[Is Dead Better?] "Silent Night, Deadly Night 2" plays like a "greatest hits" version of the original
Every Thursday, I take a look at an older horror film I’ve never seen before, and let you know whether it’s a Christmas miracle, or a lump of coal. This week, I unwrap a film that has somehow passed me by all of these years despite its infamy, Silent Night, Deadly Night 2…
…In 1984, people everywhere were scared shitless by the “killer Santa” film, Silent Night, Deadly Night. Featuring a guy dressed up in a Santa suit who goes on a Christmas eve murder spree, the film had such a negative effect on the culture, that mothers everywhere actively worked to get the film banned from theaters, and didn’t even want trailers playing on TV, thinking it would destroy the minds of youthful tykes who still believed in the magic of the north pole and Rudolph with his nose so bright. The film was so shocking, in fact, that the filmmakers thought, why not do the same movie again! Thus was born Silent Night, Deadly Night 2.
Directed by Lee Harry (Street Soldiers), from a script by Harry and Joseph H. Earle, Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 is quite possibly one of the worst sequels ever made, even more so than Troll 2, but in the best possible way. That’s largely due to the fact that Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 plays more like a greatest hits version of the original, with almost half of the film being nothing but flashbacks to scenes from the first time around. I’m not kidding. You could shut your eyes and blast deafening “Jingle Bells” music until you go insane, and you still wouldn’t miss anything from the film. Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 runs at just under 90 minutes, yet about forty minutes of that is dedicated to replaying footage from the first film, with another ten minutes devoted to playing the end credits from BOTH films, leaving us with only about forty minutes worth of new footage. Supposedly, the reason for this is that the filmmakers wanted to do a recut of Silent Night, Deadly Night, inserting some additional scenes and having it turn out that the original film was just a story from an inmate at an insane asylum. Genius, I know. But as more and more scenes were added, they figured fuck it, why not do a full sequel, and the resulting film is what was born from that. The original’s director, Charles E. Sellier Jr., was asked to come back, but, surprise surprise, he wasn’t keen on redoing the same movie twice.
What we’re ultimately left with is the story of Ricky (Eric Freeman), the brother of our psycho killer, Billy, from the first time around. Turns out, Ricky has already gone on a killing spree of his own, and is locked up in an asylum somewhere. Curious as we are about what makes a psychopath tick, Dr. Henry Bloom (James Newman) conducts an interview with Ricky, leading to the horrendous amount of flashbacks. Eventually, we finally get into Ricky’s own story of what led him here, granting viewer’s patience with new footage, if you can actually make it that far. What’s interesting about Ricky’s story compared to Billy’s is that, while Billy suffered a psychotic break and went on a Christmas Eve rampage after witnessing the death of his parents at the hands of another murderer dressed like Santa so many years ago, Ricky, who was a baby at the time, turns out to be more of a serial killer. Whereas Billy snaps from trauma, Ricky seems to have a taste for killing imbued into him, as we follow different moments throughout Ricky’s adult life. By the time he goes on his own Christmas Eve killing spree, Ricky already has a pretty hefty kill count. Since both films work as an untraditional slasher film, following the killer rather than the victims, you could argue that, where Silent Night, Deadly Night is more of a study of the progression into killing, the sequel works as a deeper (though not too deep) observation of the killer himself.
The portrayals of Ricky vs Billy are much different as well. In the original film, Billy (Robert Brian Wilson) is awkward, but there is initially something sweet and innocent about him, that is, until he starts growling “naughty” under his breath and becomes an obvious maniac. Ricky, on the other hand, couldn’t be more of a maniac if he tried. Freeman’s performance screams psychopath, with his soulless eyes black as coal and a tight-lipped grin that would make Mrs. Clause tremble. Ricky’s like Patrick Bateman without the ability to hide under a masked persona. Every piece of Ricky’s dialogue oozes an unsettling anger, and to the actor’s credit, makes him highly intimidating. There is a cheerless atmosphere around Ricky that creates a tension a tad stronger than we may have felt with Billy. Unlike Billy though, where Freeman excels at discouraging any kid with eyeballs to sit on his lap, he fails at just about everything else as an actor. Freeman struggles with delivery when asked to do more than look scary, to the point where he might as well be drooling cheese while speaking, the acting is so god-awful. But that’s just part of the charm of Silent Night, Deadly Night 2.
Not a damn thing about the film ever feels realistic. Not Freeman’s performance, not the scenario, and especially not the ways in which he dispatches victims later on. If you were to take out the original’s footage from part 2, the two are completely different films in terms of tone. Silent Night, Deadly Night is quite possibly one of the darkest slasher films ever made. It’s an ugly, mean film that requires a specific taste to fully enjoy it. Silent Night, Deadly Night 2, however, wouldn’t shock me if it turned out it was actually written by a bunch of coked up elves on a coffee break at Santa’s workshop. Ricky delights fans with a series of over-the-top deaths, including an eye-popping death by car battery moment, and the hilariously absurd image of a guy getting stabbed by an umbrella and made into a tropical drink garnish. Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 is the sort of horror marathon crowd pleaser played late in the evening just as the audience is becoming a bit delirious and needs a good pick-me-up laugh. And there is plenty of humor to be found in the film, with little winks at the audience such as the franchises “villain”, Mother Superior (Jean Miller), residing in a house numbered 666. And who can forget the atrocious dialogue, which has gifted the internet with one of the most popular horror gifs out there, the infamous “garbage day” quote.
When it comes to Silent Night, Deadly Night 2, there is no debate that the film is exceptionally terrible. But as horror fans, we recognize that sometimes, exceptionally terrible translates into exceptionally fun, and that’s exactly what this is. In fact, for those who are made too uncomfortable by the original film’s relentlessly sadistic nature, I would even recommend just watching Silent Night, Deadly Night 2, since you get all of the great kills from the first time, but with none of the hot shower-worthy atmosphere. Of course, what you receive in entertaining kills, you sacrifice in any story at all, so choosing between the two films is a “pick your poison” sort of scenario. There isn’t enough tinsel in the world to dress this film up like a shiny new gift, but it’s easy to see the silver lining in its wonderful B-movie nature.
Unfortunately, Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 is not yet streaming, but you can rent it on any VOD service, and Scream Factory has just released a new edition of the film packed to the brim with stocking-stuffer goodies.
VERDICT: GEM, depending on how much 7-11 vending machine cheese you like dripping off of your stale nacho chips. I take mine with jalapenos.
By Matt Konopka