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Silent Night, Deadly Night Blu-ray Review – Notorious “Naughty” Christmas Film Gets a “Nice” Release

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Silent Night Deadly NightStarring Robert Brian Wilson, Gilmer McCormick, Linnea Quigley, Lilyan Chauvin

Directed by Charles Sellier, Jr.

Distributed by Scream Factory


It may not have been the first Christmastime horror film, but Silent Night, Deadly Night” (1984) is definitely the most controversial; or, at least it was. Nothing shocks people these days. At the time, it was an offensive novelty to promote Santa Claus, outfitted with melee weapons, as the villain of a sure-to-be-horrifically-gory seasonal slasher picture. Sometimes controversy can work in a film’s favor, increasing box office receipts – this was not one of those times for one simple reason: frightened by angry parents and Hollywood actors, distributor TriStar Pictures caved to public pressure and withdrew the film from theaters shortly after release. The irony of actor involvement in the outcry was Mickey Rooney being one of the most vocal detractors… a man who years later starred in Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker (1991). Siskel & Ebert famously read aloud the names of the film’s producers on their show in lieu of an actual review, publicly shaming each of them.

All of this seems, even now, to be horribly overblown. It isn’t as though this R-rated feature was marketed toward kids, although placing a deranged Claus on mass-marketed ads during the holidays is clearly walking a fine line. Regardless, the film is more greatly remembered for signpost imagery and the controversy it generated than being any good. Silent Night, Deadly Night is not a great movie – uncut or otherwise – but it does move at a quick pace (a tight 85 minutes) and the kills are reasonably memorable. The real key to its longevity is the holiday setting. Everyone loves to put on It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) or National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989) when Christmastime rolls around; horror fans have their yearly staples, too.

Christmas, 1971. Young Billy Chapman (Jonathan Best) and his family take a trip to visit his catatonic grandfather, who lives in a nursing home. Grandpa sits and stares all day, never uttering a word… that is, until everyone but Billy leaves the room. Then, gramps turns to his grandson and creepily warns him about Santa, specifically how he punishes bad children so severely. Later that night, Billy’s father pulls over to help a stranded motorist on the side of the road, one dressed like Santa. Unbeknownst to them the man had robbed a liquor store earlier that night and killed the clerk. Billy’s father tries to flee when the man pulls a gun but he is shot and killed; his wife has her throat slashed. Billy runs off, leaving his infant brother Ricky in the back seat.

A few years later, Billy (Danny Wagner) and Ricky are living in an orphanage, under the strict rule of Mother Superior (Lilyan Chauvin). It’s Christmastime and Billy finds himself triggered by the holiday, drawing depictions of Santa as a murderer and punching a man who arrives dressed as his holiday nemesis. Mother Superior is deaf to the reasoning behind his actions, but Sister Margaret (Gilmer McCormick) sympathizes with the troubled boy. Cut to ten years later and Billy (Robert Brian Wilson) is all grown up and looking jacked. Through the orphanage he is able to get work at a local toy store, and for once it seems as though things are looking up for Billy… until Christmas hits. His PTSD engaged once again, the final mental straw breaks when Billy is forced to dress up as Santa for the customers. That night, he snaps and an evening of punishment for the “NAUGHTY!” begins.

It seems as though blasting this film isn’t limited to the critics because plenty of horror fans knock it for a variety of reasons. I’m sure part of my mild affection for this one-note slasher is the fond gaze of nostalgia, since this was a Christmas staple in my teen years. It isn’t as though any should expect anything more out of the picture aside from an unhinged Santa traipsing through town, axe in hand, meting out holiday punishment with extreme prejudice. The fact this film has any decent psychological subtext should be seen as a minor miracle. Wilson’s performance as the adolescent Billy is – dare I say – slightly nuanced until he turns into a lean, mean red killing machine. Both of the nuns – Sister Margaret and Mother Superior – are brought to life with conviction thanks to strong performances from Chauvin and McCormick. Every other cast member is serviceable enough to keep the film moving along, although personal standouts are Billy’s creepy grandfather and the guido toy store employee who calls Billy a “moon goon”.

Nobody is here for the acting, though, so let’s talk about murder. Lots of people get it here; a few are lucky enough to go in spectacular fashion. The sled decapitation will always be the high point but Linnea Quigley’s death-by-antlers is a strong runner-up. I just love how logic is thrown completely out the window once Billy snaps and the film overpowers him like he’s on a roid-induced rage or something. Wilson is in shape but he ain’t exactly Arnold, either. Doesn’t matter, Rage Billy can lift men inches off the ground with ease and impale a human on a dull pair of antlers with virtually no momentum. Further sequels really missed the chance to bring Billy back again; just treat him like Michael Myers. Although, then we might not have ever gotten “Garbage day!”

To pull from a childhood favorite, Highlights Magazine, Silent Night, Deadly Night is the Goofus to Bob Clark’s Gallant, Black Christmas (1974). Someone gets that reference, right? The film is loose and sloppy and far from subtle, or even scary, but it sets out to do one thing and it does that right… enough. Subsequent entries in this all-over-the-place franchise are either more entertaining or better than this one but this is the moneymaker and, for better or worse, remains a yearly tradition for horror fans.

There is good and bad news. The good news is Scream Factory produced a new 4K scan of the original camera negative and the resulting 1.85:1 1080p image is stupendous; the bad news is all of the unrated footage once again comes from a video source, as the negatives could not be found. Scream Factory has done what they can to match the two sources but it’s still plain as day when switches occur. The theatrical cut is a seamless experience, and the restorative work done is really exceptional. Fine detail and textures are given new life, with more detail than ever before evident in each frame. Skin tones look organic and vivid. Colors are bold and striking. I’ve seen this film on just about every notable format and this is by far and away the best it has ever looked. The SD inserts are, again, obvious but since the added footage is limited to bits here and there the shifts aren’t terribly jarring.

The English DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track has presence, delivering the corny source music and old-school synth cues with nice clarity. Sound effects are lively and realistic. The score elevates in a few scenes, adding a solid dose of tension to Billy’s menace. Subtitles are available in English.

DISC ONE: Theatrical Cut

A theatrical trailer, three TV spots, VHS trailer, and a couple of radio are the only extras included here.

DISC TWO: Unrated Version

There are two audio commentary tracks included; the first, with Actor Robert Brian Wilson and Executive Producer Scott J. Schneid; the second, with Michael Hickey, Perry Botkin, Jr., Scott J. Schneid, and Michael Spence.

“Slay Bells Ring: The Story of Silent Night, Deadly Night” – This is a typically informative retrospective piece, featuring interviews with several members of the cast & crew. For such a storied film that went through issues with name changes and censors and the press you had better believe there are plenty of anecdotes to be heard.

“Oh Deer! An Interview with Linnea Quigley” – Many times, interviews like this wind up being a look back at the actor’s career, and this is no exception.

“Christmas in July: Silent Night, Deadly Night Locations Then & Now” – See the excitement that is Heber City, Utah as it stands as of July 2017.

“Audio Interview with Director Charles E. Sellier, Jr.” runs for nearly an hour.

“Santa’s Stocking of Outrage” – Footage of Billy’s massacre is shown alongside quotes from people decrying the film.

There is also a poster & still gallery.

Special Features:

DISC ONE: THEATRICAL VERSION

  • NEW 4K RESTORATION from the original camera negative
  • R-Rated Theatrical Trailer & VHS Trailer
  • TV Spots
  • Radio Spot
  • Optional English subtitles for the main feature

DISC TWO: EXTENDED UNRATED VERSION

  • NEW 4K RESTORATION from the original camera negative with standard definition inserts
  • NEW Slay Bells Ring: The Story Of Silent Night, Deadly Night – Featuring Interviews With Writer Michael Hickey, Co-Executive Producers Scott J. Schneid And Dennis Whitehead, Editor/Second Unit Director Michael Spence, Composer Perry Botkin, And Actor Robert Brian Wilson
  • NEW Oh Deer! – An Interview With Linnea Quigley
  • NEW Christmas In July – Silent Night, Deadly Night Locations – Then And Now
  • NEW Audio Commentary With Actor Robert Brian Wilson And Co-Executive Producer Scott J. Schneid
  • Audio Commentary With Michael Hickey, Perry Boykin, Scott J. Schneid, and Michael Spence
  • Audio Interview With Director Charles E. Sellier, Jr. From Deadpit Radio (Extended Version)
  • Santa’s Stocking Of Outrage
  • Poster And Still Gallery
  • Silent Night, Deadly Night
  • Special Features
3.5

Summary

Silent Night, Deadly Night is a monotone film that achieves its goal of delivering a killer Santa, with little else there to elevate the high concept pitch. I’ve never viewed it with much of a critical eye because, well, it speaks for itself and never did I expect any more out of it than it provides. Scream Factory’s 4K scan is a revelation, and the extra features are the most extensive yet.

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The Midnight Man Review – Don’t Hate The Game, Hate The Players

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Starring Lin Shaye, Robert Englund, Grayson Gabriel, Emily Haine, Gabrielle Haugh, Summer H. Howell, Louise Linton

Written by Travis Zariwny

Directed by Travis Zariwny


Travis Zariwny’s The Midnight Man is largely a robotic hide-and-seek slog, yet if dissected in butchered chunks, smaller bites range from delicious destruction to utterly incompetent character work. Judging by the bloodthirsty opening sequence alone, you’d think Zariwny is about to blow our morality-siding minds. A sad misconception, I’m afraid. After our hopes skyrocket, mechanical plot devices are pinned to a storyboard with the utmost lack of exploration. The Midnight Man’s game is afoot, but these players would barely compete against an opponent crafted from brick and mortar. Can someone calculate a handicap for them, please?

Gabrielle Haugh stars as Alex Luster, a caring granddaughter to Nana Anna (Lin Shaye). One night, upon the request of her not-always-there relative, Alex rummages through attic trunks for a silver-backed hand mirror. Instead she finds a nondescript wrapped box with what appears to be a game inside. Her crush Miles (Grayson Gabriel) has arrived by now, and after an incident where Anna requires medical attention from house-call doctor Harding (Robert Englund), the two friends begin playing whatever it was that caused Anna to screech in disapproval. You know, the only rational decision.

At the risk of sounding like a smug CinemaSins video, The Midnight Man would surely bomb any horror IQ test. Zariwny’s *first* piece of introduced information after discovering Midnight Man’s altar is quite simple – DANGER. DO NOT PLAY. IT JUST CAUSED A WOMAN TO FAINT. Nevertheless, our braindead sheeple follow careful rules to summon Mr. Midnight Man into their house – because, as horror movies have proven, tempting occult fates is buckets of fun! At least the characters don’t confess romantic feelings and makeout while another friend who joins the game late – “Creepy Pasta” obsessed Kelly (Emily Haine) – could already be in the Midnight Man’s clutches, that’d be – oh, right. That happens.

Senile Anna is another story altogether – Zariwny’s grey-haired red herring in the worst way. Lin Shaye injects so much destabilized madness into this energetic, midnight-perfect role, elevating herself into a stratosphere well above The Midnight Man itself. Whether she’s screaming about Alex’s disgusting blood, or ominously whispering dreadful remarks through a housewide intercom, or beating Robert Englund to a pulp with wide-eyed psychosis – well, if you’ve seen Dead End, you *know* the kind of batshitery Shaye is capable of. Her genre vet status on display like a damn clinic here.

Shaye – and even Englund – aside, scripting is too procedural to salvage any other performances. Kelly doesn’t even deserve mention given her “bring on death!” attitude and enthusiastic late entry INTO AN URBAN LEGEND’S DEATHTRAP – a poorly conceived “twist” with less structure. This leaves Grayson Gabriel and Haugh herself, two thinly-scripted cutouts who couldn’t find a more repetitive genre path to follow. There’s little mystery to the gonigs on, and neither actor manages to wrangle tension (even when staring our Midnight friend in the face…thing).

Scares are hard to come by because Zariwny opts for a more “charismatic” villain who talks like Scarecrow and appears as a dyed-black, cloaked Jack Skellington. He can form out of clouds and is a stickler for rules (candles lit at all times, 10 seconds to re-ignite, if you fail he exploits your deepest fear). Credit is noted given this villain’s backstory and strict instructions – which does make for a rather killer game of tag – but the need to converse and expose Midnight from shadows subtracts necessary mysticism. He’s a cocky demon with masks for each emotion (think woodland death imp emojis), but never the spine-tingling beast we find ourselves hiding from.

This is all a bummer because gore goes bonkers in the very first scene – with underage victims no less. One young player gets decapitated, another explodes into a red splattery mess (against fresh snowfall), but then a vacuous lull in process takes hold. It’s not until Alex’s fear of blood and Miles’ fear of pain that we get more eye-bulging squeamishness, then again when Kelly’s bunnyman appears. A no-bullshit, bunny-headed creature wearing a suit, which plays directly into Kelly’s deepest fear. When Zariwny gets sick and surreal, he scores – but it’s a disappointing “when.”

I take no pleasure in confirming that any small victory The Midnight Man claims is negated by kids who should’ve been offed for even thinking about a quick playthrough of Anna’s old-school entertainment. Invite him in, pour your salt circles and try to survive until 3:33AM – sounds easy, right? If the demon plays fair, you bet! But why would ANYONE trust a demon’s word? Makes sense given Alex and Miles’ ignorance of more red flags than a Minesweeper game, and a thrilling chase these bad decisions do not make.

  • The Midnight Man
2.5

Summary

The Midnight Man begins by striking a meteoric horror high, only to plummet back down towards repetitive genre bumbling once the game’s true – and less enticing – plot begins.

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American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review

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Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo

Directed by Colin Bemis


Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.

The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.

As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.

Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.

In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.

On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.

In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.

Until then, check out the film’s trailer HERE, and follow the movie on Facebook.

  • Strawberry Flavored Plastic
3.5

Summary

Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.

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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)

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We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.

In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!

If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.

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