SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT 2: An Appreciation
Sure, it's a terrible film, yet Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 has elements to make it an entertaining cult classic in the making.
Every year an article will pop up on your Facebook news feed, or your favorite website, to commemorate the anniversary of a particular work. This year alone celebrates the 15th anniversary of The Wire and the 20th anniversaries of crowd-pleasing blockbusters Air Force One, Men in Black and Con Air (to name a few). If you go further back, this year is the 30th anniversary of the Kubrick classic, Full Metal Jacket. The year 1987 also saw the release of an important film for bad movie lovers, Silent Night, Deadly Night 2.
The first film, Silent Night, Deadly Night, was a minor hit when released, but was met with controversy due to its violent content and subject matter. A young man dresses like Santa Claus and kills people he deems naughty. The deaths are plentiful and done in an over-the-top fashion (a topless girl gets impaled with the bust of a deer, a bully gets decapitated while on a sled, etc.). Killer Claus (my name for him) heads to the orphanage where he spent a bulk of his childhood (parents killed by a thief dressed as Santa, what foreshadowing!) to kill the Mother Superior. As the ax is raised, the police arrive in the nick of time to kill him. The death occurs in front of orphans; one of them is Killer Claus’ younger brother, Ricky. Ricky mutters “naughty” and makes an evil face before the end credits, teasing at a sequel.
A sequel indeed came, but one that would eclipse the previous installment. Not in the case of being a better-than-the-original kind of a sequel, but as viewers will agree, a terrible movie. Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 is a bad movie, but as cinephiles will tell you, there are many levels of bad. There’s the “what complete shit!” bad (see: Man of Steel and Fifty Shades of Grey), and there’s “so bad, it’s good/hilarious” bad (see: The Room and Troll 2). This film falls in the latter category.
The former fails due to lazy writing, groan-inducing dialogue or overly long scenes. The latter categories enter the “so bad, it’s good” zone because their failures are obvious to the casual viewer, and the mistakes become laughable. Sharknado is successful due to the horrendous CGI and sub-par acting while Birdemic is famous because the director does not understand sound editing or how to frame shots.
That being said, here are a list of reasons why I love this bad movie, and why it would be fun to get together with friends, and have a LOT of alcohol to enjoy this.
Illogical Use of Flashbacks
Silent Night, Deadly Night 2‘s run time is less than 90 minutes, or just around that time. About 40 minutes of the run time is used for flashbacks: using footage from the first film. The footage shown is almost every important scene from the previous installment, giving away all the key plot points. So much is used that you can watch this sequel without ever having to watch the first one. Overuse of this technique makes the director (who also edited the film) either the laziest filmmaker on the planet or a genius with time management.
While it is not a crime to use flashbacks, it is if it’s not your memories. Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 centers on the younger brother, Ricky (Eric Freeman), now a young man, telling his story to a psychiatrist on how he ended up in an asylum. The flashbacks are not his memories—they are his brother’s. They are all situations he was not involved in. He remembers things he cannot possibly remember, both due to his age in the first film (a baby in the beginning and maybe seven at most at the end) and that the memories don’t belong to him. The flashbacks take up a bulk of the run time, but how it is utilized makes for humorous viewing.
Eric Freeman’s Performance
Eric Freeman, the lead actor, is often criticized for his poor and over-the-top performance. Freeman is not a good actor, and according to imdb.com, only got picked because he is handsome. His pitiful performance gives an added charm to the movie, much like Tommy Wiseau with The Room.
Wiseau uses odd phrases ( “I did not hit her, I did nooot…oh, hi Mark”/ “So, tell me about your sex life”) and overacts (“You’re tearing me apart, LI-SA!”); Freeman overemphasizes words (“RED CAR…good point”/ “My OLD LADY couldn’t send me to college, I had to get a JOB”) and his acting can be described as “eyebrow acting.” His eyebrows move in a variety of angles and move so often that they deserve an acting credit.
As a party game, you and your friends should drink whenever his eyebrows go wild. Unfortunately, given the frequency, you might not feel well the next morning.
When his eyebrows aren’t doing interpretive dances, his use of the words “naughty” and “punish” are a delight. Whenever those words are uttered, a kill begins. Like a bull attacking a matador’s red cape, Freeman lets loose when he punishes those naughty people.
Ridiculous Kills and Garbage Day
Given the era it was released, Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 is not short of a high kill list. In 1987, multiplexes were used to the likes of A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th, and horror audiences expected victims of these killers to die in elaborate ways. Even with the archival footage, Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 still provides many deaths for horror fans.
In the flashback scenes (his actual memories) he kills a man by shoving an umbrella through his chest, then opens it. Ricky lifts him with one hand, possessing superhuman strength gained by drinking lots of milk. Later in the film, he runs a man over with a Jeep repeatedly. The man’s girlfriend witnesses the act, and gives a nonchalant thank you. Ricky ran over her boyfriend, but she thanks him like he borrowed and returned her pen.
Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 gains immortality with the line “garbage day!”, now a popular YouTube clip. After killing his girlfriend (not a virgin) and killing her ex-boyfriend with jumper cables (more over-the-top kills!), Ricky goes on a rampage through a suburban neighborhood. A man takes out his trash, leading Ricky to shout that phrase before shooting him and laughing hysterically. Why did he say that? I don’t know, but it’s funny!
While Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 doesn’t have the theatrical midnight shows like The Room or The Rocky Horror Picture Show, hopefully with time it will gain one. As viewers turn up to these shows dressed like Dr. Frankenfurter or in a tuxedo holding a football, we need fans in Santa costumes with toy axes or umbrellas to gain momentum. Start off with groups of friends drinking and hopefully move it to a university screening room.
All I can say is: give this movie a chance. I’ve included it in my regular Christmas movie-viewing for the month of December, along with more conventional titles. That being said, call some friends over, order some pizza, get several cases of beer and make a fun night out of it. You may even find yourself shouting “RED CAR…good point” or “garbage day!” during conversations.
Do you enjoy this film? Is there a “so bad, it’s good” movie you love? Please comment below.
Opinions expressed in our articles are those of the authors and not of the Film Inquiry magazine.