Home Video Hovel: Silent Night, Deadly Night 2, by Alexander Miller
In the league of cult movies that are “so-bad-they’re-good,” Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 is, at this point in time, a damn classic. But the road to this newfound reputation was long. The second life of Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 has been gestating for over a decade, comprised of manifold factors. The film and its journey are thanks to cult appeal, Internet culture (YouTube lists, reviews, best/worst lists, memes) and good old fashioned word of mouth appeal. This leads us to another important factor. It should go without saying, since this is the Home Video Hovel, but this will be a review of the film just as much as it will be a review of the Scream Factory Blu-ray and its bonus content as it plays a significant role in shaping/influencing the context of the film.
We all know that Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 is right up there with Hobgoblins, Leprechaun 3, and the almighty of bad movies, Troll 2. The words “Garbage day!” are just as recognizable as Nicolas Cage yelling “The bees!” or the infamous realization from Troll 2, “Nilbog! It’s goblin spelled backwards!” And the image of Eric Freeman from the film’s rampage scene (pointing his gun with his hammy, crazy stare) is meme fodder, plastered all over the Internet.
It almost seems like people are on the prowl for the perfect brew of sloppy cinema that makes for a great-bad-movie and it seems like the Internet, cult movie aficionados and lovers of all things campy and bizarre have latched onto Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 as the recently minted headline title in the league of celebrated bad movies.
So the movie has cultivated cultural merits and it’s celebrated because the film is, well, bad. So, does this context and reappraisal necessarily make Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 a good movie? The second installment in the now infamous and controversial slasher series starts off roughly a decade after the first entry, with Ricky, the younger brother of the first film’s killer, institutionalized and getting a psychiatric evaluation. After the havoc wreaked by his older brother Billy in the first film, Ricky is the headcase now and, thanks to the hammy performance by Freeman and the clunky script, we know right away that Ricky will carry the torch for his late brother and will eventually go on a homicidal tear.
“Eventually” is the key word because the film infamously boasts a large portion of its time (nearly the first half) rehashing footage from the first film in a labored flashback sequence.
This whole exercise wears real thin real quick (especially if you watch the first film with some frequency, fatigue sets in pretty quickly) and lumbers on for so long ,the overall 88-minute runtime feels even more laborious. When the film picks up its narrative, any anticipation that could have mounted is kind of lost but it’s almost worth the perseverance given the campy and now infamous massacre scene punctuated by the hammed-up delivery of the film’s classic “Garbage day!” line. The death-by-car-battery is an inventive kill scene and the overwhelmingly bizarre nature of Ricky’s “climactic” rampage offsets the stagnation raised by the snail speed of the film’s laborious first act. Its presence has no real rhythm and it materializes from thin air but it’s more exciting than anything before it, so this turns out to be an enjoyable if bizarre development. While it’s relation to the story (if you want to call it that) is practically invisible, the sheer otherness of Ricky’s infamous rampage is perversely hilarious. With Freeman’s mawkish overacting, it’s easy to understand why this film has such cult appeal. Once Ricky dispatches his doctor, he sets off to wreak some more holiday inspired carnage. Specifically he’s out to finish off where his brother Billy left off and that means killing the mother superior from the first film, who’s sporting some unexplained facial mutilation residing at a “666” numbered house.
If you’re looking for trashy, mean-spirited, slasher “fun” you’d expect from the first film, even ardent gorehounds will be left wanting. If you’ve got a case of beer and some friends over and you’re like-mindedly in the mood for some so-bad-it’s-good laughs then Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 is the perfect title. Of course, Scream Factory has assembled a comprehensive Blu-ray with two commentary tracks, interviews and a feature-length documentary, Slay Bells Ring Again: The Story of Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2, featuring interviews with director Lee Harry, cast and makeup artists. Despite being a silly film, the supplementary documentary gives an in-depth perspective into the production and it actually improved my impression of the film. Despite the ironic appeal and camp factor, Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 is a sloppy follow up to the infamous first entry in the series, which (despite the cult factor) wasn’t the best film to begin with. The Silent Night, Deadly Night series would go on to recruit famed director Monte Hellman for Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out!, followed by two more entries, making for a five-film series. Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 isn’t a good movie but Internet culture has embraced it to a degree that seems… overindulgent? Holding down a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes with critical lambasting, the film holds prestige, with 5-star ratings on Letterboxd and people singing its praises on threads and message boards and it seems that line between bad-good and movies that are properly good feels blurred. The ironic appeal is good for occasional laughs but don’t let it dominate the critical atmosphere far enough to say that a movie is good when it isn’t.