It’s good to be reminded every once in a while that critics aren’t always correct. On the other hand, however, you have efforts as abysmal as Silent Night (2012), a remake of director Charles E. Sellier Jr.’s cult schlocker Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) so loose that it’s practically falling apart. This new interpretation by Steven C. Miller, starring Malcolm McDowell and Jamie King, is so gratuitous you could be forgiven for asking who (even amongst hardcore gore fans) would find it entertaining. It’s Christmas Eve and someone dressed as Saint Nick is murdering the nice (or rather naughty) townsfolk of Cryer, Wisconsin.
It falls to the local sheriff (McDowell) and his deputy (King) to find out who’s behind the killing spree, before what’s left of the local populace is reduced to mincemeat, thus making it a very unhappy Christmas for one and all. The secret of a good slasher is not to dwell long on the graphic depiction of murder. Much of their fun is derived from discovering what new and inventive methods the filmmakers can come up with for despatching the hapless cast. Indeed, many of the best entries in this sub-genre, such as the Final Destination franchise, built their reputation on the increasingly bizarre and gruesome deaths they featured. However, many of the offings came and went so quickly that the audience hardly had time to notice.
Not so with Miller’s Silent Night. The murders here are certainly shocking in their ingenuity, with everything from an industrial wood chipper and a pair of ornamental antlers to axes and flame throwers used to (literally) cut the killer’s victims down to size. Yet, even those with cast iron constitutions may question the need to linger so long on the demise of each victim – the aforementioned chipping machine into which a screaming girl is lovingly forced being a particularly disturbing case-in-point. Forget that most of those murdered deserve what’s coming to them. Even they, no matter how bad, have the right to a dignified and speedy demise.
The film’s other surprising aspect is that it features the legendary McDowell. McDowell himself, most recently seen in Brandon Cronenberg’s intriguingly icky Antiviral and cult horror Excision, would probably be the first to admit that the glory days of Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971) (“eggyweggs” and all) are long behind him. But it’s almost impossible to believe that the great McDowell is so desperate for work that he’s reduced to appearing in a film like Silent Night; and equally, that anyone should be reduced to watching it.