Steven C. Miller
Jaime King - Aubrey Bradimore
Malcolm McDowell - Sheriff James Cooper
Donal Logue - Santa Jim Epstein
Ellen Wong - Brenda
Brendan Fehr - Deputy Jordan
Andrew Cecon - Deputy Stanley Giles
Curtis Moore - Reverend Madeley
Courtney-Jane White - Tiffany Revie
Genre - Horror/Slasher/Holiday
Running Time - 94 Minutes
In Cryer, Wisconsin, the small town is celebrating their annual Christmas festivities without a care in the world. However, there's a lunatic out there dressed up as Santa Claus, using a sharp axe and a flamethrower to murder certain townspeople who seem to be on his Naughty list this year. A recently widowed cop named Aubrey Bradimore (Jaime King) is on the case, although her jerk of a sheriff (Malcolm McDowell) tends to put her down every chance she gets. They learn one of their own has been tortured and murdered by this demented Santa Claus, which makes their case difficult since a bunch of men in Cryer are dressed as St. Nick for the holiday season. As Santa crosses off more names on his naughty list, Aubrey must face her fears of insecurity and solve the case before Christmas is ruined forever.
- The gore effects. If there's anything SILENT NIGHT, a loose remake of 1984's controversial SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT, has going for it, it's the gore FX. Being a true slasher film, we get some great visuals involving people getting killed in multiple ways. We get a homage to the original SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT involving a pair of antlers. We get an electrocution. We see someone being speared. We get several people get burned by a flamethrower. We get severed hands and decapitated heads. We get someone getting mutilated in a woodchipper. We get stuff with a scythe. We get other stuff with an axe. Someone gets his head bashed in by brass knuckles. Some of it is CGI, but I believe most of these effects were practical. I thought they all looked great - some making me "ooh" and "ahh" even. It's not the goriest film ever, but it'll satisfy gore hounds who enjoy violent slasher films.
- Most of the visual presentation. I thought Steven C. Miller did a very job directing SILENT NIGHT, even though it wasn't perfect. I like the look of the film, with its bluish and greyish hues. While a lot of the film takes place in daytime, there is still something bleak about it. The editing is good and a lot of the framing and composition works for me. The death scenes are shot very well and are pretty graphic. I also think the pacing is pretty good as well. I thought the direction was more than fine. I had issues with certain things, which I'll get into later, but Miller did a very good job presenting the story visually.
- Most of the acting. While the acting of some of the supporting actors are hit-and-miss,
most of the main actors do a good job in their roles. Jaime King, in my opinion, is one of the better actors in the film. While the other actors are a bit more "out there" in terms of their performances, King plays it straight and is very sympathetic as Aubrey. She's no stranger to modern slashers, especially after 2009's MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3-D and 2010's MOTHER'S DAY, and used that experience to make her character likeable and down to earth amid chaos. I bought her performance from beginning to end and rooted for her all the way. Donal Logue is also great as a fake Santa Claus. He's a great comic actor, and really brings a sense of sarcastic humor that I really liked. Andrew Cecon is kooky as Deputy Giles, as he made me laugh a few times. Curtis Moore is very convincing as a creepy, perverted priest. Ellen Wong is likeable as the sassy police secretary. The actors are playing pretty standard adult stereotypes in SILENT NIGHT, but I thought most of them were fun to watch.
- The homages and the humor. The remake of SILENT NIGHT isn't really a scary film, but it does have some good black humor and a nice use of homages from the first two SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT movies. Most of the characters are really over the top in how they act and in what they say, to the point where you just laugh at certain things. Aubrey's character is taken seriously, but everyone around her is a jokester and very sarcastic and perverted. I do have a certain issue with this kind of portrayal, but I did appreciate that SILENT NIGHT wasn't too heavy handed and had a light hearted feeling about it.
As for the homages, I got a kick out of them. The catatonic grandfather waking up to scare his grandson about Santa Claus and Christmas was a great throwback to the original SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT. So was that moment involving the antlers and Santa Claus greeting the little girl after the fact. And of course, you can't have a SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT remake without the iconic "Garbage Day!" from part 2 somewhat in the script. I thought it was a nice show of respect to the films that inspired this loose remake that fans would get and enjoy.
- The backstory and the ending. Probably the best thing about the original SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT was the backstory of the killer. While Billy did some evil things dressed up as Santa Claus, you clearly understood why he behaved the way he did. Watching Billy go from an innocent child, to him seeing his parents being murdered by Santa Claus, to being abused by nuns at his orphanage, to never dealing with his trauma and snapping at the sight of any Santa Claus motif created an interesting character study for an 80s slasher film. Billy didn't kill people out of revenge or because he was pure evil. He had no outlet to confront his past demons, losing himself within the trauma and becoming a murdering Santa Claus himself. It was a sad story to see this poor guy suffer with what happened to him as a child.
And here's where SILENT NIGHT misses a huge opportunity. The killer's backstory is severely flawed, not focused on much, and underwhelming when you learn the killer's identity and their justification for what he/she has been doing. We get a story about some urban legend where a disgruntled husband dresses up as Santa and uses a flamethrower to murder his cheating wife. But it's never really confirmed or elaborated upon until it's too late.
Which leads me to the film's ending. I absolutely hated it. It just points out this annoying trend where a film ends later than it should. SILENT NIGHT's "epilogue" just ruined the mystery of the killer for me, especially when I stopped caring who the guy was by the halfway point since not much was done within the script to leave clues as to this person's identity. I think if the killer's identity was given more of a spotlight and was built up more, instead of just forcing 10 minutes of the film on some urban legend and a three minute reveal that won't make you care either way about the killer, the narrative would have worked better. I'm glad it was revealed, but the execution was poor here.
- Shaky cam and flares. I was pretty annoyed by the shaky cam in SILENT NIGHT. I'm usually okay with it in action oriented films and some horror films where the shaking intensifies what we're seeing on screen. But here, it's more distracting than anything - especially during the final act when Aubrey and the killer go head-to-head. I wanted to see the action, but the shaking and the quick cuts were a bit too much for me.
Also, can we stop with the light flares? It might look cool in some films, but they shouldn't be used when they're not needed. SILENT NIGHT is an example where it isn't necessary.
And I know slasher films are supposed to have one-dimensional characters. But at least they're stereotypes I can somewhat identify [or at least want to identify] with. None of these victims deserved any sort of sympathy because there's was nothing about them you can relate with. The characters needed more variety here and I don't blame this Santa Claus offing them one by one.
- Malcolm McDowell. I love McDowell. He's a great actor that usually steals any scene he's in. But I thought he was on and off here. I felt he was trying too hard to be this douche Sheriff. In fact, it was as if he was still in faux-Dr. Loomis mode here, hamming it up and destroying any seriousness the narrative was attempting to establish. I guess I should expect that from McDowell since that is what he does. And in most films, this type of trademark performance works in the movie's favor. But I thought it hurt SILENT NIGHT more than it helped it. I don't think his performance was terrible as some people said after they watched it. I just felt it didn't fit within the context of the story and the tone. Sometimes less is more and I wish McDowell would have toned it down a notch.
THE FINAL HOWL
I didn't know what I was going to get with SILENT NIGHT. While SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT isn't the greatest slasher ever, I do have a certain level of fondness for it. While not the best remake out there, at least SILENT NIGHT separates itself from the original and tries to be its own film with its own tale to tell. And while the remake isn't perfect, SILENT NIGHT is probably my favorite film in the series after the second one. The death scenes are cool. Most of the acting works. Steven C. Miller's direction is pretty strong. And I respect the fact that SILENT NIGHT pays homage to the original while making its own mark. Could it have been better? Sure. But I was entertained by the film and that's all I can ask for these days. SILENT NIGHT is a flawed, yet fun film. And I'm sure even a killer Santa Claus can appreciate that.