Silent Night, Zombie Night (2009)
Reviewed by Heather Wixson
Starring Jack Forcinito, Andy Hopper, Nadine Stenovitch, Lew Temple, Vernon Wells, Felissa Rose
Directed by Sean Cain
“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”
That’s how the Andy Williams Christmas classic goes at least. In Silent Night, Zombie Night (SNZN), however, Christmastime is anything but wonderful due to the hordes of flesh-eaters that have taken over the mean streets of Los Angeles.
During the film’s opening montage we come to find out that a zombie outbreak has been unleashed, and chaos is running rampant. While trying to help out some neighbors who are infected, two cops named Frank (Forcinito) and Nash (Hopper) realize after Nash is injured that they are in way over their heads and need to find refuge.
When the pair arrive at Nash’s place, they are met by Sarah (Stenovitch), Frank’s wife who was in the process of leaving Frank because of his anger issues and an underlying attraction between her and Nash (who is not only Frank’s partner but best friend).
Now that all hell has broken loose, the trio end up confined together in the safety of Nash’s apartment, where they are left to not only deal with the undead roaming the streets, but the tension that binds them together. Will they be able to survive the zombies and their own issues as well? That’s what SNZN explores.
Admittedly, early in 2009 when I heard the title for SNZN, I was a little hesitant in believing that director Sean Cain (who also penned the script) could deliver a horror movie that still had some heart to it. The title, albeit genius, tends to make you believe that fans are in for a schlockfest, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
SNZN ends up exploring some pretty deep themes while incorporating some pretty sweet zombie kills and a good amount of gore to boot, and that can be a rarity in the world of independent horror.
A lot of times I see smaller budget films that focus either more on story because that’s what they have the budget for or more on the gore because they think that’s all that fans care about. SNZN figures out the formula of how to make a limited budget work and gives audiences not only some substance but all the bloody good times we horror fans crave as well.
Cain also manages to wrangle up a lot of genre faves for SNZN: Lew Temple, Felissa Rose, and Vernon Wells, who all deliver their usual great performances. What makes up the heart of SNZN are the three leads - Forcinito, Hopper, and Stenovitch. While Hopper and Stenovitch both deliver with their portrayals of Nash and Sarah, it’s Forcinito that really is the core of SNZN’s success.
Forcinito (who reteamed with Cain for the upcoming Breath of Hate) does a solid job of finding balance within a character that ultimately isn’t very likeable. He’s cocky, impulsive, and has some deep-seated anger and trust issues; but somehow you find yourself rooting for him throughout SNZN. Forcinito digs deep to deliver a fractured hero within the character of Frank, and part of that is what makes SNZN successful in delivering an entertaining horror flick.
Of course, like with any movie, there are some issues with SNZN, but most are minor. As a stickler for details, I saw some continuity errors here and there and didn’t exactly find some of the scenarios plausible (at one point we see a group of people partying it up in a backyard during a zombie epidemic; I don’t necessarily think I’d be hanging out in someone’s backyard kicking back with some brewskis if the undead were roaming my neighborhood), but none of that really took me out of the story of SNZN.
Overall, SNZN did a great job of intertwining romantic drama, some humorous moments, and good old-fashioned zombie carnage and didn’t end up feeling like it was trying to rip off any of its predecessors in the process.
Silent Night, Zombie Night is a great example of how independent horror can incorporate story, substance, and zombie killing and not need to rely on a bloated budget to get the job done. It delivers on each of those levels, and while the movie isn’t perfect, it’s one helluva fun ride while you're watching.
3 1/2 out of 5
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