Thursday, December 24, 2009

Silent Night, Deadly Night

The start of “Silent Night, Deadly Night” informs me that I’m watching the most complete and uncut version ever released. And that some of the “elements” of the film might not look too good.

So if this write-up is less pleasing than usual, you’ll have to excuse me. It’s probably because there’s too much film grain.

As the story begins, an animated wreath pushes up towards the screen and a little kid’s voice sings a Christmas song that no one has ever heard of. Over the wreath are the words Silent Night, and then BOOM, a splash of animated blood, and the bottom words appear: Deadly Night.

And then: Credits! And loud, clangy music. I almost doubt this music was composed, so much as rendered by a dude with things that go “Clang.”

Oh, wait, we have actual music. And also, we are informed that this movie was written by one guy, based on a story by another guy. That’s right, it took two people to write this movie. I hope you appreciate how hard they both worked.

Finally, the credits end, and a burn-in tells us it’s “Christmas Eve, 1971.”

A car is driving along the highway somewhere near some mountains. There’s also a cow in the foreground. Good job, set dressing guy.

Inside the car, there’s a mom and a dad and a little boy. And a baby, in mom’s lap, because in 1971 no one cared about car seats. The baby boom was not that far away in everyone’s memory, and people knew they could make more kids quickly and cheaply, so they thought, “Why protect this one?”

The family is listening to yet ANOTHER Christmas song no one has ever heard of. Do the people who made this movie not realize that most classic Christmas songs are in the public domain?

The little boy asks what time it is. Then he asks when Santa Claus is coming. Then he asks if he can stay up and see Santa. His mom tells him it’s naughty to stay up past his bedtime.

Seriously, yo. This is why I’ve sort of come to dislike the idea of Santa during the holiday season. The Fat Man just exists to keep little kids from being trouble. Whatever happened to using actual discipline?

Mom then tells the boy, “Santa Claus is going to bring you a big surprise tonight.” Given the subject matter, this is either the most ham-fisted screenwriting ever, or pure poetry.

The car rolls along. And the radio plays more Christmas music you’ve never, ever, heard.

Finally, the car pulls into a driveway – for the Utah Mental Facility.

Inside the hospital, a doctor tells the Father: “I had your father brought to the recreation room. Right this way.” This is going to be awesome.

In the rec room, Grandpa is sitting in a rocking chair, staring at nothing. The family tries to talk to him, but he’s clearly pretty catatonic. The little boy wants to know why they came, if Grandpa can’t hear them.

The doctor tells the family that Grandpa’s updated records are in the doctor’s office. So the family leaves Except for the little boy. He’s told to stay with grandpa.

As a parent, I can’t say I like tantrums, but if this kid wanted to throw one now, I think he would be well within his rights as a human being.

Mom says, “Don’t worry, Grandpa’s not going to hurt you.” Ha-ha!

The family leaves, and grandpa looks over at the boy. And wakes up. And starts monologueing about Santa Claus. How he only brings presents to good girl and boys. “All the naughty ones… he punishes.”

Grandpa asks the boy if he’s been good all year. The boy shakes his head no, despite the fact that he’s, like, four. I mean, not that four-year-olds are perfect, but seriously, it’s not like he founded an international crime ring.

Or maybe he did. No way to be sure.

Grandpa presses on in light of the fact that his grandson is naughty. “You see Santa Claus tonight, you better run boy. You better run for your life.” And then, maniacal laughter.

Until the parents show up. Then he’s back to being Catatonic Grandpa. The family leaves, with the little boy saying, “I’ll be good from now on, I promise.”

Back in the car, now it’s nighttime, and the boy wants to know if his mom was ever naughty. The boy’s name is Billy, by the way.

Mom says yes, and Billy says that Grandpa said that Santa Claus was going to punish him, and now he doesn’t want Santa Claus to come to the house. I’ll give it up for the parents on this one – they actually believe Billy is telling the truth about what Grandpa said.

Grandpa is my hero, by the way. Dude sits around all the time, people feeding him, wiping up his toileting errors… and then, every once in a while, he gets to scar a kid for life. The man is a stone genius. He’s like the Andy Kaufman of evil Grandpas.

Mom calls Grandpa a crazy old fool, and Billy notes that mom has been naughty, and that Santa is going to punish her. Kid turned on mom pretty quick.

Meanwhile, in a local gas station, a man dressed as Santa buys some smokes. Then pulls a gun, kills the manager of the gas station, and takes the money: thirty-one dollars. Santa is displeased at this offering.

Santa gets in his big red car and drives away.

Back in the family vehicle, mom and dad converse about the fact that they have a ways to go while Billy sleeps in the back.

They look up, and see that “Santa’s” car has broken down in the road. Billy wakes up and demands that they drive on and don’t stop.

But dad stops. Bad call, dad.

“Santa” comes up to the window, and Dad asks if Santa needs any help. Santa pulls a gun. Dad cranks up the car and tries to drive away in reverse. Santa shoots dad in the head, and the car falls into a ditch.

The baby is screaming.

Billy gets out of the car and runs for the opposite ditch. So he gets to watch while mom is dragged out of the car. Santa yanks mom’s shirt open, and she hits him. So he cuts her throat.

Santa gets up and tries to locate the kid. We get some shots of the screaming baby, the dead dad, and the dead mom… but we never do find out what happens to “Santa,” because the scene fades over to:

“December, 1974.” At the Saint Mary’s Home for Orphaned Children. Which, oddly, has a Santa out front. You would think the Catholic Church would be more into the Baby Jesus story.

Probably a lot of issues in this movie could be avoided if people focused more on that aspect of things. Alas.

Inside the building, Billy is at school, and being taught by a nun. The nun asks him to put his picture of Santa up on the bulletin board, only he’s done something bad on his drawing, and must show it to Mother Superior.

So he takes the picture to Superior, who shows it to the audience – it features a Santa with a bunch of knives in him, and a reindeer with his head chopped off. All things being equal, expressing his own trauma through art is probably not a bad thing for Billy.

Superior disagrees, and sends Billy to his room. Then Superior and the teacher debate for a while on how to handle Billy. Superior decides to deal with him personally. Since this movie didn’t debut on The Hallmark Channel, I doubt this is going to go well. At all.

Later, the teacher decides to go against Superior’s wishes, and she tells Billy to come outside and play. Billy agrees, after being somewhat reluctant. He puts on his hat and coat, and goes into the hallway, where he hears… uh… grunting noises. I think you see where this headed.

(Also, as aside: The teacher told Billy to come out and help build a snowman. A snowman that was, one shot ago, already completed. Perhaps she just wanted to taunt Billy with all the fun they had while he was inside?)

Anyway, Billy seeks out the source of the grunting. He peeks through a keyhole, and some dude and some girl we’ve never seen are having some… uh… adult time.

Billy starts to flash back to what happened to his mom.

Moments later, Superior shows up, throws Billy out of the way of the door, throws the door open, grabs the dude’s belt off his own pants and begins beating the two teenagers too stupid to realize that if you’re going to do that in a house run by nuns, you REALLY need to keep quiet.

Outside, Billy helps a couple of kids fill a bucket with snow, when out comes Superior, still toting the belt. Which is hilarious.

Superior asks to talk to Billy, and asks him if he understood what the people upstairs were doing. He says he didn’t understand it. Superior says that’s good, because, “What they were doing was something very, very naughty.”

She goes on to note that, “When you do something naughty, we are always caught. And then we are punished.” She goes on about punishment for a while.

Then she tells Billy he’s naughty for leaving his room. So one scene later, she gives the kid the belt and sends him to bed.

Later that night, Billy has horrible nightmares, which allows the producers to reuse the killer Santa footage from earlier in the film. He wakes up and runs screaming from his bed.

Superior catches him in the hallway, and ties him to the bed. None of the kids who share his room untie him.

The next morning, all the kids in the orphanage are playing with their Christmas gifts. Superior wanders through and says, “I see nothing but greed where there should be gratitude.”


Billy comes down the stairs with his teacher-nun, and Superior asks Billy if he’s ready to behave properly. He says yes. She tells him to go find his present.

Superior and Teacher-Nun (who finally got a name – Sister Margaret) confer. Superior is proud of her discipline methods, and thinks Billy is ready for the final test – sitting on Santa Claus’s lap.

At this point, Mother Superior could eat a baby, and she would not appear to be any more evil than she already is.

Later that day, Superior drags Billy from another room, and forces him to sit on Santa’s lap, stating that he will say thank you to Santa. Billy hops off Santa’s lap and punches him right in the face.

Santa sits up, blood flowing from his nose, and asks what’s wrong with Billy.

Billy runs to another room, and sits in a corner, pleading that he didn’t mean to be naughty.

From off-screen, Mother Superior says, “Williaaam,” and Billy looks up in terror, and… freeze frame.

And… burn-in: “Spring, 1984. Ten Years Later.”

Because really, we’re watching a third-rate horror movie. Clearly basic math eludes us.

Incidentally, anyone want to tell me what happened to Billy’s baby brother? Did he freeze to death, or what?

Right. So. 1984. Sister Margaret is in a little shop-store place. The kind that vanished when Wal-Mart went national. She’s begging the shopkeeper to give Billy a job, but the shopkeeper says he only has one opening, and it’s not for a boy, it’s for a man.

(I’m going to take a pause here, and let you work out the obvious joke. Okay? Okay.)

Sister Margaret is obviously supposed to have aged ten years, but I guess they couldn’t afford the makeup for it, so they just drew some lines on her head with eyebrow pencil, and blended them pretty poorly.

At any rate, she decides to introduce Billy to the shopkeeper, even if the shopkeeper doesn’t have an opening, and the shopkeeper turns around. Everyone ready for the big reveal? Billy is RIPPED. I don’t know if he lifts weights to push naughty thoughts away, or what, but the guy got buff.

The shopkeeper gives him the job.

And then? Then? I swear to you, we get a musical montage of Billy working hard, while a super-happy song plays: “The Warm Side of the Door.”

In the midst of all the time passage, Christmas comes, and with it, a Christmas banner with a picture of Santa on it. Billy looks at it, and it appears like he’s going to poo in his pants and throw up at the same time.

Finally, the montage ends. Billy looks at a lovely lassy who works at the store, then goes into the stockroom, where he’s confronted by some dude who doesn’t even get a name. I guess he runs the stockroom, since he was sitting at the stockroom desk during his scenes in the montage.

I shall call him Stockboy.

Anyway, Stockboy hassles Billy because he wants to know why Billy is always staring off into space lately. I guess this is where horror movies differ from dramas, because in a drama, Billy would hint at a difficult past, then later overcome it while crying.

Instead, I’m guessing he’s going to kill this dude a lot, later in the movie.

And speaking of later in the movie, Billy leaves the stock room and goes out into the store. A Santa is there, which leads to yet another flashback to “That Night.”

Billy freaks out and backs away, running into a shelf and falling over. The cute girl he was looking at before comes over and asks if Billy is all right. He says sure.

He goes back to the stockroom, where he has a surprisingly long daydream about him and the cute girl being… uh… naughty. It culminates in Santa’s hand coming out of nowhere with a knife and stabbing him in the back.

Billy wakes up in his own bed, shouting, “No! No! No! I want to be good.” He flashes back to the time he hid in a corner after punching Santa.

I think if you took all the flashbacks and dream sequences out of this movie, it would be about twenty minutes shorter.

The next day, the shopkeeper announces that it’s Christmas Eve, and he can’t wait for Christmas to be over.

But no, here comes some lady we’ve never seen before, stating that there’s a teeny problem. The store Santa broke his ankle. Looks like shopkeeper-man will have to play Santa.

In the back, Stockboy tells Billy that if Billy ever vanishes again, he’s going straight to the shopkeeper. And here comes the shopkeeper, who asks how Billy is doing, and then sets the rest of the plot in motion.

Guess who gets to be Santa? Here’s a hint: It’s the guy who has so far learned that both Santa and the touch of a lady lead to pain at best, and death at worst.

Aw, followed by yeah. Billy is suiting up.

Moments later, Billy is in the Santa suit, and the shopkeeper is telling Billy not to scare the kids. This is going to get bad real fast.

Out in the store, Billy contends with a squirming girl. Finally, he tells her, “I don’t bring toys to naughty children.” He goes on. “That’s right. Stop it. Or I’ll have to punish you.”

Honestly, now, who doesn’t want to see a mall Santa go nuts on a bothersome kid?

The kid calms down. Because she knows what’s good for her. When her encounter with Santa is over, she runs to her mom.

In the stockroom, Stockboy, who finally gives us a name (Andy) gets a phone call. He tells the person on the other end of the line that Billy doesn’t work there any more – he’s playing Santa Claus.

On the other end of the line, Margaret, who really does have a terrible makeup job, hangs up the phone. She knows trouble is a-brewing.

Later that evening, the shopkeeper locks up the store. It’s seven o’clock, and time to get drunk. Really. That’s the plan.

Everyone who works in the shop starts drinking, including Billy, who for some reason doesn’t shed the Santa suit the very moment his shift is over. The shopkeeper says, “Stick with me kid, and pretty soon, you’ll think you are Santa Claus.” Then he proceeds to get Billy liquored up.

(Man, the screenwriter is some kind of dark genius, huh?)

The cute girl smiles at Billy. Her fate is sealed.

Oh hey, we finally got the see the outside sign. This is a toy store. Called Ira’s toys.

Moments later, the cute girl sneaks off with Andy.

And even later, the shopkeeper finds Billy, who’s kind of drunk, and asks him what he’s thinking about. Billy says his parents. Awkward.

The shopkeeper, after realizing what Billy is talking about, barrels ahead anyway. “You remember what Santa Claus does on Christmas Eve, don’t ya?”

Billy does, in fact, remember.

The shopkeeper babbles some more, concluding with, “Go get ‘em!”

Down the aisle, Andy convinces the cute girl to go into the stockroom with him. Which Billy sees.

Inside the stockroom, Andy tells Tammy (hey, she finally has a name!) that he’s got something for her. That he’s wanted to give her for a long time.

The entendre is thick in the air.

Back in the store, the shopkeeper and that other lady is sing one of the many Christmas songs that I’ve never heard in my life. Seriously, did they invite the songwriter over to teach it to them just for this scene? That seems like a lot of work.

As they continue singing, Billy wanders into the stockroom. Tammy is telling Andy to, “Stop it.”

Andy is putting the moves on Tammy. In a not-nice way. Tammy slaps him. Andy tears her shirt open. Billy has a flashback to his mom.

And dad. Well, most of whole Santa killing his family thing. As I said, they reuse a lot of footage in this movie.

Here it is, folks. The moment Billy snaps. And yells, “Naughty!” And chokes Andy to death with a string of Christmas lights.

While Tammy looks on. That isn’t really the kind of thing that helps you get the girl.

Tammy yells that Billy is crazy. Then she slaps him. Tammy makes a lot of poor decisions.

Billy grabs something sharp from a nearby shelf and cuts Tammy’s tummy. Tammy dies.

The shopkeeper, who heard a noise, goes to the stockroom to investigate. He’s really drunk. The clock behind him says it’s almost seven. Which means no one was paying attention to continuity, or he’s been drinking 12 hours straight.

Billy comes around the corner, and kills the shopkeeper with a hammer.

Out in the store, that other lady who is standing around to increase the body count, wanders drunkenly to the back of the store and into the stockroom, where she sees the shopkeeper with the “claw” portion of the claw hammer buried in his head.

She runs for the front door, but finds it locked. So she runs to the phone, and dials. Too late. Billy takes an axe off the wall and cuts the phone cord. The lady runs.

Stalking occurs. While Billy recites the opening lines to “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

Billy prepares to axe the lady in the head, only she pushes a bunch of boxes on him and runs, taking the axe with her. She runs to the front door, and gets ready to smash the glass. Billy takes a bow and arrow (from a toy shop, remember?) and shoots her through the back.

She dies.

Billy takes the axe, and unlocks the door… and heads out.

Moments later, Margaret shows up, and sees the dead bodies.

Elsewhere, carolers sing yet another not-classic Christmas song.

Inside a nearby house, and teenage boy and girl are… oh come on. You know. On a pool table.

A little girl calls from upstairs that she wants to see Santa Claus. The teenage girl convinces her she needs to go back to bed right now, because Santa doesn’t visit naughty children, and the little girl is being very naughty right now.

Oh, the jokes I won’t bother to make.

The little girl goes back to bed.

The teenage boy and girl go back to what they were doing. Moments later, the girl says she has to go upstairs, because she heard the cat, and the cat needs to come in. I thought it was a metaphor at first, but no, it appears there really is a cat.

So the girl puts on her shorts(!) (seriously, there’s snow all over the ground outside!) and heads upstairs to deal with the cat.

The boy says, “I’m gonna kill her.”

Seriously. Screenwriter. Dark genius.

The girl goes to the front door, opens it wide, and calls to the cat. Did I mention all she’s wearing is shorts? I hope the girl got stunt pay.

The cat finally shows up. Then Billy shows up.

The girl slams the door. Billy breaks through it with the axe. The girl runs, then turns around to see where Billy is. He throws the axe and misses, then runs after the girl and tackles her.

There is tussling.

Finally, Billy spots a deer head on the wall. So he lifts the girl up and pushes the horns through her. Bodily. And the deer head doesn’t fall off the wall, so she’s just hanging there.

Downstairs, the boy is playing pool. Having heard, you know, none of the extensive screaming and tussling. He puts on his shirt, and heads upstairs.

He finds the destroyed door. And keeps calling to the girl. Who finally gets a name: Denise. Too late.

Finally, he locates her, right after saying, “If this is some kind of joke, I’m going to kill her.”

Billy jumps him, and they battle. The boy gets ahold of a fire poker, and clocks Billy with it. Then he goes for the phone. Billy stands up, pulls the phone cord out of the wall, and chokes the boy with it.

Then he beats the boy for a while. And, finally, throws Billy the guy out the second-story window.

As Billy heads towards the door, the little girl spots him, and calls out, “Santa Claus.”

Billy asks, “Have you been good? Or have you been naughty?”

She says she’s been good. Billy asks if she’s sure. While pulling a knife out of his belt.

She nods yes, so Billy gives her the knife. Which is all covered in blood.

Do I smell a sequel? Man, I hope so!

Billy walks out the door while the little girl calls out to her babysitter.

Elsewhere, two cops are on the hunt for, “Santa Claus.” They’re joking about it, until they see a dude climbing through a window dressed as Santa.

They race into the house, and up the stairs… but it’s just some little girl’s dad, dressed up as Santa for the holidays. Tee-hee.

Out on a deserted stretch of road, Billy hides in a ditch while some cops drive by with their sirens on.

Somewhere in the woods, two boys prepare to sled. One of them gets paranoid and says he thinks someone is watching them.

Suddenly, two more dudes pop out of the woods. Tension is in the air.

The new dudes beat up the sledding dudes, and steal their sleds. Seriously, now, the movie is just wasting time.

One dude sleds. Then calls down to the other dude to sled.

Are we, like, building tension here? Is that the plan? Because I have no attachment to these people.

As dude number two comes down the slope, Billy jumps out of the woods, yells out, “Naughty!” and cuts off the second dude’s head.

Dude number one stands around and screams. For some reason, Billy does not race down the slope and attack him.

And now, it’s morning. Margaret is sleeping on a bench at the police station. She asks some guy, who I guess is a cop, if there’s any news. He tells her it’s all bad.

Three more murders. Huh. Billy really didn’t kill that other kid. That makes no sense.

The cop says Billy is nuts, but not stupid, and that they should be able to predict his next move. Margaret freaks out, because she thinks what Billy is doing is following some kind of logic.

Anyone want to hazard a guess where Billy is going? Could it be: The Orphanage? It is!

Though I have no idea why Margaret thought Billy’s killing had a “logic” to it. So far, he’s killed a bunch of people in a toy shop, two random kids from a random house, and one bully, but not another.

If anyone wants to guess what the logic is in that, be my guest.

At the orphanage, Superior, in bad old age makeup, tells everyone they need to write a thank you letter to Santa, even though all the kids there are WAY too old to believe in him, and also, seriously? Santa? An at orphanage run by nuns? Can someone please, please explain that one to me?

In the office, a little girl is playing with the phone, because her doll is “making a call.” She sets the phone down, but doesn’t hang it up, which means that Margaret can’t call the orphanage to tell them what’s going on.

Margaret and the cop tell all the cops to head to the orphanage, then head to the orphanage themselves.

All officers are told to shoot to kill, if necessary.

Outside, here comes “Santa,” across the near-complete lack of snow. And lots of green grass.

One of the kids looks up, then more. Yay, Santa!

A cop zips up to the orphanage, and spots “Santa.” He freaks out, draws a gun, and puts a few shots in Santa’s back.

Santa falls to the ground. Dead.

A nun comes out, and tells everyone to go back inside. One of them doesn’t move. The nun calls out: “Ricky! Come away from there!”

Everyone remember who Ricky is? At all? Of course not. Ricky is the name of Billy’s brother, who’s been MIA since we last saw him all crying and being a baby, in every sense of the word.

The cop approaches the dead Santa who, naturally, isn’t Billy, or the movie would already be over.

Apparently some guy named Father O’Brian got cacked. Because he didn’t answer the cop who told him to stop. Because he was deaf. That must make finding out what kids want for Christmas a real bear.

An ambulance takes Father O’Brian away, and the cop tells Superior that he’s there to help. She counters that all the cop has done is harm.

(Did I mention this is NOT the cop driving around with Margaret? He’s not. Sorry for the confusion, but none of these people have names.)

(The cop driving with Margaret is still on his way. With Margaret.)

The non-Margaret cop goes outside to look around for Billy.

Inside, Superior decides to take everyone’s mind off the fact that they just saw a man killed in cold blood by having them sing Christmas songs. She has Ricky get her pitch pipe, and goes out of her way to be all, “He’s a good kid, not like his brother,” so the audience can maybe make the connection I made for you earlier. You’re welcome, by the way.

The opt to sing “Deck the Halls.” No way! An actual Christmas song? They couldn’t sing “On the Warm Side of the Door?”

Come to think of it, why is Ricky so happy? He JUST saw a guy take three bullets to the torso area.

Outside, the Santa-killing cop slinks around the outside of the building, looking for the person he was actually supposed to kill.

He spots a shed outside, the creepy music comes up, and Our Hero the Cop walks over to ye olde shed. Suddenly, the door springs open. It isn’t a shed at all. It’s like a little shack, with a massive basement-type thing under it. I have no idea what it could be used for. I suppose it’s a good place to store preserves. Or dead bodies.

The cop wanders around for a bit down there, and finds nothing. He unzips his coat, and heads back up the stairs to the outside. He steps to the door, Billy yells out, “Punish!” and buries the axe in the cop’s belly.

Inside, the kids are now singing another actual Christmas song. Crazy.

Outside, Billy cuts the head off the snowman with his axe. Because he’s evil now, you see. I mean, who else would do a thing like that?

Billy walks up to the front door of the orphanage, and one of the kids springs up to let “Santa” in. Superior tries to stop him, but she’s in a wheelchair now, which makes it hard for her to go springing after the kid.

The kid lets Billy in, and all the kids are like, “Yay! Santa!”

Superior has no idea what to do. She tells the kids to come to her, and then says, “There is no Santa Claus. There is no Santa Claus!” Supes should have tried that, like, a decade ago. She might have prevented her upcoming axe to the face.

Billy says, “Naughty,” a couple of times, the axe comes up, and there’s the sound of gunfire. The other cop, the one with Margaret, shoots Billy in the back.

Billy dies, grabbing at Superior as he falls.

Margaret stands over Billy as he dies. The kids are all well and truly freaked out. Since they already saw Santa shot once, it’s probably not because of that. Maybe it’s because they just learned Santa isn’t real?

Billy’s final words as he croaks are, “You’re safe now. Santa Claus is gone.”

On the soundtrack, the composer is playing one of those old, out-of-tune pianos you always hear in old silent movies. Interesting choice, there, composer-man.

Billy dies. Margaret looks sad. Margaret is also wearing a wedding band. Not your best work, continuity-person.

The camera pans up from Billy to Ricky. And Ricky says, “Naughty.” And the soundtrack goes nuts. In case you didn’t get that this was like a final sting.

And hey! Credits! And we get to hear one of those Christmas songs that no one has ever heard before, and will never hear again.

Is it wrong that I really want to own the soundtrack now?

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