Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #168
Number of Views: One
Release Date: 4 December 2012 (Canada)
Country of Origin: Canada/United States
Running Time: 94 minutes
Director: Steven C. Miller
Producers: Shara Kay, Phyllis Laing, Richard Saperstein, Brian Witten
Screenplay: Jayson Rothwell
Special Effects: Paul Noël
Visual Effects: Michael Shand, Conrad Dueck (Opus VFX)
Cinematography: Joseph White
Score: Kevin Riepl
Editing: Seth Flaum
Studios: Genre Co., The, Buffalo Gal Pictures, Ember Productions
Distributor: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Stars: Jaime King, Malcolm McDowell, Donal Logue, Ellen Wong, Andrew Cecon, Lisa Marie, Courtney-Jane White, Erik J. Berg, Brendan Fehr, Rick Skene, Ali Tataryn, Cortney Palm, Mike O’Brien, Tom Anniko, Curtis Moore, John B. Lowe, Aaron Hughes, Kelly Wolfman, Jessica Cameron
Suggested Audio Candy
Kevin Riepl “Silent Night: Ungrateful Little”
It’s a good job Christmas comes but once a year. Sandwiched in between November’s climate change-enforced S.A.D. syndrome and the January slump when we all feel the pinch for our extravagances, comes this jovial event which lights the eyes of every child and sends a shudder through every last-minute shopper. It spends the whole of December building up to a yuletide crescendo and then is over faster than the wrapping comes off and we’re left wallowing in turkey sandwiches and bad TV. I may sound a little Grinch-like here and I assure you I’m not bah humbug. Just a little older, a touch more jaded and the real glee now lays in reliving the excitement through the eyes of my four year-old boy.
When Silent Night, Deadly Night did its brief festive rounds in 1984 it caused something of a stir. Opening the same weekend as Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, it actually out-grossed it initially before being picketed by outraged parents not comfortable with the depiction of their beloved Saint Nick as a brutal ax murderer. It was pulled from TV networks and screens soon afterwards and branded a ‘nasty’ despite never actually being prosecuted. Interestingly, Tales From The Crypt had already shown Santa in this light twelve years earlier. Of course, there is no such thing as bad press and, over time, it gained itself a dash of cult status. Was it worthy of the infamy? Not particularly, although it seems only fair given that it was cast-aside so roughly.
Thirty years have passed and we are all aware of what occurs at this junction. Christmas looms and dollar signs appear in the eyes of hopeful young directors looking to bring the formula bang up to date. Steven C. Miller’s Silent Night is the latest in a string of reboots and, ironically, it barely caused a raised eyebrow second time round. The new addressee has long been desensitized by acts of random violence and the Christmas holiday is now fair game. So without the shock value, how does Miller’s festive revisit weigh up against the leagues of slashers currently doing the rounds?
It opens rather strongly with a kill notched on Santa’s belt before the five-minute mark and, when it comes, it’s a suitably grisly entrée. Slay bells jingling, our hopes are raised further by our small-town setting. It appears as though all pieces are slotting nicely into place at this point and we’re introduced to our heroine, deputy sheriff Aubrey Bradimore (Jaime King) who resembles a younger Marge from Fargo, complete with faux fur winter hat. She has the unenviable task of investigating a sudden glut of Christmas Eve killings, made all the more thorny by the fact that a Santa parade is in town and every bastard on the streets is donning a white beard.
One such bastard is her superior Sheriff Cooper (Malcolm McDowell chewing scenery like it’s twenty years out of fashion). Now this pains Keeper to say, but that hateful turn as Sam Loomis is Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake and even more so Halloween 2, finds its way into Cooper also. Pompous, cynical and downright cocky; he seems to get a kick out of having something to deal with outside of the normal paperwork and appears vitalized by the spate of gruesome dispatches. My issue isn’t with his characterization of the Sheriff, he makes best of some turgid lines and, as always, puts his all into it. What grates is that McDowell has been a screen behemoth for as long as I can remember and is better than the material he has been getting fed in recent years.
There are other tertiary characters but, alas, many of them are inconsequential to proceedings, seemingly there to make up numbers and provide more fodder for the trimming. Forget story arcs, most of the cast show up only to gift our next kill and Miller has no real aces up his sleeve in this respect. A distinct lack of anyone to root for leaves Silent Night severely hamstrung and the deaths begin to carry a lot more burden on their shoulders as a result.
Thankfully, there is some decent splatter. Mr. Clause finds all manner of ways in which to eviscerate his quarry. These include flamethrower, pickax, fairy lights, industrial wood chipper and wouldn’t be complete without the obligatory woodsman’s ax. In a standout scene near the beginning Miller makes it abundantly clear that he has no problem with tasering and skewering a child actor. This is always a rather audacious move but, it has to be said, this kid really does warrant it. She is so utterly repugnant that the fact that Santa decided to leave her mother be and just snuff her out makes for real fist aloft hilarity. Think Assault on Precinct 13 then ramp the little shit up to twelve to give some perspective.
It ambles along reasonably briskly but all feels a little soulless. So much of the irony from its infamous forebear is conspicuous in its absence and the fun just feels muted. King visibly lifts the experience as she plays the part of Aubrey with real verve. Having already established herself as something of a scream queen with The Tripper, My Bloody Valentine and Mother’s Day, she sets not a pinky wrong here. Ultimately however, her presence only serves to hit home the nagging feeling that this could and should have been so much grander.
I’m not going to go all Scrooge when scoring Silent Night. It’s a slickly produced, reasonably entertaining slasher which makes up for lack of tension with an adequate share of grue and T&A. Outside of King’s Aubrey and her adorable parents, there’s not much to get hett up over and therein lays the problem. Any filmmaker tackling a classic from yesterday, even a sleazy one such as Silent Night, Deadly Night, needs to handle with kit gloves. It just feels that Miller took it all a little too literally.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: A mixed bag of kills although, when it’s in full flow, it’s fairly nasty stuff. Highlights include a pair of exploding peepers, faceful of pickax and that suitably drawn-out wood chipper kill. If it’s skin you crave then how do you like these apples… the hapless harlot being force-fed to the mechanical shredder has a five-minute chase sequence in just her panties. Just make sure you finish your business before she slides down the funnel.
Silent Night Bloody Night: The Homecoming (2013)
Around the same time that Miller’s re-imagining popped its head up, British director James Plumb’s unrelated slayride also floated topside. It’s actually a remake of Theodore Gershuny’s 1972 original and a fairly faithful one at that. Now Keeper isn’t going to be overly scathing here as this was made for around $20k and Plumb does show potential.
Unfortunately The Homecoming is more of one to chalk down to experience as it gallantly fails to leave any lasting impression. Perhaps most notable is the inclusion of the great Adrienne King, only her voice mind, but there’s nothing here which couldn’t have been improved on had it not been for such severe budgetary constraints. Plumb’s next film Kerb Crawlers will hopefully provide the springboard for him to elevate himself as he can admittedly set a scene.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 4/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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