Saturday, December 29, 2012

December to Dismember: SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT III (1989)

Monte Hellman. Worked with Roger Corman, Sergio Leone, Sam Peckinpah, Johnathan Demme, Warren Oates, Jack Nicholson. Director of captivating, character-driven films such as THE SHOOTING and TWO-LANE BLACKTOP and this direct to video slasher sequel. Cue needle skipping off the record.

SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984) is widely acknowledged as the apex of hyper-controversial, highly entertaining slasher trash film-making with (for the time) a shocking amount of graphic gore, the likes of which the FRIDAY THE 13th series couldn't even consider trying to pull off due to Jack Valenti's permanent stink-eye. Likewise SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 (1987) is widely acknowledged as the nadir of cheap, shoddy sequels that are simply using the popularity of the original to make some quick cash. Granted all sequels are, to some extent, using the popularity of the original, but actually have a well-conceived story to tell of their own. Sequels such as PSYCHO II (1984) continue the storyline in a fresh way without besmirching the memory of the original, where as BOOGEYMAN II (1983)... well, that's a horror of a different kind. This sequel, however, is off in its own little doped-up world of odd.

Starting straight in the middle of a nightmare sequence, a sweet tween named Laura (Samantha Scully) is stalked through white hallways by a menacing, knife-wielding Santa and a guy with what appears to be a savory jello mold on his head. Laura wakes up in a sleep research lab only to remember that she is blind and is doing a seemingly ethically unsound experiment where one Dr. Newbury (Richard Beymer) has her hooked up to one Ricky Caldwell (Bill Mosley). Yes, that Ricky Caldwell.

Apparently after being shot (six times?) to death at the end of PART 2, Ricky went into a coma, was put on life-support. His brain was reconstructed by Newbury, who defends his actions by saying that he is saving lives but actually has some sort of agenda (insert evil laugh here). Newbury's brain reconstruction involves a see-through glass dome over Ricky's brain, complete with plenty of Kool-aide in case it gets thirsty (I'm just speculating on that last part). Newbury believes that Laura is psychic and has been using her to psychically connect to Ricky in his coma via several machines that go "bing". Since this is the holiday season, they need to break away from their experiments so that Laura can go celebrate Christmas with her grandparents in Piru. No, not Peru, but Piru, CA. As in "yes, we have oranges", "population: less than 1000" (at the time) and "film permits are really cheap here". Laura, who is one sassy blind chick - working blue with a variety of bad jokes including one about masturbation, heads out to Piru with her meathead brother (Eric DaRe) and his girlfriend (Laura Harring). They are, of course, completely fucked. Because they will soon have a serial killer after them? No. Because Laura decides the best way to get to Piru during the holidays is by taking the 101 freeway. Talk about the blind leading the freakin' stupid! Even Little Red Riding Hood knew to take a shortcut to Grandma's house to avoid traffic. At least, Stan Freberg said she did.

How does that Terry Jones song go?
Never be rude to a killer?
Meanwhile in the hospital, a local Rx Renta-Santa gets smashed on a non-regulation bottle of hooch and wanders through the halls until he accidentally (or conveniently) stumbles into Ricky's room. Apparently too drunk to notice that a '50s flying saucer has crashed into this guy's head and is rife with opportunity for a wisecrack, he goes the more obvious route saying "Hey vegetable! Who's your favorite singer? Perry Coma?" Doesn't he know psychotic killers have absolutely zero tolerance for bad jokes? Even less if they are dead or otherwise incapacitated. Sure enough, this snaps Ricky out of his stupor and snaps Santa right into the next life. Now that Ricky is free to stumble about the premises, what is on his mind? Yes, a plexi-glass dome is true, but no, the answer we were looking for is "Laura". Yep, Ricky is now obsessed with finding Laura in Piru, which shouldn't be too hard, if he doesn't get lost in the oranges. Of course this means that he too is going to take a road-trip leaving a trail of carved up bodies for the cops to follow. A word to the wise: if you are going to pick up a hitchhiker, don't pick up Chop Top, and if you do, don't tell him that you hate Christmas because of the ugly sweaters. Come to think of it, if you ever see Bill Mosley, you should probably just start running.


Hot on his trail is top cop Lt. Connely (Robert Culp) who, with the help of the Doc, must figure out where Laura is headed. The Doc suggests that it might be Piru, but then is flummoxed by the fact that Piru is so large that she could be anywhere! How to narrow it down? The doc mentions that Linda said something about Grandma giving her oranges (Really? In Piru?), so she must be at an orange grower's! Ok, let's index all of the orange growers in Ventura County until we find some connection. Real policework in action. Yeah, Ricky's got all night to waste these chumps.

Of course Ricky gets to Grandma's house before Laura and a game of cat and one blind mice begins, with a special twist that feels less December 25th and more like October 31st.

Mmmm... someone had sausages for dinner!

I expect that noses will start to wrinkle as soon as I say it, but I find this entry pretty damn enjoyable. Not a masterpiece deserving of Monte Hellman's credit, but it is completely absurd (which is a plus for me) and let's face it, after revisiting PART 2, by comparison this has the artistic depth and complexity of Hieronymus Bosch. Upping the entertainment factor, there is an amazing amount of oddball stuff going on in this movie, leading to all sorts of questions. Such as... Why do people keep handing Laura glasses of water? Does being blind make you dehydrated? How did Ricky get shot in the snow and end up in a hospital in Southern California?  Since when do hospitals have synch sound on their security cameras? Do gas station attendants really put their phone-sex partners on hold to help a guy with a towel wrapped around his head? If you go to your grandmother's house for Christmas and she is missing, is having sex in her bathtub really the first thing you should do? If you are blind, know that something is seriously wrong and people are missing is getting your likker on the best choice of action? And seriously, why does Grandma have a completely random gift "from Santa" that isn't for anybody except a random stranger?

So many questions, so few answers, but that's it's what makes this movie so much more than it seems to be at first glance. Sure they could have used just a touch more gore. Sure they could have done some really weird and interesting stuff with some of the groundwork they laid out. For instance, Ricky can telepathically "see" what Laura is seeing. I know, it's been done before. The catch here is - Laura is blind! WtF? Inspite of it's faults, or maybe because of them, this might actually be the best SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT sequel... so far.

Moments of Clarity:

1 Reactions:

  1. Excellent write-up Thomas. I enjoy this film for the same reasons. Next time I watch it I'll get some added laughs from you observation about the blind being dehydrated.

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