Studio: Scream Factory
Director: Lee Harry
Writer: Lee Harry, Joseph H. Earle
Producer: Lawrence Appelbaum
Stars: Eric Freeman, James L. Newman, Elizabeth Cayton, Jean Miller, Darrel Guilbeau, Brian Michael Henley, Corinne Gelfan, Michael Combatti, Kenneth Bryan James, Ron Moriarty
When a psychiatrist forces him to recall his troubled past, Ricky Caldwell triggers murderous impulses inherited from his brother Billy.
Horror film franchises frequently run off the rails the deeper they get into a series. “Silent Night, Deadly Night” might wear a unique crown in that regard. It trumps even longstanding properties like “Hellraiser” and “Children of the Corn” by featuring perhaps the steepest dropoff in watchability between back-to-back installments, and does so right away with its very first sequel.
While sometimes campy and often trashy, the original “Silent Night, Deadly Night” (review here) remains a Christmas carnage classic frequently cited as one of the top holiday horror hits of all-time. “Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2” is equally campy and trashy, yet its carelessness yields such a bare bones effort, you come out wondering if you even watched a true movie or just an amateur exercise in quickly stitching together a feature from B-roll and previously used footage.
First, an order of trivial housekeeping. People popularly remember “Silent Night, Deadly Night 2” as featuring an egregious amount of clips from its predecessor, which it does, although not to the 50% degree often casually estimated. 28 minutes of the film’s first 39 and a half are composed of repurposed SNDN scenes, with 15 seconds of liquor store Santa thrown in later. It’s pretty convenient then that with credits, Part 2 runs about 1:28:15, meaning that exactly one hour of the film is ‘new’ while one-third consists of recycled bits.
I really don’t want to start the next sentence with “to be fair,” because it implies some sort of sympathetic forgiveness, which I neither intend nor offer. But to be fair (sigh), “Silent Night, Deadly Night 2” always planned to re-cut the first film with new bookends tacked on. Considering that it shot enough material to become its own thing instead, one could argue SNDN2 actually delivered more than it set out to do with a skeleton crew, a 10-day schedule, and only a couple of bucks.
For better or for worse, SNDN2 makes next to no effort to look like anything other than the cash grab claptrap it is. Anyone who doesn’t already know about its Frankenstein origins can figure out from the first scene that the film bloats itself with more padding than a mattress store’s President’s Day sale stock.
For four and a half minutes of front end credits, Ricky Caldwell, the now adult brother of deceased Santa killer Billy, sits in silence, smoking a cigarette while practicing the sneer of wide eyes and cocked eyebrows that come to define Eric Freeman’s train wreck performance in the ridiculous role. An orderly cautiously sets up audio equipment. A psychiatrist finally enters the room. Ricky then begins spilling the beans on his traumatic past by recalling horrible events he couldn’t possibly know the details of.
It’s mildly amusing how accurate these secondhand recollections supposedly are. Yet Ricky seems to think janitor Old Man Kelsey was the costume-clad man mistakenly gunned down by police toward the end of “Silent Night, Deadly Night.” You’d think he’d remember it was really deaf priest Father O’Brien considering the poor man died right in front of Ricky’s face.
Forty flashback-filled minutes later, Ricky keeps the Wayback Machine rolling by remembering being adopted at 12-years-old, despite end credits identifying his as 10 at the time. Five years later, which would make Ricky 15, 17, or 25 if going by the age of the actor playing him, Ricky commits his first murder after witnessing an attempted date rape, a strangely common occurrence for the can’t-catch-a-break Caldwell brothers.
Ricky’s murderous impulses briefly subside when he begins a romantic relationship with Jennifer. Then Jennifer makes the mistake of taking Ricky to see a killer Santa Claus movie in a 12-seat theater whose only patrons are two loudmouths, a disinterested couple, and Jennifer’s ex-boyfriend. This odd pot boils over in a killing spree that worsens when Ricky literally sees red, as the color triggers homicidal urges. Ricky’s subsequent rampage is best remembered for Freeman’s embarrassingly uttered “garbage day!” quip, though the chain reaction of a dead driver rolling his car into a spontaneous explosion is more laughable in terms of comical improbability.
Of course “Silent Night, Deadly Night 2” feels like a clip show compilation. All but the final 15 minutes take place in the past, with the Memory Lane trip culminating in Ricky’s anticlimactic escape from incarceration to take revenge against Mother Superior for causing 20 years worth of trouble.
Its cult status makes the movie moderately more enjoyable when watched with a hindsight wink of irony. But there’s no pleasant way to classify Eric Freeman’s awful acting or the slapdash shoot hacking a sequel together out of less-than-ideal creative goals. Put bluntly, “Silent Night, Deadly Night 2” is good only for a one-time “WTF?” novelty viewing. Then it can be promptly dropped into the trash, just in time for garbage day.
I can’t believe I’m ending this review on such a lame turn of phrase. Then again, I can’t believe this movie ends with a full credit crawl for every actor in the first film, whether they were reused in this sequel or not. With the way the movie continues finding shameless ways to kill time and stretch itself thin, you can virtually hear Charles Band approvingly golf clap while whispering to himself, “you magnificent bastards.”
Review Score: 25