Well it’s that most wonderful time of year again, a time where we come together and get stuck into the eggnog, or beer where I’m from, and replay all the festive classics from Home Alone to Elves, and maybe even a cheeky Lethal Weapon. Sitting somewhere on the naughty end of that list is Silent Night, Deadly Night 2. That’s right, don’t even bother with the first one, just skip straight to dessert. Mmm Christmas pudding. Don’t worry though, director Lee Harry has you covered, as almost half of the 88 minute run time is lifted straight from the slightly more serious original, Silent Night, Deadly Night. What you’ve got here is a bargain – two, low budget, holiday horrors for the price of one! Taking the classic seasonal slasher trope of a deranged guy dressed as Santa Claus, this sequel grabs all the action scenes from its predecessor and stuffs them in a stocking beside some freshly shot goodies.
It’s a bit strange to talk about the plot of 2 when it is basically just the original condensed, with extra mayhem tacked to the end. Mr Harry – who is not just the director, but writer and editor as well – along with co-writer/associate producer Joseph H Earle, have turned out a fantastic tale here. It’s part rip-off, part sequel, and totally outrageous. The events of the first movie are twisted into a series of flashbacks as Ricky Caldwell, the now adult brother of the original’s protagonist Billy, sits in a cell gleefully recounting his tortured past. Eric Freeman’s eyebrows as Ricky, and the reactions of James Newman, as the psychiatrist interviewing him, make this movie even more fun than the first.
As we learn of the incarcerated Ricky’s traumatic childhood, starting with the murder and rape of his parents by a dodgy Santa, you genuinely feel sorry him and his brother. This makes it pretty much okay that they both succumb to urges to slay, not sleigh, at Christmas. The holidays seem to empower the siblings with super strength or something too, lifting dudes by the neck and everything. For Ricky in particular, this deranged need to kill comes from a belief in punishing the naughty, instilled at his orphanage under the iron fist of the malicious and misguided Mother Superior. I won’t go into more detail because the action is most of the fun here, but suffice to say Ricky’s inevitable spree features some fantastically silly moments. Look out, it’s garbage day!
The abundance of gruesome joy this movie offers comes mostly from the actors interacting with such an absurd, yet cliche horror script. Freeman in particular, but also Robert Brian Wilson as the original killer Kringle, keep their scenes entertaining with just enough overacting. While Wilson was apparently a minor heartthrob of the late 80s, Freeman’s gift to cinema is undoubtedly his eyebrow acting. When the time comes, I seriously hope he donates those things to the Smithsonian. Every scene is just so much more enjoyable with him in it, thanks to his expressions, and his evil chuckles. He really excels at channelling all kinds of crazy, and the cool guy shtick he’s got going on is so deliciously out of date.
Just like the plot, it’s weird to talk about the film’s style as half of it is reused, however credit to Harry and his crew for blending old footage with new – you almost can’t tell the scenes they’ve re-shot or spliced into. Almost. As a first-time filmmaker, Harry proves he has an oddball talent, bringing perhaps more proficiency than you’d expect, producing some electrifyingly trashy moments – check out the shakedown scene, or the entire climax of the movie. It takes some guts to make a sequel that actually re-uses the original, and still shoehorn in references to The Shining and such. The Christmas trimmings and the dark score add some genuine festive fun to the events on screen, and the partially narrated ride is wild and hilarious.
I don’t know what it is about low budget horrors and Santa, but it is a relationship which, quite fittingly, has gifted us some fantastic rubbish over the years. Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 is definitely one of the best, regardless of how original it is, or isn’t. It is an adaptation crossed with a sequel that has taken on it’s own monstrous form, packed with enough thematic insanity and disturbing events for at least two movies of its kind. Wait a minute. Regardless, Eric Freeman should forever be remembered for those dexterous and over-the-top eyebrows, and how they helped elevate a trite holiday horror to a yuletide riot. This is perhaps the shining star upon the highest bough of the Christmas rubbish heap.
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