Killer in a Santa suit goes beyond the ax to bring Christmas Eve terror to a Wisconsin town
The three gifts brought by the Magi as chronicled in the Bible were gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Slightly less pricey when taking inflation into account, the three gifts for this year’s round of drive-in reviews are a kung-fu flick featuring three Bruce Lee impersonators made in 1978 (the era of Solid Gold), the third flick in the Silent Night, Deadly Night series (which, like frankincense, stunk) and, to close things out, one that features a bunch of myrrh-dur.
I’ll leave up to you all to decide which is better.
So this last holiday gift review is for Silent Night, the 2012 re-imagining of Silent Night, Deadly Night that left off the “Deadly Night” part in the title because, well, reasons.
But unlike the disappointing SNDN3, this one pushes all the requisite buttons as both a genuine homage to the original two flicks (no Bill Moseley with an exposed brain here) and doing things just a little bit differently (i.e., more gore) since a bunch of time has indeed passed since 1984 and series such as Saw and others have somewhat changed people’s expectations for gore.
We get a pair of people offed in the first 10 minutes of this one with a guy who’s having an affair getting electrocuted by Christmas lights (good eyeball explosion) and a bratty teenage girl getting skewered by a Santa spear after she gets stun-sticked and starts foaming at the mouth. There’s also a woman who’s tied up and gagged in the killer masked Santa’s lair, but we don’t see what happens to her until later. So we’ve got the punishing and the naughty theme working.
The law doesn’t get wind of these first few deaths until about a half-hour/45 minutes in because here in Cryer County, Wis., they take their Santa stuff pretty seriously. There’s a metric reindeer load of Santa representatives wandering around the town square to provide plenty of suspects once the murderer is ID’d as a big guy in a Santa Claus outfit. There’s festive décor all over the place and a Christmas Eve parade on tap that the town’s mayor wants to go off without a hitch because the holiday offers hope to the economically troubled community.
Hence when the four-officer sheriff’s department, led by crotchety, know-it-all Sheriff Cooper (Malcolm McDowell) gets a call about a Santa making kids cry, they better get their buns into action or the mayor’s gonna hear about it.
Responding to the complaint, Deputy Aubrey Bradimore (Jaime King, of Sin City and the My Bloody Valentine remake, among others) our Cop With a Trauma in Her Recent Past™ meets transient Santa Jim Epstein (Donal Logue), a cynic who tells kids that if they don’t get what they want under the tree on Christmas, their parents probably sold their gifts on eBay. He keeps a journal of all the places he’s been, including recording some Santa-related murders, making him a suspect, but she doesn’t have enough evidence to bring him in.
Bradimore, who’s following in her dad’s footsteps as a hometown cop, gets called to an abandoned house with a weird smell and it’s got the dead electrocuted guy from the first scene and the woman who was tied up, except she’s now in pieces (but her cell phone is still attached to her hand). Explains the smell.
The sheriff shows up and takes charge of the scene, but then the killer Santa shows up at an amateur nekkid model shoot at a local hotel (don’t worry — the site’s only visible in Asia and Europe), stabs a camerawoman in the abs with a long-handled sickle and then the producer guy in the gazebos before chasing the topless model into probably the most-memorable fatality of the flick.
We get some more bodies piling up, including a pervo preacher getting chopped up with an ax during his Christmas Eve service with a whopping one congregant in attendance until a final showdown between the long arms of the law and the now-flamethrower-toting masked psycho Santa who also has some brass knucks that say “Ho, ho, ho” that he puts to good use.
• Best Homage to the Original: Blonde Tiffany (Courtney-Jane White) gets to re-create Linnea Quigley’s iconic antler scene from the first flick. I am bound by the Drive-In Oath not to compare whether this re-enactment or the one done by Joe Bob and Darcy on last year’s TLDI Christmas Special after SNDN2 was better, so don’t ask.
• Best Way to Get Rid of a Nude Model: The killer Santa busts up a classy local photo shoot inside a motel room involving drugs, a video camera, stills and, well, drugs. Trying to escape, the model backdrops, topless, out of a bathroom window and lands on some garbage, then flees to a Christmas tree farm. Of course, Santa tracks her down (and he knows how to operate a wood chipper).
• Best Homage to the Sequel: Deputy Gillis is told to take out the trash by the sheriff. He complies with Malcolm McDowell’s order (because really, who is going to argue with the leader of the Droogs and Caligula?) muttering, “What is this, garbage day?”
• Best Speech in the Spirit of Mr. Grinch: While incarcerated, suspect Santa Jim Epstein delivers almost a two-minute-long monologue about how much the holiday of Christmas sucks and is the source of rage and disappointment and ends it with, “Whatever you think I did, I most certainly did not … yeah, I’m Santa. Who the f— is it you think I am, Charles Manson?”
Some decent death scenes and a good supporting cast in the form of McDowell and Logue elevate it above the run-of-the-mill average two-star affair. However, seasoned Mutants won’t really be surprised by any of the red herrings, there are some plot holes and the gore isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. But, to wrap things up, director Steven C. Miller shows us that sometimes all you need in a good killer Santa movie is a killer Santa.