Samantha Scully - Laura Anderson
Bill Moseley - Richard "Ricky" Caldwell
Eric Da Re - Chris Anderson
Richard Beymer - Dr. Newbury
Laura Harring - Jerri
Elizabeth Hoffman - Granny Anderson
Robert Culp - Lt. Connely
Genre - Horror/Slasher/Cult/Sequel
Running Time - 90 Minutes
Some horror films should never become franchises. SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT is definitely one of those films that didn't need or deserve a sequel. SNDN is fine as a stand-alone movie, depicting the traumatic turn of Billy Chapman, who watched his parents get murdered by a man dressed as Santa Claus before evolving into a killer Santa himself. It was banned by uptight parents, it gained notoriety because of it, and did decent business at the box office in 1984.
In 1987, a re-release that was planned eventually turned into SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2. SNDN 2 was a technical mess of a film, from bad directing, 40 minutes of footage from SNDN, and an over-the-top performance by Eric Freeman as Ricky Caldwell [Billy's brother] that needs to be seen to be believed and appreciated. While the sequel didn't do much business, Freeman's performance has stood the test of time, turning SNDN 2 into a cult phenomenon and one of those bad movies that ends up being good due to its high camp, cheese, and entertainment value. Plus you don't even need to watch the first part because you get all the important footage in this installment. How could you go wrong with a sequel that ends up being a double feature?
Unfortunately, the producers felt the need to continue the Ricky Caldwell story for whatever reason. It's not like the box office for SNDN 2 demanded another installment. But in 1989, SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT III: BETTER WATCH OUT! was released anyway. Unlike the previous two installments, SNDN 3 was released straight to video. While today's home market usually has films that are somewhat better than films that were released to theaters, this wasn't so much the case back in the 80s and 90s. Once you went straight to VHS, your film probably sucked. And by golly, I'm right! SNDN 3 is a terrible film from beginning to end, making SNDN 2 look like LAWRENCE OF ARABIA in comparison. Let's see why SNDN 3 is like getting a shitload of coal in your stocking.
Ricky Caldwell (Bill Moseley) is laying comatose after getting shot to hell in SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2. For no plausible reason I could think of, his brain is exposed and protected by a clear dome that resembles a punch bowl with Christmas lights attached. Anyway, Dr. Newbury (Richard Beymer) is experimenting on Ricky, using a psychic blind girl named Laura (Samantha Scully) to infiltrate his dreams to see his memories and whatever else is going on in the guy's head. Being freaked out by what she sees, Laura decides to give up participating in the experiments - instead travelling with her brother Chris (Eric Da Re) and his girlfriend (Laura Harring) to see their psychic grandmother (Elizabeth Hoffman) miles away.
Unfortunately, Laura and Ricky now share a psychic bond, seeing and feeling what each other is seeing and feeling. Of course, this link wakes Ricky up from his coma. He escapes the hospital, recreating his murder spree in a more zombie-like fashion, looking for Laura. Is it live or is it Memorex? Who gives a shit!
I have three words for SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT III: BETTER WATCH OUT!:
WHAT THE FUCK!?
I can't believe I actually wasted 90 minutes watching piece of shit. It wasn't like I was expecting a masterpiece of slasher cinema or anything, but it would have been nice if the movie was actually, I dunno, watchable. SNDN 3 is a chore to sit-through for those who have the tolerance level of a gimp. Who in their right minds saw this movie and thought, "Hey, people love to be bored! Let's release this and watch them fall asleep within 10 minutes of our movie! This'll sell great!" No...no it won't! And I'm writing this review to make sure that those who haven't watch this movie will never have the urge to ever watch it in their lifetime! I will not allow my readers to be suckered by this garbage!
The screenplay, on paper, isn't too bad written. But it's hard to tell when you watch it visibly, with the actors and director bringing the "best" out of it. Apparently, SNDN 3 went through a couple of re-writes. The original writer, Steven Gaydos, had his treatment completely changed by director Monte Hellman and co-writer Carlos Laszlo in a single week. I don't know what Gaydos' version looked like, but it couldn't have been worse than the version we actually get. There's a lot wrong with this movie, to the point where I don't even know where to begin.
Okay, let's start with our characters. They're all uninteresting, unappealing, and give you no reason to care about them. Usually characters like these cause me to wish their quick deaths at the hands of the killer. But these characters are so dull that I couldn't have cared less whether they lived or died. They shouldn't have been created, period. Laura, who is our blind protagonist, should be likeable. But for most of the film, she comes across as a total bitch who treats friendly people like crap. I understand she wants to be independent and not be pitied over her handicap. But she's in her twenties and still bitter about what happened when she was a little girl? Get the fuck over it! And not only is she is a bitch, but she's a whiny bitch too. That's the worst kind, in my opinion. Her brother, Chris, is slightly more likeable. However, his priorities are so out of whack that it's actually quite funny. The fact that his grandmother is missing doesn't seem to cause much alarm for him. In fact, he'll take a bath with his hot girlfriend before even worrying about what may have happened to the woman. And the girlfriend, Jerri, really has no shame. She just stepped foot in a stranger's home and pretty much gets naked for a hot bath with her boyfriend. Why should I get a damn about these so-called "heroes"?
And then there's Ricky himself, who went from an over-the-top comical villain to a Frankenstein Monster wannabe. What was up with the glass bowl on his head? And how did this slow-moving guy just manage to escape a hospital unlooked and kill people along the way to see Laura? Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees are intimidating. Ricky has a punch bowl for a head. Difference, much? All personality the guy once had is now gone, which makes you long for the days the character would wiggle his eyebrows and yell out "Garbage Day!!" before shooting innocent people. Instead of doing those things, Ricky barely talks and just walks around for 65 minutes before turning into a stereotypical slasher villain at the end. It's truly sad to see a magical character turned into a shell of his former self.
The story itself is pretty generic as well. If you've seen any slasher film, you already know the formula. This one, however, has a killer against a psychic - which was pretty popular back in the last 80s. However, nothing is really done with the whole psychic link thing in SNDN 3. It's as if it was a forgotten plot point that should have been the forefront for the narrative to get from point A to point B. Laura and Ricky have a psychic link with each other, but you wouldn't really know that for the most part. Plus for a psychic, Laura isn't a real good one. Neither is her grandmother, who didn't sense any thing bad from Ricky when he came to her home. I now know who ran that Dionne Warwick and Her Psychic Friends business back in the early 90s. The whole deal just feels as if it was written in because they couldn't figure out an original way to bring back Ricky. Pretty lame if you ask me.
The rest is pretty much standard. You know who will live. You know who will die. You have a mad doctor. You have a comical cop. You have the stereotypical characters that appear in every other slasher film. The problem is that they're nothing more than that, making you wonder why you're even watching this movie. It's like never experiencing diarrhea - you're not missing much except for a pain in your ass and a waste of your time.
And I got some questions about the story. Why were Ricky's dreams about a young Billy seeing his parents getting killed from SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT? Shouldn't he had been dreaming about Garbage Day or something? Who in their right mind picks up a hitchhiker wearing a hospital gown who just happens to wear a glass bowl on his head to protect his exposed brain, and act like it's a normal occurence? Dude deserved what he got for being a fuckin' dumbass! Also, were Laura and Chris having some sort of incestuous relationship? There were moments where I was questioning the extent of their sibling relationship. Also, I get that the whole doctor/patient dynamic was supposed to be a twisted take on the whole Dr. Loomis/Michael Myers deal from HALLOWEEN. The only difference is that both characters in that franchise have personality and we care about them in different ways. When I would rather watch Tina from HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS over Dr. Newbury and this version of Ricky Caldwell, we have a MAJOR problem! And I thought the moment where Ricky and Laura finally confront each other, with Laura breaking a light bulb so Ricky could be blinded by the darkness, was pretty funny. Why? Because there was light illuminating around them, allowing Ricky to see Laura well anyway. For a psychic, she sure sucks.
The only "positives" I can give SNDN 3 is that the flashbacks are kept to a minimum [this sequel is actually just ONE film this time!] and some of the dialogue is actually pretty chuckle-worthy. The infamous "Is it live, or is it Memorex?" is just silly and makes no sense in context to the movie, but at least it stands out and makes the film memorable for that one reason.
For a slasher film, the violence and gore are very tame. The most graphic shot was a secretary's throat being slit by a box cutter. Other than that, most of the violence is kept offscreen. I know it's low budget and straight to video, but at least it could have shown more blood or something. Just show me a fucked up corpse or something, even if it is a mannequin. If you're not going to have suspense or tension in your horror film, at least gross people out. But then again, I'm probably asking for too much. My bad.
The direction by Monte Hellman [who built a cult following after 1971's TWO LANE BLACKTOP] is more miss than hit. I will say that the film looks decent and the editing, while iffy at times, is actually pretty good for the most part. Other than that, the visuals to SNDN 3 suck. For a horror film, there are no scares at all. Not even jump scares! What the fuck? Tension and suspense? Hellman doesn't bother with that. There are moments in the film that SHOULD be tense, but since Hellman films scenes way too slow and without a score at times, all emotion and feeling from these scenes are lost and wasted. Honestly, this film probably would have benefited by cutting 20 minutes of the running time. There is just too many scenes where people walk, drive, and just stand around and talk. I knew once I saw the weak opening sequence that's supposed to be Laura's nightmare done in an Italian horror sort-of-way, I was going to struggle watching the rest of this movie. I'm glad Hellman is proud of this film [for whatever reason], but it's just a waste of time for everyone else. Just a boring looking flick that almost put me to sleep.
The acting is pretty bland as well. Samantha Scully, as Laura, is okay at best. She plays blind somewhat well, even though she doesn't like to change her facial expressions [maybe she thinks it will give her the gift of sight or something]. She can't scream if her life depended on it though. But at least she was nice to look at. Bill Moseley, cult horror icon, isn't given much to do as Ricky. This had to be one of those "acting for a paycheck" deals. All Moseley does is walk, say "Laura" a few times, and wear a punch bowl on his head. I hope the money was worth it because otherwise, he just wasted his time in a bad flick. Eric Da Re was okay as Chris. His hair metal hair was more interesting than his character though. I swore White Lion was gonna come out and sing "When the Children Cry" at some point. At least it would have made the film enjoyable. Laura Harring doesn't have much to do either, but at least she shows me her boobs. And Robert Culp is probably the best actor as Lt. Connely. At least he looks like he's having some sort of fun. I wish I could have shared in it.
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE REALIZING THAT THIS NIGHT IS NEITHER SILENT OR DEADLY
- Don't wake up a sleeping man. He'll want to stab you. And not with his disco stick either. He saves that for the mistress.
- Santa Claus wanted to stab Laura for asking for too many gifts. Don't be a greedy ho, ho, ho!
- Chris looks like a hair metal reject. Judging by the way he looks, I would think he, not Laura, is the blind one in the family. Ever heard of conditioner and a trimmer?
- Ricky killed a nice Latino dude who picked him up on the road. I guess no feliz navidad, prospero año felicidad!
- Some chick wanted to talk dirty over the phone, claiming her panties were wet. That's not talking dirty. Talk to me about dust bunnies, mold, and soap scum. Oh yeah...that'll really get me hot while my vacuum sucks it all out...
- Granny Anderson had a portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. over the fireplace. I Have A Dream...that this film never existed.
- Don't mess with a psychic blind girl. The high stakes will cost you. Literally.
THE FINAL HOWL
SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT III: BETTER WATCH OUT! couldn't have a more appropriate tagline. It's a waste of 90 minutes of anyone's time, even if you like bad cinema. There's no redeemable aspect to this movie at all. When a film is so boring and bland that you can't even bash it properly for a WTF? review, then you know there's a big problem. Forget this sequel ever existed and watch something good, like the first two installments, BLACK CHRISTMAS, SANTA'S SLAY, or anything other than this piece of crap. SNDN 3 goes right into the WTF? Vault with all those damn fruitcakes I receive every year where it can...
0.5 Howls Outta 4