Silent Night (2012)

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

- 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.

- The characters. As I stated earlier, I liked the humor from the over-the-top characters in SILENT NIGHT. But is it too much to have some multi-dimensional characters in a horror film? Jaime King's Aubrey is likeable because she takes the situation seriously and wants to stop this killer from ruining Christmas in her community. But everyone around her are either perverts, idiots, or just hateful people. All the fake Santas are sex fiends. The priest steals and seems to enjoy living a life of sin rather than preaching against it. The sheriff of the town is a total prick. And there's a little brat of a girl who orders her mom around, and she just takes it. The Bradimore family were the only real likeable people in the town. I guess Ellen, the secretary, as well. If I was supposed to want to see 95% of the characters die horrible deaths, then it was successful.

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. 


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.

2.5 Howls Outta 4


6 Degrees of Hell (2012)

Joe Raffa

Corey Feldman - Kyle Brenner
Jill Whelan - Jill Hudson
Nicole Cinaglia - June
Kyle Patrick Brennan - Erik Sanborn
Joe Raffa - Kellen Hudson
David J. Bonner - Chris Allen
Ashley Summer - Kelly
Nikki Bell - Stacey Sanborn
Faust Checho - Chief John Hansen
Brian Gallagher - Uncle Jack
Brian Anthony Wilson - Deputy Hendricks

Genre - Horror/Supernatural/Demons/Possession

Running Time
- 90 Minutes

[Taken from the synopsis from Breaking Glass Pictures]
In Northeast Pennsylvania, "Uncle Jack's House of Horrors" is besieged by a dark presence after two friends of Uncle Jack (Brian Gallagher), Chris (David J. Bonner) and Kellen (Joe Raffa), unwittingly release a deadly evil by transporting local psychic Mary Wilkins' (Susan Moses) collection of haunted objects as props for the popular tourist attraction. At the same time, a local TV ghost hunter (Kyle Patrick Brennan), confronts an evil that has haunted him all his life - one he believes is responsible for his sister's (Nikki Bell) death years ago.

The search puts him in the path of a rogue police chief (
Faust Checho) and June (Nicole Cinaglia) - a girl who seems to be the eye of this supernatural perfect storm. They all find themselves connected to the old hotel with the threads of their own personal horrors draw paranormal investigator Kyle Brenner (Corey Feldman) to pull the threads together...


I've been hearing about 6 DEGREES OF HELL for the past few months now. It was much hyped by horror websites and social networking, especially Facebook and YouTube. The fact that it stars Corey Feldman gave the film a nostalgic feeling and cult buzz about the project, gaining many likes on the film's Facebook page and its trailer many views on YouTube. Getting the screener from Breaking Glass Pictures, I was excited about watching this to see what all the buzz was about. I wish I wasn't, because 6 DEGREES OF HELL disappointed the hell out of me. 6 DEGREES OF BOREDOM is more like it.

The problem, without question, lies within the film's screenplay. The narrative is a mess in every way, confusing the viewer with flashbacks, dream sequences, and psychic visions. I honestly couldn't get into the film because of this, as I wasn't sure where the film was going and why I should even care. It took me multiple sittings to watch this film from beginning to end, with me pausing it to do something else before pressing "play" and watching the rest. I shouldn't feel that way about a film, especially a horror movie.

Flashbacks, dreams, and visions don't normally bother me. In fact, they can enhance a film's story if introduced right and used correctly. However, 6 DEGREES OF HELL just introduces these moments without any sort of real set up. In fact, I felt as if I just stepped into someone's story that has been ongoing for a while now. It's like getting the punchline without hearing the joke first. How am I supposed to react when I have no clue what the backstory is? Why is this important? How will it matter at the end? Some of these moments do manage to answer those questions, but they pop up so out of the blue that you're thrown for a loop. It messes up the flow of the storytelling, which took me out of the viewing experience.

It didn't help that the characters - well 95% of them - were really unlikeable and annoying to me. You had a bland teen psychic who didn't really come alive until the final act. You had these two best friends who wanted the same girl. One of them is a total douchebag to everyone, including his parents and any form of authority figure. This guy didn't exit the film quick enough for me. The other friend is traumatized by losing his girlfriend and deals with it by screwing the psychic chick, to which she doesn't bother opposing. There's this dick head for a sheriff. Uncle Joe is a selfish opportunist who only cares about fame and money, not caring the stuff he uses inside his hotel is cursed with evil. The only one that I had any semblance of sympathy for was the TV ghost hunter, Erik. Why? Because he wasn't annoying and he had a backstory I could understand, which allowed me to justify his actions throughout the film. The presence of the evil and why it was attracted to the main characters also made sense, although it made me wonder why it had decided to act now instead of earlier in time. I guess if it did that, there would be no story to tell.

The way the story is presented to the audience is also a flaw. The events we see on screen are told by a deputy, who claims to have witnessed our main story, to a paranormal investigator. This type of narration could work if it was told the right way, but 6 DEGREES OF HELL has trouble doing that. It doesn't help that this narrator is very unreliable. Yes, the ending may explain why this person would know as much as he does. But how does he know the personal moments between the main characters if he wasn't there to witness them? How does he know about the visions? The flashbacks? The dreams? It's kind of odd. Also, this character kind of gives away who survived this ordeal. If the paranormal dude wasn't able to get the story from any of the main characters, their fates don't look very good, do they? It also felt very forced as well, as if this is the only reason why these two characters were even in the film to begin with. I wish the story would have just been told with more of a straightforward direction. It probably would have been more inviting to the viewer, instead of boring them and making them get distracted with other stuff.

Luckily for 6 DEGREES OF HELL, the rest of the film is more hit than miss. The final act of the film, involving the Hotel of Horrors, is actually pretty good and full of action. It's shot like a madhouse, with the workers of this hotel becoming possessed by evil and killing all the guests who came to tour the attractions. If the film was just about this, I would have been more favorable towards it. It's the only time where I felt something substantial happened and was leading towards something good. I also felt the opening segment was just as good as well. It's everything in between that was a mess.

The visual FX is pretty decent for a low budget flick. Whenever someone is possessed by evil, their eyes are completely black. This is done through CGI, which looks pretty good and makes the actors look creepy. We get some gore as well, mainly blood splatter. But what we do see of it is done with practical effects and looks better than okay. The make up work is decent as well.

The visual presentation by director Joe Raffa is actually very good. The pacing is a challenge though. And the screener I received was very pixelated, supposedly due to piracy issues that occurred, which I understand fully well. And while I wish I could have seen a crisper version of the film, I could tell 6 DEGREES OF HELL was shot very well. Framing, composition, and editing worked for me. The bleak look of the film was solid as well. Raffa does have an eye when it comes to filming, so I'm hoping his next project is more successful than this one.

The acting here was a mixed bag. Some people, like Kyle Patrick Brennan, David J. Bonner, and Faust Checho were pretty good in their roles. I thought lead actress Nicole Cinaglia was very bland, until the end, when it was too late. You would think Corey Feldman is the film's lead, since his name is plastered on the poster and promoted along with the film. But I think he had more screen time in the prologue of FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V: A NEW BEGINNING than he does in this film. And until the end, his character doesn't add much to the film. Feldman isn't terrible here, but he isn't great either. It's hard to talk about his performance when all he does is sit behind a desk, smoke, and quote generic dialogue. I'm sure his name will get people to see this film though, so good for the filmmakers on that.

6 DEGREES OF HELL is only worth maybe two of those degrees. The story is pretty terrible and pretty boring, except for the action-filled final act. The visual presentation is better than average, but the acting is a mixed bag. And if you're expecting to see Corey Feldman in a substantial role, you'll be greatly disappointed as he's barely in the film for five minutes. Not the worst film I've seen this year, but it's not one I would watch again anytime soon. Only watch if you're a Feldman fan and want to support independent horror. Otherwise, these are 6 degrees not worth experiencing.

1.5 Howls Outta 4


Dust Up (2012)

Ward Roberts

Aaron Gaffey - Jack
Amber Benson - Ella
Jeremiah Birkett - Buzz
Devin Barry - Mo
Travis Betz - Herman
Mike C. Nelson - Keith
Al Burke - Mr. Lizard
Ezra Buzzington - Sheriff Haggler

Genre - Action/Adventure/Comedy/Exploitation

Running Time - 93 Minutes

Jack (Aaron Gaffey) is a one-eyed former soldier who has traded that life for one of tranquility. He does odd jobs to occupy the time, while hanging out with his Native American inspired friend, Mo (Devin Barry). One day, a young mother named Ella (Amber Benson) needs help with a plumbing issue and calls Jack for help. The two instantly connect, but there's a problem - Ella has an absentee husband named Herman (Travis Betz) who would rather get high off of his ass than spend time with his wife or young baby daughter.

When Herman doesn't have the money to pay off his drug dealer, the weird and twisted Buzz (
Jeremiah Birkett), Ella pleads with Jack and Mo to help him get it settled. When Jack tries to make a peaceful deal with Buzz by paying off some of Herman's tab, Buzz threats them by using Ella and her baby as bait. This forces Jack to leave his peaceful life and help out Ella and her family by using violence to gain a bit of justice.


Usually when I get low budget films to review, they are of two varieties - films that want to be THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, and films that want to be a second coming of the grindhouse exploitation film due to the cult success of GRINDHOUSE from 2007. Most of the time, these films fail because they don't have the atmosphere that made those kind of films memorable. Just because you watched THRILLER: A CRUEL PICTURE doesn't mean you can make an exploitation film just like it that will elicit the same type of response. And while Ward Roberts' DUST UP isn't the perfect new wave grindhouse/exploitation film, it's one of the few that's the exception - it's actually a good, entertaining flick for the most part!

The script by Roberts is pretty clever and well written. The highlight of the narrative are the colorful characters that make up the twisted story. Jack, our one-eyed hero, is pretty much the stoic straight man who has a tragic past that resulted in the loss of his eye and a good friend. He's the quiet bad ass that will go against his code in order to make sure the right thing is done. He also has a cool patch, which a lot of the characters seem impressed by.

Mo is Jack's Native American friend - well I think he's Native American. Still, he and Jack exchange great banter and dialogue with each other [one of the highlights of the film], and Mo can throw a mean projectile whenever he can get hold of one.

Ella is the most normal of the characters. She's a struggling young mother who is frustrated with raising her child alone because her husband is a pathetic drug addict. She finds an instant connection with Jack, seeing how responsible and in control he is. While she does get to be a damsel-in-distress for a moment, she eventually becomes on the crew by the movie's end.

Herman is Ella's husband. He's also a massive speed addict who seems to not want any responsibility of anything or anyone. Herman pretty much believes everything is a joke, which results in a lot of conflict with the others.

My favorite character, however, was the villainous bar owner Buzz. This guy is just a whack job in every way. He's bisexual, screwing both men and women without shame. He snorts drugs off of his bar counter. He enjoys eating human flesh. And he believes the Government is after him for whatever reason. Buzz has no morals, no filter, and no conscience. Roberts created a great exploitation villain with this character.

As I mentioned, the dialogue is well written with each character sounding distinct. The story is easy to follow and paced so well, the 90 minute DUST UP breezes right by. There are a lot of touches to the film that show how inspired Roberts was. The character with the eye patch. The crazy drug dealers. The crooked sheriff. The young mother who toughens up in order to survive. Certain sexual and racial issues that the mainstream would frown upon, but fit right in a grindhouse type of movie. DUST UP does really well when it hits the intended target.

Does the narrative has issues? Sure. DUST UP does take some time to get going, but it does this to establish the characters and the situation. So I can let that slide. However, I felt Buzz's motivations for what he does to justify his crazy and evil actions felt a bit forced. Like I mention earlier, he has this issue about being anti-Government that seems to motivate what he does to the people he encounters and surrounds himself with. The reasons aren't what is wrong. It's just how it's brought up and presented. It's as if Roberts realized he didn't have a reason for his villain, so he came up with this idea about Buzz hating authority. It never really goes anywhere and never feels natural within the context of the story. I would have been okay if Buzz was just a crazy drug dealer who wanted to do these messed up things just to show how powerful he thought he was. The fact that our heroes accidentally do something that threaten Buzz's livelihood should be enough motivation for the character. So the whole Government deal took me out of the film a bit.

DUST UP has its share of gore and blood FX here. We get stabbings. We get gunshots. We get scalpings. We get genitals getting impaled. We get people getting raped by Buzz. There's man on woman violence as well, if anyone is into that for whatever reason. Some of it was CGI, but I believe most were done with practical effects. For a low budget feature, it looked pretty damn good. There's a lot of insane stuff going on in this film when it comes to sex and violence here, but I really enjoyed how campy it all was.

The direction by Ward Roberts is very cool. While I wish it had that film grain that grindhouse films usually have to make it look more authentic, I felt the visual presentation was pretty solid. The colors are vibrant and nice to look at. The framing, composition, and editing is top notch. The pacing is great. I like how flashbacks were more saturated. During a chase scene in the final act, more blues and purples were used that ended up being visually interesting. I really liked the direction here.

The acting wasn't the greatest, but it still worked for me. I think Amber Benson and Jeremiah Birkett were the best actors here. Benson, best known as Tara on TV's Buffy The Vampire Slayer, is really sweet here and is easily likeable. Birkett is fantastic as Buzz. He seems to be having the time of his life being the ultimate villain. And while Birkett plays a creep, there's something to like about his performance and his character as well. The other main actors were more hit than miss and I enjoyed their acting for the most part. Pretty cool cast and who probably had a ton of fun making DUST UP.

It's not a perfect cult exploitation film for modern times, but DUST UP has more than enough to satisfy those genre fans looking for something new. It has sick humor. It has some cool violence. The characters are all colorful and likeable in their own way. And it's a quick moving film at 90 minutes. If you like campy, violent films that pays homage to the grindhouse era, DUST UP is definitely for you. Hell, maybe it's worth losing an eye over.

3.5 Howls Outta 4

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