12.31.2010

New Year's Evil (1980)

DIRECTED BY
Emmett Alston

STARRING
Roz Kelly - Diane "Blaze" Sullivan
Kip Niven - Evil

Chris Wallace - Lt. Ed Clayton

Grant Cramer - Derek Sullivan

Genre - Horror/Slasher/Thriller

Running Time - 85 Minutes


I don't know about you, but I'm very happy that 2010 is almost over. After dealing with stressful classes, a slightly broken heart, and a horrible family tragedy in October, I'm more than glad to wish this horrible year adieu and welcome 2011 in. So I will watch that big ball in Times Square drop [no, not my big balls - those dropped back in 1992] while drinking alcohol and forgetting all of 2010's bullshit.

It's a surprise that I didn't end up like the killer in 1980's NEW YEAR'S EVIL. Killing annoying, horny people because of a nervous breakdown due to certain people in his life - I can almost relate. Except I wouldn't be caught dead at a New Year's Eve party, hosted by a second-rate Sharon Osbourne, that showcases dancers who move worse than the zombies from The Walking Dead. Totally odd and mediocre, just like the actual film itself.

PLOT
Diane Sullivan, also known as Blaze (Roz Kelly), is a wannabe Dick Clark - a DJ who hosts a live coast-to-coast New Year's Eve television broadcast from Hollywood, California. Her husband is busy dealing with personal issues [a.k.a. getting away from his selfish, shrew of a wife] and her son, Derek (Grant Cramer), is left neglected [even though he won himself a big television role] and deals with it by popping pills and wearing his mom's red nylons [don't ask]. During the broadcast, Blaze receives a call from a person called "Eeeeeeeevil" (Kip Niven), who promises that he will kill someone on the hour as each time zone across the United States countdowns to midnight, with his final victim being someone close to her. Once the police realize that this isn't some sort of sick prank when Evil leaves a trail of dead bodies across Los Angeles, Blaze must be on the defensive while hosting her TV show, knowing that the killer will make his presence known sooner than later.

REVIEW
NEW YEAR'S EVIL is one of the many horror films from the early-to-mid 1980s that focused on a certain day/holiday where bad things happened, following the successes of HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13TH. It's the only horror film that seems to be focused on New Year's Eve that I know of, making it one of great interest and novelty amongst early slasher fans. The film was produced by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, who funded many films for Cannon Group films, including all those DEATH WISH films and 1987's MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE. Unfortunately, NEW YEAR'S EVIL isn't as watchable as those films. In fact, it's not really a good slasher [that strangely doesn't have a U.S. DVD release - what's up with that?]. But there's a certain kind of charm to the film, making NEW YEAR'S EVIL worthy of a look to only a certain point.

Like with many films I've been reviewing lately, the script seems to be where the problem lies. Written by Emmett Alston and Leonard Neubauer, the story for NEW YEAR'S EVIL is a mixed bag. In fact, it's quite confused as it wants to be a slasher yet moves forward as a thriller. We have a Final Girl [and I use the term "girl" for Blaze VERY loosely], a killer who disguises himself [while showing us his face the entire time, taking away from the mystery and suspense of the film], and one-dimensional victims that you'll want to see slaughtered because they're either stupid, annoying, or most likely both.

Yet the film tends to focus more on the killer than his actual victims, taking away the feel of a slasher and entering serial killer territory. Because of this, we sympathize really quickly with "Evil", since he's really the main character of the film, not the selfish and bitchy Blaze [who's supposed to be the protagonist]. He's charming, funny at times, and is full of flaws that grounds him to reality. Any guy who can be a nurse, 70s porn star mustache-wearing yuppie, a priest, and Stan Laurel in one night gets my respect. Unfortunately, it's impossible to take him seriously since he almost bumbles each attempt at living up to his promise of murdering women as each time zone counts down to midnight. In fact, he murders someone even before his promise. And his Mountain Time attempt doesn't even happen because he gets in trouble with a biker gang and the police! As a matter of fact, Evil is a pretty lousy villain now that I think about it. What's the point of the film's gimmick then? And why did he need to kill women once each time zone rang in the New Year? What did that have to do with his revenge?

And what was my point again?

Oh yeah - we actually care and like Evil since we follow him for 80 percent of the film. And since we see his face the entire time, we're left with the question of his motive. Why is he killing women, recording them on a huge boombox, and then calling Blaze using a voice disguise that makes him sound like Fozzie The Bear? I won't spoil it, but it's pretty obvious what his relationship to Blaze is within the first ten minutes of the film. And while some may think his reasoning for the murders is a bit far-fetched, I honestly felt kind of sorry for him. If I were in his position and missing a few screws, I'd probably think that taking my anger and frustration out on women would be a good way of handling with it. It does come off as a bit misogynistic though, since he never targets men like other slasher villains. In fact, Evil's motives and murders are less FRIDAY THE 13TH and more DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE!, that terrible sleazy exploitation flick from the same year. But the reasoning for his madness is plausible and I did want him to succeed actually. Hey, he was the only character with a fleshed out personality. Of course I want to win at the end!

That being said, the other characters are bland and dull. This goes especially to Blaze, who may be one of the worst Final Girls in slasher history. Not only does she not know how to put on make-up [clowns have better taste], but she's selfish, neglectful, and kind of bitchy. Plus she rather gyrate against second-rate musicians than locate her husband or listen to her messed up son. And for someone we're supposed to root for and care about, she's barely on screen most of the time. Honestly, I couldn't care about this woman or what happened to her. That's not good screenwriting. To be honest, I found her weird son more interesting. While he had even less time onscreen than Blaze, at least he took pills and wore stockings over his head and face. That's more personality than most horror characters get, especially during the early slasher era. I wish I had seen more of him and less of Blaze. That would have made the film better for me. As for the cop and his psychiatrist friend, the less said about them, the better. With this people in charge, I'm surprised Evil didn't kill more people. Yeesh.

What makes NEW YEAR'S EVIL somewhat entertaining, however, is the dialogue. I don't know what drugs the screenwriters were on while writing this movie, but I couldn't help but laugh at some of the things these characters said. From Evil pronouncing his name as "Eeeeeeevvvvviiiilllll...", to the cop saying that "There's enough evil to fill Death Valley, this one is just following through on his threats [doesn't evil always follow through? what a dumbass!]," to my personal favorite "Spin out and boil your hair [what the fuck does that mean?]", NEW YEAR'S EVIL has a lot of memorable quotes. And I love the fact that Erik Estrada was used into leading a woman into being killed. Ponch would have been proud!

And while the script isn't that great, at least it was original for the time and the pacing was actually pretty good. I'm surprised more horror films haven't capitalized on New Year's Eve. If that was ever a perfect setting for a horror movie, I don't know what is.

Gorehounds will be disappointed by NEW YEAR'S EVIL. There are hardly any kills, and when there are, you don't see anything as it happens offscreen. You get stabbings from a switchblade, some throats being slit, attack by a brick, gunfire, suicide, a decapitated head, and my favorite - the woman who got strangled in a bag of pot...with the pot still in it! If you're gonna die, you might as well be high, right? I also loved the gag where Blaze is tied to the bottom of an elevator shaft as it moves down, hoping to crush her when the elevator lands. Not only was it fun to watch, but it was original as well. More gore would have helped compensate for the weak narrative, but at least we get something!

The direction by Emmett Alston is pretty simple stuff, focusing on a point-and-shoot affair. While it lacks in style, the film is technically competent and looks better than most early slashers. I also felt the 85 minutes went by pretty quickly, meaning the film definitely had a good pace. I wish there was more tension and suspense, but that's kind of hard when we see the killer's face the whole time. I think if he had worn the Stan Laurel mask the entire time, it would have made for creepier moments. I do think some of the death scenes were well filmed, especially the one in the dumpster, as well as the elevator scene coming close to nail-biting than anything else in the film. My main issue is filling some of the film with scenes of two bands, Made In Japan and Shadow, playing their songs during the New Year's Eve party. While the songs weren't all that great, I still kind of dug them for their novelty [the theme song in particular]. But these scenes don't add much of anything to the film and ruin any sort of flow or momentum NEW YEAR'S EVIL tries to create. If I wanted to watch a music video, I'd go on YouTube and watch a music video. Now I know what GRADUATION DAY and it's 8-minute walk-around-the-roller-rink scene was inspired by. Yuck. And it didn't help having scenes of the crowd shuffling on their feet to the music. It was like watching Soul Train... after Shang Tsung had swallowed their souls. If these kids were punks, then Sid Vicious is rolling in his grave.

The acting was pretty bad, save one. That one goes to Kip Niven as Evil, who brought a lot of charm and humor to the role as the film's antagonist. I believed he could be a ladies' man, as well as a nutjob with a Freudian complex. I wish he was written better because he could have made for a more memorable horrror villain since he had the chops to pull it off. Grant Cramer, probably best known as one of the leads in KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE, isn't the best actor but he is memorable for playing a wacked out, neglected, tormented son who needs to wear his mom's stockings just to feel closer to her. And Roz Kelly, the former Pinky Tuscadero from Happy Days, just bored me as Diane "Blaze" Sullivan. I didn't find her hot. I didn't find her interesting. I found her unappealing and annoying. I don't know if another actress - a better actress - would have made the role better, but Kelly did nothing for me. I heard she was arrested in 1998 for firing a 12-gauge shotgun into the living room window of her neighbor's home because a car alarm woke her up. Where is THAT movie?

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE GOING TO ERIK ESTRADA'S HOUSE FOR A PARTY

- If your bathtub faucet is dripping, leave it alone. That annoying sound of losing water is better than that annoying feeling of losing blood... or so I hear.

- Diane's son, Derek, won a role on a primetime show, to which she was indifferent to. I know another show Derek will soon be appearing on - Intervention.

- Blaze wants people to "spin out and boil your hair." I'm not sure what that means, but judging from that 80s Pepsi commercial, Michael Jackson sure did!

- Derek is a drug addict. It took his mom's neglect, rather than KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE, to push him over the edge. Unbelievable...

- Evil used the name "Erik Estrada" to seduce a potential victim into going somewhere with him. While that's laughable today, back in 1980 that was a huge C.H.I.P.(S.) on someone's shoulder.

- The killer suffocated some annoying blonde bimbo with a plastic bag full of weed. For an airhead, I thought she'd last longer.

- Another female victim tried to seduce Evil while he was in priest garb. Stupid bitch. She should have made like Beyonce and wished she were a boy. Then she'd have a better chance!

- If you're a working wife and mother, don't ever neglect your family. When they decide to get back at you for the lack of attention, the last thing you'll be having are some Happy Days.

THE FINAL HOWL
NEW YEAR'S EVIL is definitely not one of the highlights of the slasher boom of the 1980s. It's extremely predictable. It's pretty dull for the most part. And it has one of the worst Final Girls in slasher history, compared to the more compelling villain. Still, it's an interesting nostalgia piece that has some entertainment value at certain moments, along with a great performance by Kip Niven. Recommended for slasher fans only. This will be a New Year's Eve tradition, only by default.


SCORE
1.5 Howls Outta 4


12.29.2010

The Maze (2010)

DIRECTED BY
Steve Shimek

STARRING
Shalaina Castle - Jordan
Brandon Sean Pearson - Cole

Clare Niederpruem - Alison

Kyle Paul - Will
Tye Nelson - Collin

Luke Drake - Officer Eri
c Schroeder
Richard Dutcher - Sheriff Ben

Allan Groves - Officer Marcus Larsen

Genre - Horror/Thriller/Slasher/Indie

Running Time - 90 Minutes


I remember that internet meme a couple of years back where you had to guide your mouse through a four-level maze. In each level, the paths would get narrower and narrower to the point where you would have to restart the whole thing when you touched a wall. But if you actually made it to that last level, you would get to the mid-point of the maze until *BAM* - a Pazuzu possessed Regan MacNeil from THE EXORCIST would pop up and scare the daylights out of you. Yes, I screamed like a bitch when she popped up. I'm man enough to admit it.

So why am I writing about that maze again? Because the reaction I got from it was a lot more stimulating than watching 2010's low-budget independent horror/thriller THE MAZE, which takes place in a corn field in the middle of nowhere. While not a terrible film, it won't leave you aMAZEd either. Here's the perfect example of a film that has a great idea, but can't live up to its potential due to several factors that's mostly out of its control.

PLOT
Five friends, who seem to bicker alot, decide to drive in search for a huge maze that's surrounded by rows and columns of corn stalks. Along the way, one of them brings up a story about a guy in a red hoodie stabbing and killing people, who venture through this maze, with scissors. Being the geniuses they are, they decide to head there anyway and check it out. Unfortunately by the time they arrive there, it's night and the maze is closed for the public. Being the geniuses they are, they decide to trespass and play a game of "tag" as they travel through the large maze. What they don't know is that someone wearing a red hoodie is also inside the maze, eager to attack these friends one-by-one.

REVIEW
THE MAZE could have been a pretty great horror/thriller if it had more things going for it, instead of against it. The main culprit is the lack of money to really fund a great premise like a killer in a corn field maze, as the film doesn't show us enough of what we need to see in order to make a movie like this work. The other culprit is a weak script that pretty much derails any potential or momentum THE MAZE needs to make it stand out.

Like I mentioned, the narrative is very weak because it doesn't seem to know what type of film it wants to tell. The first half of the movie is definitely a slasher, with a stalk-and-kill villain chasing after five one-dimensional characters through a corn field. The problem with the whole slasher deal is that it doesn't do what slashers are known for - nudity and graphic violence. No one gets even close to being naked in this film at all. Plus, the violence is pretty tame. There's barely any bloodshed. The kills seem to happen off-screen. And with characters that have no development at all, we need those two distractions to keep audiences invested in finishing the film. And I gotta say that the Final Girl has got to be one of the worst choices for a Final Girl in a slasher film. Not only do we know nothing about her, but she's a total bitch for most of the film. So why should I care about her survival again?

The second half of the film switches modes, becoming a thriller as the killer reveals himself and torments the Final Girl in a twist that I didn't see coming honestly. Unfortunately, I don't understand the twist's purpose because the backstory of the killer is never revealed. We have no idea why he does what he does. We have no idea why he only kills people who enter mazes of corn. We have no idea why he decides to play mind games with the lone survivor instead of killing her and getting it over with. I will say that once the killer is in his civilian clothes and actually speaks, his personality shines right through. In fact, I wanted to see more of the character. But with no clear motivations for his actions, there was definitely a piece of the puzzle missing.

And while the film was disjointed due to the change in genres, I felt the thriller portion of the movie was stronger than the slasher portion. The slasher portion dragged on for way too long, boring me to tears. The characters were very annoying, unlikable, and not even worth the time caring about. The killer should have killed them faster in my opinion. The thriller portion, while not exactly thrilling, was better paced. It went by quick and I liked the characters and acting better as well. Personally, THE MAZE should have been a shorter film, with maybe 15 dedicated to the slasher portion, and 30 minutes to the thriller portion. The film would have been more effective and the small budget would have gone to more things in the production, like maybe better actors and the graphic violence.

Nagging issues: Why would five adults drive for so many hours just to see a maze built with rows of corn husks? And why would they trespass at night, especially knowing that a killer did horrible things there? And when they did see the killer, why didn't they just run through the corn instead of actually trying to find a way out through the maze? I know horror characters are supposed to have smaller I.Q.'s than real life people, but this was pretty ridiculous.

The gore is pretty non-existent, due to the low budget. But we do get slashed throats, stabbings, gunfire, burnings, and even guillotine action. It was a very tame slasher. But I can understand why it wasn't better. With more money, the gore effects could have easily compensated for the unforgivable weak screenwriting and story structure.

The direction by Steve Shimek is more hit than miss. To get the negatives out of the way, Shimek doesn't provide enough tension or scares to satisfy horror and/or thriller audiences. We get the usual jump scares and false starts that most modern horror films rely on when there's no atmosphere to set the creepy mood. Shimek also relies on his score to provide tension and scares, but all they did was take me out of the scene. The music wasn't bad, but it just seemed to be playing during the wrong times at some spots. I also thought the pacing was off, like I mentioned earlier. The disjointing two halves didn't help either. I will say that Shimek does have some decent visual style behind the camera. There were moments in the film where slow motion his use of flashbacks worked well. I also loved the cinematography and composition of the film. It looked very professional for a small budget, with the settings and framing looking quite impressive and stunning at times. I thought the visuals were actually the best part of the film, I have to say. I would like to see what Shimek can do with better screenwriters and a bigger budget.

The acting in the film wasn't all that impressive, but it wasn't totally horrible. I will say the best actor was the killer himself. I won't say the character's name because I don't want to spoil who it is, but I dug his work in the last half of the film. Shalaina Castle was also cool as Jordan, although she annoyed me in the first half of the film.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE BUTTERING MY CORN

- "No one gets buried alive anymore." Tell that to Bill Pullman or Ryan Reynolds. I think they'd disagree with you...

- One of the characters had trouble lighting her cigarettes anytime she needs a smoke. No wonder she's single - she has no idea how to turn on things that are in her mouth.

- One of the characters got strangled to death. That's what happens when you get roped into doing a stupid maze.

- Don't bring a shotgun to a dangerous corn field. Corn will be the last thing getting popped.

- Don't get yourself trapped in a maze that has an Alice In Wonderland motif and a killer dressed in red. Once he gets his hands on you, it'll be off with your head!

THE FINAL HOWL
THE MAZE is a disappointing, mediocre low-budget horror film that could have been better if there was more money involved and if the screenplay was written better [I can forgive the budget, I can't forgive lazy writing for low or big budget films]. Still, we don't get a lot of horror films involving creepy corn fields. THE MAZE is a decent rental if you're into indie horror. Otherwise, I wouldn't bother. You wouldn't be missing a thing if you don't journey through this MAZE.


SCORE
2 Howls Outta 4


12.24.2010

ORIGINAL vs. REMAKE: Black Christmas/Black X-Mas (1974 & 2006)

DIRECTED BY
Bob Clark (1974)
Glen Morgan (2006)


STARRING
(1974)
Olivia Hussey - Jess Bradford
Keir Dullea - Peter Smythe

Margot Kidder - Barb

Andr
ea Martin - Phyl
Maria Waldman - Mrs. MacHenry

James Edmond - Mr. Harrison

John Saxon - Lt. Fuller

Douglas McGrath - Sergeant Nash

(2006)
Katie Cassidy - Kelli Presley
Kristen Cloke - Leigh Colvin

Mary Elizabeth Winstead
- Heather
Michelle Trachtenberg - Melissa

Lacey Chabert - Dana

Andrea Martin - Mrs. MacHenry

Oliver Hudson - Kyle

Crystal Lowe - Lauren


Genre - Horror/Slasher/Suspense/Mystery/Remake

Running Time - 97 Minutes (1974)/92 Minutes (2006 Unrated Cut)


Even though it hasn't really felt like the Christmas season this year for several personal reasons, I still like to take time and enjoy Christmas television specials or Christmas movies during this time of year. From Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer, A Charlie Brown Christmas, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, SCROOGE, to MARCH OF THE WOODEN SOLDIERS, entertainment is pretty rad in December. My favorite Christmas film has to be A CHRISTMAS STORY. Who doesn't love Bob Clark's classic of little Ralphie constantly being warned that he'll shoot his eye out with a B.B. Gun? That 24-hour marathon is a must every Christmas!

It's kind of funny that A CHRISTMAS STORY tends to overshadow Clark's other Christmas classic - 1974's BLACK CHRISTMAS. One of the films that genuinely ushered in the slasher film, even if HALLOWEEN does get all the credit, BLACK CHRISTMAS doesn't get much love outside the horror fanbase. Hell, even some of the horror fans tend to discredit BLACK CHRISTMAS, calling it "overrated", "slow", "boring", and "not bloody enough". I personally think the film is charming, mysterious, and uses its atmosphere and mood so well that some of it even comes off as creepy, even to this day. In fact, BLACK CHRISTMAS is one of the many examples of how great horror was in the 1970s.

Unfortunately like every other popular horror flick, BLACK CHRISTMAS got the remake treatment back in 2006. Dubbed BLACK X-MAS, the remake took away the great mystery of the original's narrative, turning the story into a generic, semi-entertaining, teen slasher flick that focuses more on shock and gore than atmosphere and telling a good story. While neither version was a box office smash, the original got all the praise while the remake has been on many "Worst Remakes" lists that I've seen.

Having watched both films in a two-day period, I can see that both have their pros and both have their cons. But one of these films is definitely more watchable than the other. So let's deck those balls and see which BLACK CHRISTMAS will come on top. Will it be 1974? Or will it be 2006? Looks like it's another installment of Original vs. Remake! Let the battle begin!

PLOT
The films basically share the same plot: It's Christmas Eve and a group of sorority sisters prepare to head home for the holidays. Unfortunately, the girls start receiving really strange phone calls about two people named Billy and Agnes. While they're scared by this weird caller, they have no clue that someone dangerous has broken into their sorority house and has taken shelter in the attic. When the killer strikes one of the sisters, causing her disappearance, the girls try to get the police involved. When the cops are incapable of helping them due to weather or lack of urge, the girls must deal with the killer in their home on their own. As the girls get killed one-by-one, the remaining girls realize that this Christmas may be the blackest of them all.

REVIEW

[1974]
BLACK CHRISTMAS is considered one of the best, if not the best, Christmas horror film ever made. And it's hard to disagree with that statement. BLACK CHRISTMAS has a lot of things going for it. The narrative is well-written and well-paced. The direction is great. And the acting is very good. Plus it tends to be pretty creepy at times as well. For horror fans, BLACK CHRISTMAS should be a annual Yuletide tradition.

The strength of BLACK CHRISTMAS comes from the screenplay by Roy Moore. While the film does have slasher elements that may seem cliche for modern audiences, the movie plays out more like a mystery-thriller where you're never really sure what's true and what's not. The mystery element comes from the killer himself, who's name we don't really know [people suspect it's Billy himself, but we're never really sure], who's face we never see, but who's voice [or voices] we always hear on the phone. All we see of him is his silhouette and his eye through peep holes. And when he calls the girls on the phone, he uses multiple voices as if he's suffering from a massive case of multiple personality disorder, creating a very creepy vibe that could send chills up and down your spine. There even points in the film where we wonder if all of the murders are even being done by this shadowy person, or if another main character is involved in some of them.

There's a lot of debate about the fact that the mystery is never solved, leaving the ending of the film to be very ambiguous. Some people hate it. Others love it. I personally think it's cool that we never really know who this person is and why he's murdering these girls. Did he even kill that little girl in the park or is that a red herring? And what is the final fate of the final girl anyway? It just makes the film creepier to me. We're afraid of things we don't understand, and BLACK CHRISTMAS sticks to that motto. "Less is more" sometimes.

The narrative is also strong because of the characters. Instead of coming off as stereotypes, they're all fleshed out with distinct personalities. Jess is the quiet, sweet one with the hot accent. She also has to deal with the fact that she is pregnant and doesn't want the baby, as she feels she's not ready for motherhood. Barb is the drunk with the filthy mouth who says whatever is on her mind, even if it is during the most inappropriate times. She even curses around children and feeds them booze on the sly! I need to hang out with this chick! And Ms. MacHenry is a hysterical lush who has a bottle of booze hidden in every corner of the house. Even the cops have personalities, especially Nash, who may be one of the dumbest and most naive cops ever on screen. And all these characters deal with the whole issue of their friends going missing, either by living in denial about it or drinking themselves to potential alcohol poisoning. You can definitely relate to each one of these characters in some way, making us care about their survival. It also helps that we spend a lot of screen time with each one, letting their personalities shine through. These characters are more HALLOWEEN slasher characters than FRIDAY THE 13TH slasher characters, which benefits the film greatly.

I also dig that the issue of abortion is used in the right way. An amateur screenwriter could have used this plot device cheaply, or just have brought it up and tossed it aside to be forgotten for much of the running time. But the issue of abortion threatens the relationship between two of the characters, which causes one of them to lose it to the point where we wonder if he's a threat to the remaining characters. While it's still a controversial issue, I'm pretty sure it was major back in the mid-70s. And to see it used the right way is a good thing in my book.

I will say though that some of the characters behave in ways that seem pretty illogical at times. Instead of running out of the house to escape danger, they stay inside to confront it. If the police are coming to your home and telling you to leave the house, why not listen, especially if the calls are coming from WITHIN the house? Also, one character breaks into the house at the end to confront another character in the basement so they could talk? Not only is this desperate, but it just seems odd. How would this character even know this person was hiding in the basement anyway? The windows were foggy and there was no way of knowing this person's whereabouts. And the resolution to the whole scenerio happens offscreen, which bugs me as well. I'm just left confused by the whole thing.

And while I love the comical scenes, such as the classic "fellatio" moment that still makes me laugh to this day, the shifts in tone can be a bit jarring to some. It's obvious Bob Clark and Roy Moore wanted to make a creepy film with a side of black humor about Christmas. But some people might get put off by it and it does make BLACK CHRISTMAS a bit disjointed at times, especially when you go from that "fellatio" scene to a very serious moment where Jess and Peter argue over Jess' decision to abort their baby. I don't really mind it, but I know others do - so I'm just putting it out there.

Bob Clark does a fantastic job directing BLACK CHRISTMAS. Being a horror director before going into comedies such as PORKY'S and A CHRISTMAS STORY, Clark creates a very dark and unsettling mood from the very first shot of the movie. It's obvious John Carpenter was inspired by this film for HALLOWEEN, as both movies begin with the killer POV shots and use the visual mood and atmosphere to tell their story, rather than the dialogue. I also noticed a moment where we shots of different rooms in the house where the killer has probably been during the running time of the movie, which reminds me of HALLOWEEN's ending with its varied shots of different locations. I do think Carpenter did it slightly better, but Clark was definitely the guy who did it first for North American audiences. I think the editing works. I like the grittiness of the cinematography and the film grain. I loved that one shot of the eyeball, which is haunting. I love that we only see the killer in shadows. I just think the visuals work from beginning to end. And while the film isn't graphic at all [besides the plastic bag and unicorn stuff], I think imagining what happened during the murders is creepier anyway. Clark does a great job here.

The acting is pretty solid. Olivia Hussey as Jess looks and sounds hot with her British accent. Plus I believed her conflict over the abortion stuff, and her fear towards the end with the phone calls and the killer. Keir Dullea as Peter creeped me out a bit with his neurosis. I totally bought his breakdown. Margot Kidder, as Barb, cracked me up. Her chain smoking and alcoholic character definitely brought humor to the film when it needed it. I wish she was in the film more though. We'll always have that moment of "fellatio" though! John Saxon is always welcome, playing the same cop character he usually plays. I can't hate the guy at all. If he's in a movie, I'm gonna watch it. Love that dude! Maria Waldman made me laugh as Ms. MacHenry. Wish she was in the film more as well. And Doug McGrath as Nash cracked up as the stupid cop, Nash. I think he may be related to Dewey from the SCREAM series. Wouldn't surprise me.

[2006]

While the original BLACK CHRISTMAS took the mystery-thriller route, the BLACK X-MAS remake ignores that, instead going into a predictable slasher route that's focused on gore and blood rather than tension and suspense. The remake does maintain the more vital elements that make BLACK X-MAS what it is, but tries to update it for modern audiences. Is it a success? Not really. But it's not the worst attempt at a modern remake either, no matter how many people out there would love to see me really bash this one.

The screenplay by Glen Morgan is pretty lame for the most part. Comparing it to the original, the only things that stay the same are the sorority sisters, the killer in the attic, the dumb cops, the plastic bag and unicorn murders, and the Ms. MacHenry character. Everything else has been updated, especially the whole Billy and Agnes deal. Like I wrote in the review for the original, we have no idea who Billy or Agnes are. We believe that Billy is the shadowy killer in the original, but we're never sure. Well Morgan decided to give us the answer to our questions. ALL the answers - more answers than I would want from this film. Like the fact that Billy was born with some sort of liver disease that makes the pigment of his skin look yellow, which caused his mother to despise him. Like the fact that this same woman decided to have sex with Billy, which lead to Agnes [Billy's daughter/sister - ew] being born. Then we also get stuff with Billy's mom killing his dad with her lover, Billy pulling out Agnes' eye, and then killing both his stepfather and mother, making cookies out of her skin. It's so over the top and silly, that it's kind of hilarious in a sick way. Is this whole ridiculous backstory needed? Not really, but I understand why it was done. We already have a mystery that was unsolved in the original film. Why keep that mystery going in the remake? You might as well reveal it all. And it's not the worst backstory I've seen in a horror film, so I can't really hate on it. I do think giving it all away in the beginning takes away the suspense and tension, especially when characters think other characters are the killers [dramatic irony at its finest]. But it's a new wave of horror. Horror fans like to know why their killers do the things that they do. So I can't complain about the backstory.

What I can complain about is [SPOILER ALERT] that Billy isn't even the damn main villain of the story! Oh no, someone else is doing all the killing and Billy is just the accomplice. You can pretty much figure out who it is since it's so damn predictable. Why put so much stock into the backstory of this person if he isn't even the reason why these stupid sorority sisters get it? And why would this person even help Billy? They should be Billy's enemy for previous actions, but instead is loving and wanting to help him. Huh? It makes no sense really, like much of this film. [END SPOILER ALERT]

Another thing, why are all these sorority sisters such fuckin' bitches? All of them are on the damn rag it seems for some reason! Am I supposed to like or even relate to catty bimbos who share the Christmas spirit by hating on each other all night? I can understand if one or two of them are bitches. There's always one in every horror film. But all of them!? Sure they're all on different levels of HBIC, but this is too much! Sure they were hot and that helped me tolerate them somewhat, but these girls deserved to get murdered just on horror principle! And the fact that we can never really focus on most of them for more than five minutes throughout the entire film really limits our connection to our "protagonists". Even the girls from THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW were nicer to each other and actually more intelligent than these bitchy airheads. And all the guys in the film were assholes and condescending. Yeah, what a group of people I just want to watch for 90 straight minutes...

I won't even go into the dialogue. I guess this is how girls talk nowadays, but it just left me shaking my head - and my body in laughter at how badly written this script is. I can't type some of the lines from the top of my head, but I have to admit, some of it made me laugh because normal people wouldn't really speak like this. So bad dialogue equals entertainment value. So I guess clouds do have silver linings.

More issues - the sex tape issue. What was the point of that again? It never went anywhere and just seemed to be in the film because it's such an "it" and "modern" pop culture item. If you're not going to use that for something meaningful, then don't bother. Also, the killer murdered people in the same exact way - plastic bag with the occasional stabbing. Ever heard of changing it up? It was a cool homage to the original at first, but it got really old after the fifth time I saw it happen. And the very end was a bit much. So stereotypical, so predictable, so unneeded. I hate the whole multiple ending shtick modern horror films seem to be on these days. If they provide a twist that actually works and feels believable in context to the rest of the film, then I'm all for it. But it just reminded me of GRADUATION DAY - the film would not end. That time and money could have gone to providing a better script.

What does work in BLACK X-MAS is the gore. We get some pretty sick stuff here. Eyes getting pulled out of their sockets, unicorn stabbings, icicles to the head, ice skates slashing off half of a face, and other sick shit. When your film is made by the guys behind the better FINAL DESTINATION films, you know you'll be seeing some blood. I dug what I saw. Also, we get to see hot chicks in tight clothing - even one showering. I can't complain about the eye candy. Yum...

The direction by Glen Morgan on this film isn't his best work, but it's not the worst job I've seen. While most of the film is the pretty simple point-and-shoot affair, there are moments where the shots are pretty stylish and slick. Also, there was an attempt at some sort of mood in this film, but it never fully hits its potential. I guess Morgan wanted less scary and more humorous to the situation. I will say he doesn't shy away from the film's brutality. And I actually like that this version feels more like Christmas than the original does. With the decorations, presents, and even the snowy setting, it feels more like a Christmas horror film. So kudos to Morgan on that.

The acting isn't all that memorable and no one really stands out. But I blame the script and direction for that, not the actresses. From Katie Cassidy, to Lacey Chabert, to Michelle Trachtenberg, and to Mary Elizabeth Winstead, all these girls have proven they can act if the material works in their favor. But when your character is pretty much "one-note bitch", how much depth can you put into your craft? These girls, Kristen Cloke, Oliver Hudson, and even Andrea Martin, deserved better. But they did the best with what they were given and I can't hate the work here. I just wish these girls had better material to play off on, that's all.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE MAKING SCARY PRANK CALLS TO A SORORITY HOUSE

- There's a strange dude hiding in the attic. Maybe he's waiting for his sister. After all, incest is a game the whole family can play - even on Christmas!

- Don't ignore the creepy looking guy in the closet. If it's not Lance Bass or Clay Aiken, then he'll probably want to suffocate you with plastic.

- Peter had trouble impressing scouts with his terrible piano skills. Keyboard cat, show him how it's done...



- Barb was drunk for much of the film. If she was this plastered during a great film, I can only imagine her state of intoxication during SUPERMAN III and SUPERMAN IV! What a mess!

- One of the girls was repeatedly impaled by a glass unicorn. Man, Rainbow Brite was a real bitch back in the 1970s!

- Lacey Chabert would love to bury the hatchet with her sister...in her head. Now we know who the real Ghostface killer was in all those SCREAM films.

- Billy loves making Christmas cookies out of human flesh. I know Hannibal Lecter approves of his cooking skills.

- Billy enjoys watching hot chicks shower through a peephole. What a pervert! Get a girlfriend, Norman "Master"Bates!

- Two of the characters were murdered by an icicle and an ice skate blade respectively. I didn't think these two characters were the sharpest of the sisters, but I continue to be proven wrong.

THE FINAL HOWL

Two different approaches to a single film, BLACK CHRISTMAS and BLACK X-MAS will appeal to different audiences. Personally, I love the mystery and atmosphere of the 1974 version and feel that the 2006 remake is a below average film with some entertainment value for its stupidity. But I know there are others who may feel just the opposite that I do. But this is my review and I definitely recommend BLACK CHRISTMAS for a rental and a buy. BLACK X-MAS is a rental at best. You wouldn't be missing much if you skipped it though. It could have used more Eric Freeman and his eyebrows, in my honest opinion. Oh well.

If I learned anything from these Christmas horror films, beware of crazy Santas and strange people in your attic. Those are two gifts no one wants under their tree. Merry Christmas everyone!


SCORE

BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)
3.5 Howls Outta 4


BLACK X-MAS (2006)
1.5 Howls Outta 4



Winner: BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)




BLACK CHRISTMAS Trailer


BLACK X-MAS Trailer

12.20.2010

The WTF? Worst Films Extravaganza Presents: Silent Night, Deadly Night III: Better Watch Out! (1989)

DIRECTED BY
Monte Hellman

STARRING
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.

PLOT
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!

REVIEW
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...



SCORE
0.5 Howls Outta 4


12.14.2010

The B-Movie Bungalow Presents: Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (1987)

DIRECTED BY
Lee Harry

STARRING
Eric Freeman - Ricky Caldwell
James L. Newman - Dr. Henry Bloom

Elizabeth Cayton - Jennifer

Jean Miller - Mother Superior

Kenneth Brian James - Chip

Randy Baughman - Eddie

Randy Por
t - Loudmouth in Theatre

Genre - Horror/Slasher/B-Movie/Cult/Sequel

Running Time - 88 Minutes


In 1984, there was a very vocal group of parents who joined together to "ban" a film that they felt was inappropriate for their children due to the horrible depiction of Santa Claus. The film in question is, of course, SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT - a horror film where a traumatized teenager dresses up like Santa Claus and decides to kill all of the "naughty" people after he snaps. While the film isn't as bad as these overdramatic parents were claiming it to be, the film still left an imprint on children who watched it, now becoming a holiday horror classic due to its unwarranted reputation. The film made a slight profit due to the film being forcefully taken out of theaters [as well as going up against A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, which destroyed business for being innovative and scary], meaning that a sequel was most likely going to be produced.

The producers of the first movie hired Lee Harry to re-edit SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT for a re-release in theaters to build momentum for the upcoming sequel. Harry and his three [really???] co-writers, however, wanted to direct new footage for the film as a continuation with the original villain's brother, Ricky, as the main character. The two sides compromised each other's ideas in order to make this sequel. However, the script wasn't long enough to fill the length of a feature film, leading to the first third of the film being nothing but footage of the original SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT and a 10-minute closing credits scene to fill up more time! Who thought this was a great idea?

Apparently not many people at the time of its release. It was actually released in April of 1987 [because April is full of Christmastime sentiments] and bombed, not even making its small budget back. Even its appearance on VHS and on DVD is very limited, almost as if the producers of this film don't want this movie to exist for some reason. However, the internet age has given SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 a brand new life - turning it into a monster cult classic and bad movie icon due to lead actor Eric Freeman's over-the-top performance, especially during the "Garbage Day!!" sequence [which has turned into an internet meme]. But is SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 worth all this attention? Or does the film deserve to be punished for being "naughty"?

PLOT
Ricky Caldwell (Eric Freeman) is in a mental hospital, recounting to Dr. Henry Bloom (James L. Newman) about his older brother Billy's (Robert Brian Wilson) rampage years ago in the original SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT. This eventually leads to Ricky discussing his own experiences, from having a beautiful girlfriend (Elizabeth Cayton) to hating his Mother Superior (Jean Miller) and wanting revenge on her for ruining his and Billy's life. This leads to Ricky escaping the psych ward, dressing up as Santa, and wanting to deliver a deadly present to his former Mother Superior. Will Ricky succeed where Billy failed? Will Ricky suffer the same fate as his older brother? And when exactly is Garbage Day?

REVIEW
Let me just to put it out there: SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 is a horrible film in every single way. The story is awful. The acting is atrocious. The direction is ho-hum. There's nothing technically fantastic about it. Yet, it's one of the unintentionally entertaining films of all time, making it a success when it really shouldn't be.

Like I said, the screenplay by Lee Harry, Lawrence Appelbaum, Joseph H. Earle, and Dennis Patterson [now I know how many people it takes to write crappy cinema] is a big ol' mess. Things don't make sense. Continuity is thrown right out the window. Almost half of the movie is footage from another movie! This has to be one of the laziest and most pointless screenplays in movie history. I mean, the first half of the film is just a really long recap of the events in SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT "narrated" by Ricky. But instead of giving us footage from Ricky's perspective, it's just the same stuff we saw in the original. Speaking of which, how is possible for Ricky to remember his parents' death at the hands of a man dressed like Santa Claus when he was barely a year old [and crying his lungs out at the time, by the way]? Or how does Ricky know exactly what went down during Billy's final hours during his murderous rampage? Ricky tells the psychiatrist that Billy told him, which is absolutely impossible! Not only is this lazy and horrible filmmaking, but it makes watching the full-length SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT a waste of time! Just watch PART 2 and you won't miss anything! Is this a sequel or the Best of SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT: The Highlights?

There are other issues as well. For one, why would Ricky, a guy who murdered a bunch of people, not be restrained or drugged during his interview ALONE with the doctor? Is this proper protocol in psych wards to let the inmates take charge of the asylum? Is this Haddonfield, Illinois or something? Not only that, but there are items that could cause bodily harm around him. Genius! Were they really watching SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT during the date inside the theater? I don't know if that's horrible filmmaking or incredibly smart to make us feel and see Ricky's craziness as he watches his brother's torment on the silver screen. I also loved the fact that Mother Superior, who is wheelchair bound, lives in a two-floor home that's not wheelchair accessible. HOW THE HELL DOES SHE GET UP THOSE STAIRS??? And when does a stroke give its victim burn scars? I NEED ANSWERS!!!

While just thinking about the narrative hurts my brain, I will commend the screenwriters for adding moments of young Ricky within the material of SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT to make the character more of a presence. It makes Ricky's transition from innocent kid to crazy, campy bastard more believable. I also found moments unintentionally funny. For example, why was 17-year-old Ricky older looking than Adult Ricky? Was Ricky really sent with a Jewish family to get away from Christmas? How funny is the fact that Mother Superior's address is 666? And that "sex scene" was just laughable. I think Jennifer got more pleasure during her death scene. And the "Garbage Day!!!" sequence is definitely the highlight of the film, along with some of the one-liners. It's a terribly written film, but at least it made me laugh. Some supposed comedies can't even manage that.

Since the film is majorly low budget [$250,000], the gore effects here aren't all that impressive. We get blood from gunshots, an umbrella impaling, a dude run over multiple times, eyes bursting due to high levels of electricity, and moments seen from the original SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT [the antlers death is still cool after all these years]. The decapitation scene is ridiculous in the fact that the cut was so clean, meaning there was no blood gushing from either the head or the neck it sat on after the fact! I guess certain people don't bleed?

The direction by Lee Harry isn't that great. He seems to have a foot fetish, as a lot of the shots in the film were focused on feet. He also loves his extreme close-ups, especially if it's on Eric Freeman. The editing is a bit choppy at times. There's no tension or suspense. And the tone doesn't feel like Christmas at all [where are the Christmas decorations? The last fifteen minutes don't count!]. Supposedly, Harry had planned for this sequel to be silly and campy, for which I call bullshit on. This film was made as seriously as the first one and only claimed this after the fact. But at least the film looks decent and some shots are composed nicely. And I will say, even as lazy as it is, the flashback stuff was handled quite well. The fact that the film wasn't an eyesore is enough praise for me.

The acting is what really turns SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 from a waste of time to so-bad-it's-good territory. Eric Freeman is either the worst actor or the greatest actor alive with his performance as Ricky. Never in my life have I've been captivated by a thespian's work like I am with Mr. Freeman. His eyebrow movements are amazing. There should be an acting class based on them. His reciting of dialogue is over-the-top magic. He laughs and kills people with menace and glee. The man is a true revelation and should be honored with his brilliant work in horror cinema. The man steals every scene he's in, and rightfully so. This is how I expect a nutjob to behave in my horror films - not like that boring Robert Brian Wilson guy in the original who took things too seriously. I'll never forget to celebrate Garbage Day for as long as I live. I hope the guy comes out of hiding and cherishes the level of fame he has received. It is quite well-deserved.

As for the other actors, they're bad but in an entertaining way. James L. Newman is actually pretty decent for what he's given. Elizabeth Cayton is your typical B-movie actress - hot, snarky, and willing to get nude if the price is right. Plus she can gulp with the best of them. Kenneth Brian James as Chip cracked me up with his terrible performance. And Jean Miller as Mother Superior knows to vocalize the word "naughty" really well. I'm not sure if this is the least impressive cast or one of the best gathering of horrible actors ever. This film is an anomaly in that way.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE SCARING PEOPLE IN MY SANTA SUIT

- Ricky is afraid of nuns. I guess he saw SISTER ACT 2: BACK IN THE HABIT. It's somewhat understandable.

- 17-year-old Ricky looks older than Adult Ricky. Joan Rivers should've asked him for his beauty tips before she decided to turn herself into an alien-looking mannequin with all that plastic surgery. I mean, can we talk?

- Don't attempt to rape a woman in front of a mentally disturbed person. Your heart, penis, and ego will be the last things to get bruised.

- Ricky killed someone with an umbrella. I see where Britney Spears took her technique from when she beat up that car that one time during her bald phase. It's more than I learned from watching CROSSROADS.

- Don't try to win back your ex in front of her current boyfriend. You might be shocked when he attacks you over it. Or the shock could be from the jumper cable attached to your tongue. Whichever comes first, I guess.

- Don't pull out a gun on a deranged murderer as you attempt to cuff him. The move is mindblowingly stupid. Literally.

- Mother Superior had a stroke, which unexplicably scarred her face as if she were a burn victim. I guess I won't need to watch THE MAN WITHOUT A FACE to find out why Mel Gibson looks deformed. Thanks for the spoiler, SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2!

THE FINAL HOWL
SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 is a terrible film on a technical level, but a good film on an entertainment level. If I were judging this as a mainstream film, it would totally be WTF? Vault worthy. But since it's a B-movie, I have to use a different scale for it. And on that scale, SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 should be a Christmas horror tradition every year. Hell, you get to watch TWO films in one! How many other films can provide that sort of cinematic feat? Truly a horrible, horrible film that deserves your undivided attention every December.


SCORE
3 Howls Outta 4



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