APRIL 6 2016 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT PART 3
Last year I wrote about the Silent Night, Deadly Night series, but about half the article focuses on the original, with only a few paragraphs about the others. And while parts 3-5 don't really merit any further discussion, I think the immortal, legendarily terrible Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2 deserves some true "analysis". And by sheer coincidence, it's also been a while since I've done a Minute by Minute article!
Little bit of background before we begin. SNDN2 was originally planned to be nothing more than a re-edited version of the first film, featuring a few minutes' worth of new footage of a guy in a mental institute telling the story. However, director Lee Harry wanted something a little more substantial, and thus wrote/shot quite a bit, ending up with around 60 minutes of new footage, despite a short shooting schedule and a rather tight budget. However, what they shot was too short for a feature, so the film was padded out with recycled footage from part 1 after all. So they sort of "averaged out" the two ideas into one clunky movie, basically.
The excessive "flashbacks" are one of the film's most memorable elements. The other is the performance of Eric Freeman as Ricky, the younger brother of Billy, the first film's killer. Ricky is now an adult and locked up in an institution, telling his shrink the story of both Billy's murders and many of his own. Everyone knows the "Garbage Day!" scene (and his awful performance within it), but what they might not realize is that he's just as awkward and terrible throughout the entire movie - by the time "Garbage Day" comes along, you've become a bit numb to his constant off-kilter line readings and "eyebrow acting". Is it more bearable when only watching 88 seconds' worth of it? Let's find out!
00:00 We hit the ground running, as there are no logos at the top of the film, just a title reading "Silent Night Releasing Corporation Presents". This is not unusual for an Anchor Bay DVD, since until very recently all of their DVD releases were of films that were theatrically distributed by other studios. This is part of the reason why I have been unable to host a screening of the film - 35mm prints are impossible to find. But I hope. I hope...
01:00 A shot of Ricky over a whopping NINE cast member credits, which has to be a record for a film that has a full end credit sequence. I checked most of them; several have an IMDb page consisting solely of this movie. Poor sods.
02:00 A shot of Ricky's shoe under the composer credit.
03:00 Ladies and Gentlemen: ERIC FREEMAN!
04:00 An orderly being, er, ordered out of the room.
05:00 The orderly bursting back in.
06:00 Freeman making one of his faces with a super imposed title reminding us that today is December 24th. It's weird that it comes now, as people have been talking for three minutes at this point. Also, it's weird that this is the least weird thing about the movie.
07:00 Flashback of the mom in SNDN1. Now, part of the reason I wanted to minute by minute this entry is because of the common misconception that the film is over half recycled footage, when in reality I think it's closer to 1/3, maybe even less. So I will be keeping track of when we're in flashback territory, and tally it up at the end.
08:00 Flashback of Billy, after "Santa" shoots his mom. Many of the reused scenes are re-edited, but this one plays out pretty much the same. Though they skip over the grandfather scene, which is the most terrifying in the entire series.
09:00 Ricky's shrink reacting to Billy's story, neglecting to ask why his brother would tell him this horrible story in such vivid detail (Ricky was a baby during the murders).
10:00 Flashback shot of the orphanage.
11:00 Flashback shot of the two nuns, Mother Superior and Sister... I forget. The nice one who should have been in this entry as well.
12:00 Flashback of Billy talking to the nice nun.
13:00 Flashback of Billy snooping. Interesting bit of trivia about this scene - the original actors that he snoops on wouldn't allow their footage to be reused for the sequel (or demanded too much money, I forget), so the producers actually re-shot part of the scene. Imagine getting that gig? "I play an unnamed fornicating teen in the middle of a scene that's otherwise recycled from a different movie."
14:00 Flashback of the nuns talking to the kids outside. I can't remember the context.
15:00 Freeman! I should just only screenshot this guy. Guess it's as good a point as any to mention that he shockingly continued to find work after this, mostly on TV. His last credit was an episode of In Living Color, in 1992. How the hell is he not on the convention circuit? Hell even I'd pay 20 bucks for his autograph.
16:00 Flashback of Billy having nightmares. Jesus, what a rabbit hole this is - Ricky is flashing back to an event he wasn't present for, concerning another character having flashbacks.
17:00 Flashback of one of the original's more baffling moments, when Mother Superior makes Billy sit on Santa's lap (making another girl leave in the process) as some sort of deranged punishment.
18:00 Freeman pacing around the room.
19:00 Flashback of Billy, now 18 or so, trying on his Santa suit. Because when an orphanage arranges a job for someone, they never bother to tell the new employer about their tragic history so such things can be avoided.
20:00 Flashback of the drunken holiday party at the toy store.
21:00 Flashback of a couple going into the toy store's back room to fool around.
22:00 Flashback. Guess they're NOT a couple, as she's rebuffing his advances as he gets a bit rapey.
23:00 Flashback of Billy killing the girl he just saved from rape. Weird form of vigilantism.
24:00 Flashback of someone calling for help. The flashback count is currently 15 for 25, but there's not a lot of them left. However, if someone only watched this far, I can see how they might assume the movie is just all flashbacks, and not worth watching for the new footage since it features the worst actor ever given the lead in a theatrically released film.
25:00 Freeman calling Mother Superior a "bitch". I saw both of these films while I was still enrolled in Catholic school, and I can attest that Silent Night Deadly Night's depiction of nuns isn't really that far-fetched. One called even me an idiot because I was left handed. Hope Jesus caught that one.
26:00 Flashback of the original film's most memorable sequence, when Billy kills Linnea Quigley.
27:00 Flashback of Quigley's boyfriend, played by Leo Geter, who'd appear in another maligned "holiday horror" - Halloween 6 (as the Howard Stern wannabe). Oddly, this sequence makes a lot more sense in its re-edited form, making it look like Geter actually DID hear the commotion, whereas in the original version he somehow didn't hear his girlfriend screaming and being murdered in the next room.
28:00 Flashback of a hilarious bit in the original where a couple of cops see an innocent father dressed as Santa and nearly gun him down in front of his daughter.
29:00 Flashback of the awesome sled sequence. This is the sort of stuff that DOES kind of annoy me - how the hell did Ricky obtain information of what Billy was doing the night of his rampage, when he was killed before they ever spoke to each other again? Hell, Billy himself isn't even in this scene yet. Plus, while it's a funny murder, it doesn't really add anything to the story that Ricky is telling his shrink. I get that he wanted to provide some context for why HE is crazy, but recapping every single murder Billy committed is unnecessary.
Oh hey look, I just put more thought into this movie than anyone involved with its creation.
30:00 Flashback, still on the sledding bullies.
31:00 Eyebrows: ATTACK!
32:00 Flashback of a Santa approaching the orphanage.
33:00 Flashback of the cop approaching the "Santa" he just killed. This was the original film's most mean-spirited (read: fucking amazing) moment, since the Santa was not Billy but a priest who was playing St. Nick for the kids. Oddly, in this version they change his identity to that of a janitor, which has always puzzled me. Did they think they went too far, or something?
34:00 Flashback of a cop car speeding along.
35:00 Flashback: "PUNISH!"
36:00 Flashback of Mother Superior trying to keep the kids away from "Santa". She obviously hates children so I never got why she didn't just sit back and see if he wanted to take a few of them out first.
37:00 Flashback of Billy dying. I think that ends the flashback stuff.
38:00 Freeman looking at the tape that they just made. I hope the shrink labels it "Padding".
39:00 Super 8 footage of Ricky growing up with his foster parents. Now, the movie still has "flashbacks" such as this, but they're all new footage, so they don't count. Otherwise you could also bitch that Titanic was "almost all flashbacks" too.
40:00 Ricky's foster mom reacting to his terror at seeing a couple of nuns.
41:00 Foster mom realizing that the color red upsets him, which I think would have come up by now. They had nothing red in their home?
42:00 Fade as young Ricky morphs into older Ricky. If you include the SNDN1 footage, no less than 6 actors can be seen in this movie playing the character (3 from SNDN1, 3 here), and none look anything alike. Also, the older guy you see here is supposed to be Ricky at 15, even though in reality he's actually OLDER than Freeman, playing the character at 21 or something. Oh, Silent Night Deadly Night 2.
43:00 Freeman talking.
44:00 A very VERY wide shot of a couple making love in a field.
45:00 The male of the couple knocking back a beer.
46:00 Ricky reacting to the guy getting rapey (yep, another one), reminding him of Santa attacking his mom.
47:00 A shot of a jeep.
48:00 Ricky walking around the jeep. I think he's already killed the guy.
49:00 The shrink, a bit scared because he is unsure where Ricky is, as like Geter in the original, he apparently has no peripheral vision (Ricky is just to his left in the small and well lit room).
50:00 Freeman with an amazing line delivery of "So I got a JOB!"
51:00 Some dude punching another guy in the gut. I can't remember the context for this.
52:00 Ricky confronting the puncher.
53:00 Ricky putting down the guy's body after killing him with an umbrella (respect).
54:00 The shrink, starting to get upset listening to these stories. The actor playing the shrink is James Newman, who is a character actor with a number of legitimate titles on his resume, including Flags Of Our Fathers and an episode of The X-Files. He also contributes to the (hilarious) commentary track, as he has a good sense of humor about the whole thing.
55:00 Another closeup of a non-expression from Freeman. I bet there are more closeups of this guy offering terrible line deliveries and/or raising his eyebrows than there are recycled bits of SNDN1 footage in this movie.
56:00 Freeman, appearing for the first time in the movie outside of the hospital room. I'll give him this much, the dude LOOKS like a matinee idol actor. If memory serves, the reason he got the role is because he was more handsome than the other, superior actor. Wonder who it was.
57:00 A lovely shot of some trees.
58:00 Ricky doing the do with his "one true love".
59:00 Ricky wearing a yellow T-shirt with the alligator patch (!), sitting in a very oddly designed movie theater.
1:00:00 Shot of a guy heckling the movie.
1:01:00 Ricky looking pissed off.
1:02:00 Ricky's girlfriend's ex checking in on her during the movie. I love how noisy and casual it is in here. Is no one actually there to watch the movie? What is it, the Cinefamily?
1:03:00 They're still talking.
1:04:00 STILL TALKING.
1:05:00 Ricky's girlfriend finally turns her attention back to the movie. I never got a shot of it, but they're actually watching Silent Night, Deadly Night. I can't even begin to explain how that one works.
*1:06:00 Can't really blame Ricky for wanting to kill this preppy douche.
1:07:00 Closeup on Ricky as he kills the preppy douche.
1:08:00 A cop who just appeared out of nowhere.
1:09:00 Ricky during the infamous massacre scene. It's coming, folks!
1:10:00 Ricky blowing the smoke from his gun at the conclusion of "Garbage Day". Apparently they didn't have Minute by Minute in mind when they edited the film or I'd have a better screenshot. Sorry! I believe you can find it some 57391 times on Youtube.
1:11:00 Ricky firing at a car.
1:12:00 A hilarious "hero" shot of Ricky as he walks away from all the carnage he just caused.
1:13:00 Ricky has finished his back-story and we're now back in his hospital room.
1:14:00 The (kind of cool) reveal that he has killed his shrink at some point, yet continued telling the story anyway I guess. Stepfather 2 actually had a similar scene, wonder if it was an intentional homage.
1:15:00 Shot of Christmas decorations in someone's house.
1:16:00 Ricky in a Santa suit, talking on a phone. It's kind of funny, this is known as the "killer Santa" series but really only the original can really be described as such. In part 3 he's some weird Frankenstein's monster type, and then in parts 4 and 5 there's no slasher at all, really. And here he finally puts on a Santa suit with less than 10 minutes left of the movie, after killing a ton of folks wearing normal clothes.
1:17:00 Mother Superior, sporting the bizarre burn makeup that we are told is the result of her stroke (?). Also, it's a different actress than the one we saw over and over in the flashbacks, making this delayed "revenge" very anticlimactic - if you miss the setup you might think he's just killing some random burn victim nun.
1:18:00 Ricky unlocking Superior's door.
1:19:00 Ricky doing a Nicholson/Shining bit through the hole in the door. Yeah, have the worst actor of all time impersonate one of the best. Good one.
1:21:00 Superior trying to evade Ricky.
1:22:00 Some cops pulling up to the house.
1:23:00 Ricky crashing through a window after taking three shots (one via shotgun) to the chest. Yet he survived, according to part 3.
1:24:00 And now we begin the credit sequence, which runs very long. Not only is it quite slow, but they also repeat most of the cast for the original movie (to cover their bases, I guess).
1:25:00 Credits, mostly sound guys.
1:26:00 Special thanks credits. Assuming many of the folks weren't thrilled that whatever they contributed was forever entered into the record.
1:27:00 Cast, no one of interest.
1:28:00 Original movie's cast. Only interesting name here is Don Shanks, credited for the stunt that went uncredited in the original movie (the dad dressed as Santa climbing through the window). Shanks was Michael Myers in the previously MxM'd Halloween 5, and is also a very cool guy in person.
And that's it, final run time is 1:28:17.
So, even if I take out the credits, of the remaining 84 minute marks, only 26 of them are in flashbacks, which is a bit under 1/3 of the film (and thus barely over a quarter if I DO include credits, which, obviously, I am wont to do). Either way, hardly "half". There are plenty of things about the movie you can complain about, but considering the original intention, this should not be one of them.
Also since I probably won't talk about these movies in writing much ever again, I'd like to point out that the 3rd film once again shows the murder of Billy and Ricky's parents, but they edit baby Ricky out and make it look like Ricky is the one who witnessed the whole thing. After that film they ignored these characters, so the rest of the series is flashback (and, again, Killer Santa) free.
A terrible film that I find endlessly watchable, it's actually not as joyfully mean-spirited and batshit as the original - the shrink scenes would actually come off as normal thriller stuff if not for Freeman's god-awful performance - which makes it a lesser film in my eyes. But I find it more fascinating in a way - the original was created during the slasher boom and had the novel "killer Santa" hook, and was by most accounts a fairly normal production. This one, however, was shot in 10 days and released into theaters in April (?), with many people on the crew taking several roles (co-writer Joseph Earle is also credited as an actor, a producer, a sound re-recording mixer, and first assistant director), presumably to put more money on the screen. Also, apparently poor Eric Freeman is wholly MIA - they tried to track him down for the DVD (which is now out of print, sadly) but were unable to locate him. That sort of thing always puzzles me - obviously his acting career would never take off, but the fact that they literally cannot FIND the guy? Sort of depressing, really.
At any rate, merry Christmas! I trust you'll celebrate with a better film if you're with your loved ones, but if you're like Abed and wish to spend the holiday with your best friends and a "terrible" movie, I hope you can locate a copy in time.