a babysitter reads Pinocchio to a kid. His toys do not compete very well with the modern mass produced toys.  But the film is not really about them…

It is about young Derek and his Mother Sarah.  After a toy kills her husband, Derek stops talking, and he does not trust toys.  Sarah is doing her best with Derek, and is unaware she is being stalked by a guy who just got out of the military.  Don’t worry, he is actually Derek’s real father.  Meanwhile, high tech toys are killing people.

The reveal of the person behind the killer toys is really no surprise.  Although, the drive behind it is a bit…unique.  Pino really wants Sarah to be his mom.  This film continues the odd fascination with kids spying on people having sex.  I am starting to suspect the people behind this franchise have a real unhealthy fear of sex.  I mean, they just cannot avoid making a situation creepy.  He wants to kill Derek and take his place, except Pino sees loving Sarah like she was his real mother as…well…incest.

No, Silent Night, Deadly Night does not finally elevate the franchise…it just keeps getting worse.  About the only positive aspect is that the toy effects are good practical effects.  This is not all that surprising, as they were designed and created by master effects-man Screaming Mad George.  But it is not enough to make the film recommendable.  And Ron Howard’s brother Clint makes a brief appearance as Ricky…it is unclear if this is the same Ricky from the previous film.

An interesting side note, the director Martin Kitrosser appears to be the go to script supervisor for Quentin Tarantino.

Fear of Santa Claus Pt 4 (Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation, 1990)

sndn_4_posterThis fourth film is an old to good old fashioned man-hating feminism.  I kind of wonder if it was ghost written by Rush Limbaugh.  It is also the first film in the series to have no killer Santas.

Ambitious young reporter Kim is trying to break through the man’s world of investigative journalism.  She is researching a story about a young woman who lept from the roof of a building and burst into flames.  While investigating, she meets Octopussy.  Well, Fima, but she is played by Maud Adams.  Fima invites Kim to a special get together of her feminist book club.  Kim starts to have visions of worms and stuff.

The film is full of scenes where people espouse all sorts of basic caricatures of feminism and anti-feminism.  Kim talks like the version of feminism from a guy who did a quick google search on feminism.  Listen, I get that Google did not exist when the movie was made.  That is not the point.  There is no depth to the characters.  No deep motivation to their ideals and beliefs.

Kim finds that Fima and her friends are a witches coven that are trying to bring Kim into the fold for a winter sacrifice.  Ultimately, she cannot, because that sacrifice?  Involves killing a little boy, so she fights back.

Unlike the other films in the franchise, this is not a slasher.  Instead, this is more of a body horror film.  Not unlike Cronenberg, director Brian Yunza has an obsession with gruesome body deformations and changes.  The film is also heavily focused on bugs.  Because…bugs.

The effects are very strong, as created by the effects artist Screaming Mad George.

Clint Howard plays a homeless guy named Ricky, but it is unclear if he is the same Ricky as the previous two films.  He seems to be the “Weird Homeless Guy” the film needs to creep out Kim and is a servant to the witches.  Guess they needed a man after all.

Fear of Santa Claus Pt 3 (Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out, 1989)

sndn_3_posterIn the 3rd installment, things get weird.  The first two films were straight up slasher films.  This film introduces a psychic blind girl who has a connection to Ricky.  Ricky was not killed in the second film…instead he is in a coma and someone chopped off the top of his head and replaced it with a plastic dome which shows off his brain.  So, yeah…it is getting weird.

Why scientists would want to have a psychic connect with a serial killer is a bit uncertain, though they say something about seeing what he sees.  But of course, Ricky wakes up and pursues Laura (the previously mentioned blind psychic girl) to her family gathering at a cabin.  And he, you know, kills people.

One of the things that stands out is just how truly unpleasant Laura is.  Especially when she is talking to her brother and his girlfriend.  Both are friendly and kind towards her, and all she can do is offer snarky and condescending comments.

Robert Culp is the police officer pursuing Ricky, which I suspect was an attempt to make the film seem more legit.  On Culp’s part, I suspect it was simply a paycheck.  Culp is probably the strongest thing in the film, and his exchanges with the doctor responsible for Ricky’s reawakening can be amusing.  The doctor has his moments, as when he tell’s Culp in a deadly serious voice “Science is the only way to restore our innocence.”

I am a big fan of Bill Moseley, who plays Ricky here…but the character does not offer him much opportunity to perform.  He just stumbles around, looking like he is in a daze.  And sometimes he says “Laura” in a raspy whisper.  But hey, he has a dome on his head.  That is something.

This might very well be the best film in the franchise.  But make being less terrible is still quite terrible.

Fear of Santa Claus Pt 2 (Silent Night, Deadly Night 2, 1987)

sndn_2_posterIn the first film, there is a baby in the car with Billy.  We hear nothing about that baby until the end of the film that this baby is Billy’s little brother Ricky.  Which matters a bit more for this film.  Number 2 deals with a grown up Ricky.

Often with sequels, especially in the horror genre, there is habit of telling the same story, simply with new characters.  The producers of this film apparently found that to daunting of a task.  So, we find that Ricky is institutionalized.  He is being interviewed by a psychiatrist about his story.  So, he begins to tell the story of the first film.  The first forty minutes or so are scenes from the original film with narration by Ricky.  After that we get all new flashbacks as Ricky recounts his own mad killing spree of naughty people.  He apparently did not wear a Santa suit or center his rampage around Christmas.  This lasts another thirty minutes.  The last fifteen minutes or so is his Christmas rampage as he goes to find and kill Mother Superior from the orphanage where he grew up.  He blames her for for Billy and his sociopath leanings. So, it takes until the last fifteen minutes before Ricky dons a Santa Suit.

Yes, this film is almost entirely a flashback, reusing a whole lot of footage from the first film.  It is not particularly well acted or well written.  In one scene, Ricky appears behind a nun and yells boo.  I mean, he yells it like “Boooooooo!”    The effects are pretty mundane, and the one liners pretty weak.  Okay, the utterly ridiculous “Trash Day!!!” as Ricky shoots a guy who is bringing his trash to the curb (no idea what he did that was so naughty) is kind of funny.  It even appears on t-shirts.

This second entry is no better than the first.  It is very representative of the worst types of horror movie sequels.

Fear of Santa Claus Pt 1 (Silent Night Deadly Night, 1984)

sndn_posterSilent Night, Deadly Night opens with little Billy and his family visiting Grandpa.  Gramps is a bit senile and instills dread in young Ricky of Santa Claus.  He warns Billy that Santa Claus will punish the wicked…on the drive home, his dad stops to help Santa on the side of the road…Santa is actually a ruthless criminal who kills Billy’s family as he hides.

Billy ends up in an orphanage, run be mean nuns way into corporal punishment.  At 18, the nuns get him a job in a toy store where he ends up playing the store Santa.  When he witnesses a guy attempting to rape the girl he likes he loses it and goes on a rampage killing the naughty.

This film was highly controversial at the time, as it featured a guy in a Santa suit killing people and that was beyond the pale.  Mickey Rooney blasted the filmmakers as scum for attacking the sacredness of Christmas.  This will become very ironic in a few days.  The thing is, the movie is not worthy of the outrage.  It is pretty terrible, even by the standards of the slasher genre.  This is no Black Christmas or Halloween.  t is not even Friday the 13th part two.  The acting is stiff, and the setup is ridiculous.  And to top it off, the film tends to indulge in sleaze in a way other slashers of the time did not.  The nuns are the worst stereotypes of nuns…they lack any sense of humanity.  They angrily delight in physical abuse of their charges.

Black Christmas was the father of modern slashers and is a solid winner.  And more recent fare, such as Krampus, indulge a fun side.  But Silent Night, Deadly Night lack neither the spirit of fun or the thrills.  It is not unnerving, but rather simply unpleasant.

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