A Bloody Good Time 12.19.13: Ranking The Silent Night, Deadly Night Franchise
Posted by Joseph Lee on 12.19.2013
Opening Logo courtesy of Benjamin J. Colón (Soul Exodus)
Welcome to A Bloody Good Time.
I think I've made clear in the past how much I don't like the Silent Night, Deadly Night franchise in the past. It did make #3 on my Worst Horror Franchises Ever list, losing only to the sheer awfulness that is every Children of the Corn film and all of The Howling sequels. It's just a series with no real point of existing, because once you've seen one killer Santa movie you've seen them all. That could be why the series actually stopped doing killer Santas after part three.
So I've watched every single one of them, against my better judgment, in order to rank them for you in this yuletide edition of ABGT. Trust me when I say that outside of the original and the remake, none of the sequels are any good. I'm probably spoiling my own list when I say that, but it's true. It just depends on what type of awful each sequel is that determines where it ranks on this list.
#6: Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out! (1989)
I've given this a lot of thought, and not only do I think Silent Night, Deadly Night 3 is the worst film of this particular series, but it may be the worst "killer Santa" movie I've ever seen. Yes, I've seen Santa's Slay. This is worse. It alternates between a bizarre and muddled story to incredibly drawn-out and dull scenes that usually don't lead to anything of importance. You would think this would have the opportunity to at least be decent, given Bill Moseley as the killer (replacing Eric Freeman), but no. Even Moseley is subdued and bored by the material.
That's the biggest problem with this movie and the biggest crime any movie can have, in my opinion. The film features the same character from the first two films, but recast. He somehow survived being gun down by police and walks around carrying a plastic dome on top of his head to keep his brain inside. Oh and he shares a psychic connection with some blind woman, for some reason.
Who hires Bill Moseley for a movie and then doesn't let him chew the scenery? I don't think he could top Freeman (as weird as that sounds) as a large ham, but you could at least let him try. At the very least, don't have him lie in a coma for part of the movie and then walk around looking tired during the rest. Oh and by the way, this movie also shows flashbacks of the first film. Just in case you missed seeing it the first two times. Needless to say I'd rather watch any of the other films in this series than this one, and considering how bad the next one is that says something.
#5: Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation (1990)
I wanted this one to be good. Brian Yuna directed it and he provided me with Return of the Living Dead III, Bride of Re-Animator and The Dentist. He also did Society, but that's an incredibly hard film to track down without paying through the nose so I've yet to see it (I'm sorry). Anyway, because it's a Yunza movie, I fully expected this departure from the killer Santa formula to be a nice change of pace, but instead, it's a painfully stupid movie that doesn't make much sense at the end of the day.
Yeah, this one doesn't have a killer Santa in it. It has Clint Howard and a deadly cult, but no killer Santas. Honestly, the fact that it's Christmas barely has anything to do with the film and it could comfortably fit within any other franchise. You could have made this a Prom Night sequel and it wouldn't matter much. Just replace "oh, it happens to be Christmas" with "Oh, there is a prom somewhere".
The film follows a woman who begin investigating a case of spontaneous combustion only to become the target of a cult made up of several women who want to make her a sacrifice to their gods. It's honestly kind of similar to Rob Zombie's The Lords of Salem in story, but it makes sense since Rob Zombie was paying homage to (better) movies with this cult story. There's a lot of weird stuff, Clint Howard rapes somebody and the movie ends more or less as it began.
You may find enough insanity in some of the moments in order to enjoy this well enough but personally I just found it stupid. Not everyone can pull off random moments of weirdness like some of the better cult/devil worshiping movies can. It's not even Clint Howard's best movie involving rituals and sacrifices.
#4: Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker (1991)
Oh hi Mickey Rooney, how is protesting the original film working out for you? Yes, years after he protested a film about a killer Santa, Rooney would star in a film where he dresses as Santa and delivers killer toys, one of which sends a child to the hospital. I think starring in the sequel to a film you didn't want anyone to see is irony, but I could be wrong about that. Either way, he picked a bad time to jump in.
I will give this film credit for two things, and it's why it ranks above Better Watch Out and Initiation. First of all, it's clearly a Christmas movie. It's not like Initiation, in which it just happens to be set at Christmas. This features a sorta kinda killer Santa (not in the same way as the first) and Christmas-themed killer toys that are delivered as presents. That's more of a holiday movie than one that just happens to feature a Christmas tree in it.
Secondly, this movie features an ending that I don't think anyone predicted. It's spoiled if you watch the trailer, but honestly the movie isn't that good that it matters if you spoil the ending or not. It makes sense given the overall theme of the movie but at the same time when Rooney is finally confronted by the heroine it's a crazy moment that can only be done in something like this. It's a sequel to a series that isn't that good, let's just throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks.
Actually, it reminded me of Puppet Master 2's ending...but that's all I'll say. If you must know, just watch the trailer.
#3: Silent Night, Deadly Night Part II (1989)
From a film-making standpoint, this may actually be the worst of the series. Half of the film is a flashback to the first film, it barely has any continuity to the first and outside of the flashbacks and the final moments of the film, it's not even a killer Santa or Christmas movie. It's just about the brother of the Killer Santa from the first film, who is also crazy, escapes from the asylum and kills some people. Only at the end of the movie does he dress up like Santa and attempt to carry on the tradition.
However, it's not the worst film in the series in terms of entertainment value. It's Silent Night, Deadly Night 2, the creator of the "Garbage Day!" meme. It's hilarious due to the fact that a) Eric Freeman acts like he's on some strange combination of drugs that no one should take and b) the directors, producers and other cast members let it happen. Without his overacting, it would be just a silly sequel that gets forgotten, similar to The Hills Have Eyes Part 2.
Freeman, however, either got how bad the script was, was on the previously mentioned drugs or just didn't care. As a result he gives one of the more memorable performances in bad movie history. It's not just "Garbage Day". He acts like this through the entire movie. He's constantly intense, even in scenes that don't require it, and he's always hamming it up. I said before that the worst thing a movie can be is boring. This movie is never boring. It's either providing flashbacks to a decent slasher or it's showing Eric Freeman acting. It's not a good movie but it's entertaining as hell.
#2: Silent Night (2012)
I think the reason nobody got upset when this remake was announced is that no one really has any love for the first movie. It's a decent slasher, sure, but it's not a classic. Somebody probably could do the story of a killer Santa better. So here comes a remake that's only a remake in title (well, partially) and concept only, as it doesn't tell the same story as the first at all. Honestly, if you must remake any movie, that's the way you should do it. I don't want to see the exact same kills updated for the CGi age or a bland Rooney Mara sleepwalking through an iconic role (still bitter about the Nightmare on Elm Street remake). I want to see a new take on a familiar concept.
That said, this doesn't really improve on the original. It was entertaining and fun. It was good enough to make my best of list last year. But the original was better for reasons I'll get to below. This is just a slasher movie with a murderous Santa Claus that happens to have some gory kills and Malcom McDowell channeling Eric Freeman in his role as the Sheriff. There aren't that many slasher films that are about a good time any more, and this one seemed to be about that. Not every movie with a body count has to be Saw. Some of them can be Chopping Mall.
It's been almost a year since I made that best-of list, and I stand by it. This was one of my favorite horror films of 2012. I just really enjoy being entertained by movies, as it turns out. Since horror films rarely scare me anymore, the next best thing is to be fun to watch. It didn't have to work very hard to get #2 on this list, but I do appreciate the effort and I'll continue to praise it to anyone who will listen. I would really like a sequel to this. Maybe the first half can be a flashback to this one.
#1: Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
It's such a great concept. A guy goes crazy due to a traumatic incident he suffered at Christmas and begins to kill those he sees acting "naughty". It's again, a fun slasher with some great kills, a well-written story (rare for slasher movies) and even a great advertising campaign. The trailer tells you that since you've made it through Halloween, try and survive Christmas. The poster has Santa coming out of a chimney with an axe. I can definitely see why this caused a stir with parents back in the day, even if the parents were completely in the wrong for going after it.
I meant what I said about a well-written script. The movie takes its time to develop its killer and allow us to develop a bond with him. He's kind of a tragic figure but when he starts killing we know it's wrong and we're definitely not on his side. He sees his perceptions of Santa Claus ruined when he is five because a criminal kills his parents on Christmas Eve. He has his perceptions of right and wrong twisted thanks to growing up at a strict orphanage. It's easy to see why he suddenly snaps when, of all things, he's asked to dress like Santa for his new job. He takes the role a little too seriously.
This movie isn't as good of a holiday horror film as Black Christmas, but I do enjoy watching it. Robert Brian Wilson between hammy villain (like when he yells "naughty" and "punish" before killing people) and decent actor with his performance as Billy. If the rest of the characters had as much work put into them and we had a hero to root for to take Billy down, I would definitely rank this a lot higher. However, it's still enjoyable and certainly better than many of the slasher movies that came out in the 80s in the wake of Friday the 13th. It's in that second tier with movies like The Burning or Intruder. Not quite as good as the Halloweens or Black Christmases of the world, but still pretty good.
That's it for me. Leave some comments here on or my Twitter. Next week I present a look at horror coming in 2014.
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