Sometimes you watch a film simply in the hope of proving the rumours wrong. Occasionally you’re pleasantly reminded that not all critics are right. At other times however you get films like Silent Night – a remake of director Charles E. Sellier Jr.’s cult schlocker Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), which is so loose it’s falling apart. This new interpretation by Steven C. Miller and starring Malcolm McDowell and Jamie King, is so gratuitous you could be forgiven for asking who (even amongst hardcore gore fans) would find it entertaining.
It’s Christmas Eve and someone dressed as Father Christmas is murdering the good (or rather bad) folk of Cryer, Wisconsin. It falls to the local sherif (McDowell) and his deputy (King) to find out who’s behind the killing spree, before what’s left of the local populace is reduced to mincemeat, making it a very unhappy Christmas for one and all.
The secret of a good slasher film is not to dwell long on the graphic depiction of murder. Much of their fun is derived from discovering what new and inventive methods the filmmakers can come up with for despatching the hapless cast. Indeed many of the best entries in this sub-genre, such as the Final Destination series, built their reputation on the increasingly bizarre and gruesome deaths they featured. However many of the said murders came and went so quickly the audience hardly had time to realise what had happened, before they were whisked off to the next set-piece leaving them with little more than a smile and a shiver once the film had finished.
Not so with Silent Night. The murders here are certainly shocking in their ingenuity – with everything from an industrial wood chipper and a pair of ornamental antlers to axes and flame throwers used to (literally) cut the killer’s victims down to size. However even those with cast iron constitutions may question the need to linger so long on the demise of each murderee – the said chipping machine into which a screaming girl is lovingly forced being a particularly disturbing case-in-point. Forget that most of those murdered deserve what’s coming to them. Even they, no matter how bad, have the right to a dignified and speedy despatch.
The film’s other surprising aspect is that it features the legendary McDowell. Now, he would probably be first to admit that the glory days of A Clockwork Orange (1971) are long gone. However it’s hard to believe he is so desperate for work that he’s reduced to appearing in a film like Silent Night? And equally, that anyone should be reduced to watching it.