Silent Night. 2012. Directed by Steven C. Miller. Screenplay by Jayson Rothwell.
Starring Malcolm McDowell, Jaime King, Donal Logue, Rick Skene, Ellen Wong, Andrew Cecon, Courtney-Jane White, Erik J. Berg, Tom Anniko, and Mike O’Brien.
Anchor Bay Entertainment.
Rated 18A. 94 minutes.
★★★1/2Because there aren’t really many similarities, if any, between the two plots aside from the basic premise, I wasn’t sure there’d be any real link between 1984’s Silent Night Deadly Night and its 2012 remake, Silent Night. Once a young dirtbag visits his grandfather, only to steal from him, it hit me in the face – the old man grabs the kid’s wrist, warns him about Christmas Eve being “the scariest damn night of the year.” It’s straight out of the original and I really like how Steven Miller worked the line in while not having it carbon copy the original film. Not that it’s a particularly amazing scene, I just think lines from movies often get rehashed in their remakes and sequels. Here, I thought it worked really well. Specifically, I thought the actor who played the old man was much creepier than the grandpa in the original; this guy unsettled me a little.
This movie doesn’t stray a whole lot from the original. Instead, Silent Night focuses on a more slasher style plot where a town is being terrorised by a man dressed as, you guessed it, Santa Claus himself. Violent murders are being committed, and all the while Santa impersonators line most blocks. The local cops try to stay on top of things, but unfortunately for them and all the Christmas lovers, Santa has come to town – and he comes bearing blood!
There isn’t a whole lot more to say about the plot of the movie. I think one of the things setting this apart from its predecessor is the brutality. Right away in one of the first couple scenes Miller shows he is not playing around – Santa straight up uses a baton-like taser on a little girl. I hate to say I loved it. Yet I did – I loved it. Of course I’d never want to see such a thing in real life, but does it ever set the stage for some real violence in a film.
A couple of the better violent bits I really enjoyed were:
– homage to the antler scene from Silent Night Deadly Night was really great as both a nod to the original & a bloody little kill; this is also followed up by a great & gnarly head split with an axe
– there’s a wild headshot by one of the cops on a criminal Santa; really some great blood effects here that spurted out all over the place.
Really loved the score of the film. There’s an ominous tone about the music, which really emphasises the creepy nature of certain scenes. Even as one of the police officers investigates a particularly gruesome murder, just the addition of the score makes the atmosphere dreadful (in the best possible way). Then there are times where it really takes on the Christmas theme. Rather than go for the typical use of traditional holiday music, the score bends some of these familiar notes and rhythms to play with our expectations.
One part about Silent Night I really could not stand was the actor who played the priest. Man oh man – I have not seen such a terrible performance in ages. I can’t remember the last performance I hated as much as this one. I mean, the way he acted around the girls dressed up like Santa in that one scene? I really find it hard to believe those girls (young ladies especially are often very good at detecting creeps – especially nowadays) would not have told that priest to get away from them. It was just way too much to even be satirical. If they had only toned him down a little the priest character would have easily worked; he’s one of those guys you want to see butchered by the slasher in a horror movie, and not even in the fun way. This really made me cringe, each single scene I saw him in, and took me out of the movie until, finally, Santa Claus murdered him proper.
On the other hand, there’s Malcolm McDowell – always a treat. Maybe some don’t dig him anymore. I will always enjoy his presence in a film. It adds a little flair. Not only is he great with drama, he is also hilarious. The scene with his ‘burger analogy’ had me laughing while also trying to pay attention to the dialogue (“Now you‘re piling hummus on top of the burger, too!” – made me near tear up from his delivery). McDowell doesn’t ham it up, though certainly does a fine job playing around with the material he’s been given.
King does a great job as a young female officer who clearly has some past issues. In the end, of course, we discover what her family past means to the film. Her journey through the movie is really excellent. Most slashers don’t really have strong female leads, but King’s character is spot on. I found myself actually caring about her situation. So, while there’s a lot of entertaining slasher-business going down, we also feel like rooting for King’s character, and hoping to can make it over the hill she so desperately scrambles on. Good acting, solid character.
A great aspect about Silent Night is how Miller plays with a couple red herrings. There’s one specifically I was surprised about in the end because I honestly thought I’d figured this film out – kudos to Miller for outdoing my expectations.
Hopefully others find the same thing (I don’t want to spoil anything by giving up names here). This helped things go to the end without really fully giving anything away. Then after the finale we get a little bit of finishing touch with some extra scenes. I was inclined at first to groan at who I thought would be the killer, however, by the time the movie finished I was pleased with how the killer’s identity came out. They could’ve done a very easy story. Instead, there were definitely a couple twists and turns throw in. That’s always good to see. Too many slashers go for a tired and overdone route. While I thought it was headed this way, late in the game things changed.
This is a pretty good remake. I’m not huge on the original Silent Night Deadly Night, though I prefer it to other Christmas horror movies. Silent Night really works on its own apart from the original film because it doesn’t go for the heavy handed abuse angle; there’s no sexual trauma or abuse or any of that here. We simply get a look at unhinged people at holiday time. That’s where this film really excels. They don’t force in some tired storyline about abuse, or whatever other nonsense, and instead work on a plot that focuses on the stress of the Christmas season. It’s sort of human when you come to think of it. The always fascinating Donal Logue gives a great speech at one point later in the movie about how rough Christmas can really be for some people; it hits all this film’s themes right on the nose. Great monologue to include.
I give Silent Night a 3.5 out of 5 stars. It isn’t perfect. It is really good, though. No denying that. I really love the look of the film because it goes from dark and shadowy at times to really neon sort of tones, red and green, which play really well off one another. Altogether, with a couple good performances (though I did discuss Logue he isn’t really in the film too much but while he is it’s great), some nice scenes of homage to the original film, and a bit of nasty violence, Silent Night is an entertaining slasher. I would recommend it to those who’ve seen the original, or just people looking for a fun Christmas horror movie to waste away the evening. You can do much, much worse. This is absolutely one you should add to your holiday viewing.