It was bound to happen. Everything else has been remade so why not start on some old-school holiday horror flicks? They did it with BLACK CHRISTMAS (to disastrous results). So why not remake the seminal 1984 holiday horror flick, SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT?? It’s sleazy, disturbing, and it created a huge controversy when it was first released (in one such protest, the very influential film critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel read the credits out loud on their TV show saying, “shame, shame, shame” after each name). Well some people thought it’d be a great idea to remake this and the result is SILENT NIGHT. Steven C. Miller takes the reigns of this one and definitely doesn’t go for a frame-by-frame retelling. He injects a little humor, includes some classic scenes from the original, and changes around enough of the story with writer Jayson Rothwell to create something that feels new. But does Miller do justice to the source material? Let’s find out.
SILENT NIGHT is set in a small Midwestern town where everyone knows everyone and in which there’s a huge Santa lookalike costume contest every Christmas. This town is also beginning to feel the negative influences of the outside world creeping into its once peaceful and serene setting. There’s a drug dealer roaming around dressed like Santa and there’s even the beginning of a porn industry. In other words, there’s a lot of naughty stuff going on in this small town. Naughty, naughty, naughty stuff. As the film opens we see a man dressing up like Santa (wearing a great looking mask!!) and punishing two adulterers. Naughty naughty. This killer Santa is methodical, violent, and down right sadistic as he off’s the offending couple.
We then switch over and meet the local law enforcement. There’s Sheriff Cooper (Malcolm McDowell), Deputy Aubrey Bradimore (Jaime King), Deputy Jordan (Brendan Fehr), and two to three other cops in the small town. Ya kinda get the impression that the most action this Sheriff department sees is a car accident and some drunken bar brawls every once in a while. Aubrey is the main focus in SILENT NIGHT as she battles with doubts as to whether she has what it takes to be a cop. Her old man, simply known as “Dad” (John B. Lowe) in the credits, was on the town’s Sheriff’s department for 40 years. He has faith in his daughter, but she’s doubtful. And as the dismembered and mutilated bodies start piling up like kindling, Sheriff Cooper knows he’s in over his head but he’d never admit it.
We get a great balance of horror action and character development that’s not usually seen in genre films. In most genre films the character development doesn’t go anywhere or have any relevance to the story, but here Aubrey’s character arc plays nicely with the overall story arc. And Miller knows not to go to long without showing Santa slaying his way through the town’s naughty residents. We get a lot of blood spilled here, people … a LOT, and the kills are vicious, brutal, and some are downright creative. In one kill scene, a chick gets an unscheduled hysterectomy, a guy gets an unwanted vasectomy, and it all ends in a wood chipper!! This scene is so intense you just want it to end. It’s a really well shot and executed scene, but Santa is so vicious and sadistic here that you just want the poor victim to die already.
I’ll admit it; I went into SILENT NIGHT expecting to hate it. 1984’s SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT is a sacred movie to me. No it’s not one of the greatest genre films ever made, but it has such a particular “feel” about it. It’s sleazy, depraved, and some scenes are just downright wrong. SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT represents the kind of horror film that isn’t made anymore and probably never will be made again. But I gotta tell ya that within the first ten minutes of SILENT NIGHT I found myself really enjoying it. A lot. How could I not love a genre film where an extremely obnoxious young teen girl is permanently silenced with a cattle prod?? Besides, I like the characters, the acting is well done, the gore is plentiful, and the gore is all done utilizing practical effects (no CGI blood splatters here). We also get a killer who is brooding, intimidating, has a killer mask (no pun intended), and who doesn’t say a goddamn thing the entire film. No Krueger-esque funny little quips after each kill that destroys the tension (the original opened on the same weekend as the original A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and briefly out-grossed NIGHTMARE by around $161,800 before profits fell by about 45% in the second week due to protestors). This killer Santa is one vicious sonuvabitch and I loved it!!
SILENT NIGHT definitely strays from the source material. We don’t get a young boy who witnesses a criminal dressed as Santa rape his mom and kill his dad. I’m of course not going to give away the punchline in SILENT NIGHT, but make sure you watch until the very end. Miller and Rothwell do a really nice job of adding their own spin on SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT and what the killer Santa’s motivation is. SILENT NIGHT, to me, represents what a great remake truly is. We get the heart and spirit of the original with a new spin on the plot — that works. Miller, though, does makes sure to re-create some of the classic scenes from the original. Two scenes come immediately to mind: the scene with the creepy old grandfather who’s in a near catatonic state who ‘wakes up’ just long enough to tell his grandson how horrible and deadly Christmas actually is, and Miller re-creates Linnea Quigley’s death scene from the original. Both brought a smile to my face and the later also made me cringe.
I really enjoyed SILENT NIGHT and I think you will too. Whether you’ve seen the original and loved it (like myself) or you’ve never even heard of the original (for shame), SILENT NIGHT works and you can tell that Miller and Rothwell really loved working on this film. The film, though, isn’t perfect (what film is??). All McDowell’s Sheriff Cooper character does is talk in cliches and hyperbole and he really doesn’t do anything. I love McDowell, but his character was kind of a waste. In another scene, Deputy Aubrey calls her dad (the ex-cop) and tells him not to go to the Santa costume contest because the sheriff’s department is hunting down a killer Santa. Her father’s response: “Aahhh; you’re not the first Bradimore to take down a killer Santa on Christmas Eve.” And Aubrey never follows up on this little tidbit of info!! Seriously; didn’t think that was important there, Columbo? And the town’s Reverend (Curtis Moore) is such a slimy, lascivious pervert I can’t believe he hasn’t been run out of town.
The positives, though, far outweigh the negatives. I really enjoyed SILENT NIGHT and will be making it a new addition to my list of Holiday Horrors to watch every year. Don’t miss this one.
Director: Steven C. Miller
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars
Gore: 7 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer