Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Jaime King, Donal Logue, Ellen Wong, Andrew Cecon, Rick Skene, Courtney-Jane White, Erik J. Berg,
Running Time: 89 minutes
SILENT NIGHT hasn’t just trimmed down the title of its 1984 predecessor SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT, it’s also delivered something that many remakes forget to do, and that’s an original take on the source material. Original may not exactly be the right word, as it still conforms to many slasher tropes, but fans of the original will be happy to know that this isn’t a carbon copy slapped together without any effort. Steven C. Miller, director of one of my favourite little underappreciated gems SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE, tackles this tale of a killer Santa on the loose in a small town with great confidence, resulting in a fun and festive gore packed film.
Christmas and horror have always made bizarre but brilliant bedfellows, going all the way back to the time of Charles Dickens. Besides, a guy coming down a chimney and judging children has always had “creepy” plastered all over it. SILENT NIGHT gives us the unsettling juxtaposition of Christmas cheer and murder from the outset, with joyful Christmas tunes overpowered by the screams of a gagged and bound woman. It’s this jolly darkness which adds the element of humour that makes this such an enjoyable film. Malcolm McDowell is superb as the town’s sheriff, who has delusions of being some kind of action hero. After being corrected on the spelling of a perp’s name, McDowell responds “Two Ss? Double screwed.” His dialogue is purposefully cheesy and does well to undermine the character without making him totally incompetent.
Miller celebrates in making this film a slasher and not a horror. The kills are for our enjoyment, made easy by the fact that the majority of those killed are not nice people. A bratty and demanding girl is skewered like a pig and after that it’s a hit list where a lump of coal means you’ll be meeting your maker. It takes some of the fun away in some respects, as all the victims can be spotted from a mile away, but it also means we are guilt free during the deaths which are often quite creative. Despite cheering on our Santa clad antagonist, Miller also makes a number of the kills bone crunchingly cringworthy, which will satisfy the gore-hounds.
SILENT NIGHT is bound to bridge that gap between Halloween and Christmas rather nicely (we don’t have Thanksgiving in the UK). There are some choices that detract from the enjoyability, such as a number of plotholes which are too prominent to ignore; why does the catatonic grandfather have a wallet of cash lying around and why does the mum of a murdered child wait so long to call the police? As well as a climax that is shot using the red and green emergency lights of a police station. It simply goes on for far too long and it becomes hard to make out what is going on. Those looking for a fun bit of festive splatter shouldn’t be disappointed though, and the enjoyable cast carry off their roles with the correct amount of tongue AND cheek. Miller will certainly be going on the nice list this year.