Every year right around this time, most of us pluck Silent Night, Deadly Night off of our DVD shelves and give it the annual watch, possibly even following it up with its equally cult classic sequel. However, i've found most don't give much respect to the three other films that followed and rounded out the oddball franchise and in fact, i've found few who have even bothered to watch them. When most horror fans hear Silent Night, Deadly Night, they seem to think more of a great slasher and it's hilariously awful sequel (Garbage Day!!) than they do of a franchise, which was reflected by the fact that no one even bothered to give the latter three installments the DVD treatment here in the states until Lionsgate finally picked them up just last year. Well i'm here tonight to give some props to what I consider an underrated franchise. I've never shared my thoughts on Silent Night's 3-5 and now that i've just watched all three movies marathon style in the past week, i'm ready to do just that!
Silent Night, Deadly Night 3 : Better Watch Out!
Ricky Caldwell, the notorious "Killer Santa Claus," awakens from a six-year coma after being kept alive on life-support by a slightly crazed doctor experimenting with ESP and other special abilities. Ricky targets a young, clairvoyant blind woman named Laura, who is traveling with her brother Chris and his girlfriend Jerri to their grandmother's house for Christmas Eve. Ricky decides to go after her, leaving a trail of dead bodies in his wake.
When there's no more room for plot advancement, psychics will walk horror franchises. Taking a cue from Friday The 13th Part 7, it's psychic vs psycho in Better Watch Out!, the last film in the franchise to have anything to do with the plot from the first Silent Night. Ricky is the younger brother of Billy from that flick and he's played this time around by Bill Moseley, a saving grace for the film even if his talents are horribly misused and even if he's inexplicably wearing a sci-fi esque glass dome over his head, concealing his kickstarted brain that was apparently blown to pieces in the second film ... even though that never actually happened in that film. I guess the filmmakers felt a need to distract us from the paper thin plot, a plot that doesn't have enough steam to last for an hour and a half but is nevertheless stretched out that far. Though Bill Moseley being in it did make me enjoy it a lot more than I would've had someone else been cast in the role, I couldn't help but feel bad for him once I realized that this movie was made years after he played Chop Top in Texas Chainsaw 2. By all means Moseley should've been a top star in the genre after what he did in that film and it's a real bummer that he ended up in a stinker like this, barely even getting any lines of dialogue. Unfortunately, this is a trend that has continued in Moseley's career, with him always returning to crappy movies even after incredible performances in some of the best horror movies out there.
In any event, Better Watch Out! is more or less a poorly written and terribly paced snoozefest which would've been a total waste of time for me had it not earned brownie points for at least trying to continue the storyline from the original two flicks. It's got enough flashbacks and call backs to the first film to make it actually feel worthy of the franchise title and for that, I can't hate on it too much. It's a crappy movie, but I kinda have some love for it deep down in my Christmas horror loving heart. That being said, I only wish they had decided to throw Moseley in the Santa suit at least for a brief period of time, something they had a perfect opportunity to do but never seized.
Silent Night, Deadly Night 4 : Initiation
A female reporter investigates the death of a woman who, while on fire, leapt off a building to her death. Her investigation leads her to discover the existence of a strange cult dedicated to the Egyptian god Isis - and the cult wants her as its new queen.
The franchise heads into Halloween 3 territory with Initiation, an installment that has absolutely nothing to do with the previous three entries and in fact, really has nothing to do with Christmas either. Aside from Christmas decorations in the background of a few scenes, you wouldn't even know the film took place in December. Much like Season of the Witch, this is a film that has gotten little respect due to how much it strayed from the formula, though I personally find it to be one of the best installments in the franchise, an opinion I share with that of Halloween 3. Directed by Bride of Re-Animator/The Dentist's Brian Yuzna, Initiation scores serious points for me by utilizing the talents of one of my favorite genre stars, Clint Howard, who makes an early bang by feasting on a bug infested hamburger while a flaming woman leaps off a building to her demise at the start of the film. Such is the whacky nature of this overlooked movie that is just begging for cult classic love, love that I personally feel would have come had the film not had the Silent Night, Deadly Night title attached to it, which I guess is ironic being that the title was slapped on there to help get people to see it. In fact, the UK title for the film is Bugs, which is a much more fitting one given how many of the little creepy crawlies star in it.
Sure it's got nothing to do with a killer Santa Claus or even with a dude going around killing people on Christmas, but I had a blast with Initiation and its awesome old school Screaming Mad George gross out FX. A topless chick births a giant bug out of her mouth and then gets Bukkake'd in bug juice, Reggie Bannister pops in from time to time, Clint Howard bites a man's achilles tendon and a kill is seen through the lens of a handheld camera a decade before The Blair Witch Project - what's not to love?! Much like how Halloween 3 has gained respect with fans over the years, I believe Initiation/Bugs will someday follow suit.
Silent Night, Deadly Night 5 : The Toy Maker
A young boy sees his father killed by a toy that was anonymously delivered to his house. After that, he is too traumatized to speak, and his mother must deal with both him and the loss of her husband. Meanwhile, a toy maker named Joe Petto (get it?!) builds some suspicious-looking toys, and a mysterious man creeps around both the toy store and the boy's house ... but who is responsible for the killer toys?
In the most ironic twist in the history of horror cinema, Mickey Rooney stars in the final installment in the franchise, about toys designed to kill children on Christmas morning. Just a couple years prior, Rooney (who played Santa in several films and television shows both before and after The Toy Maker) rallied against Silent Night, Deadly Night, going so far as to write a letter of protest condemning the filmmakers and stating that they should be run out of town for turning the sacred holiday into fodder for a slasher bloodbath. Money talks, eh Mickey?
Writer Brian Yuzna and writer/director Martin Kitrosser - who also wrote Friday The 13th Part 3 and script supervised Friday's 1 & 2 and all of Quentin Tarantino's films to date - bring the focus back to Christmas, ending the franchise with a suitable and fitting bang, though a cameo by Clint Howard suggests that this is actually a prequel to Initiation. The Toy Maker is second only to the first Deadly Night when it comes to my favorites in the series, a movie that I again feel should have far greater of a cult status than it has earned by now. I mean come on, Mickey Rooney as a demented toy maker, killer children's toys and a human Ken doll that ends up molesting a chick towards the end of the movie - this shit is too classic to not be respected! There's one standout Toy Story gone mad scene in the film where two lovers are being brutally attacked by an army - literally - of killer toys that made me feel like the movie would've been infinitely better had there been more of that type of stuff in it, but overall I truly love this whacky and off the wall flick which again, is my second favorite in the entire franchise.
If you watch it, be sure to keep an eye out for a kid wearing a Re-Animator shirt while waiting in line for Santa as well as a little girl in the same scene asking Santa for a Bride of Re-Animator VHS tape!
While not always a great franchise, Silent Night, Deadly Night is one that is consistently whacky and entertaining, with a few installments that are a lot better than many would have you believe. It's a franchise I hold near and dear to my heart and I personally feel that all horror fans should supplement the first two films with 3-5 in their yearly Christmas horror viewings, even if none of them are as good as the original. It's one of the most unique horror series' out there, one that I find redeeming qualities in each installment of, which is something that I can not always say about franchises. If you've never bothered with 3-5, I hope you take my advice and give 'em a watch this holiday season.
What are your thoughts on Silent Night, Deadly Night 3, 4 & 5? Leave a comment below and let me know!