Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2 (1987)

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“It’s Christmas time!”


“But Trebor,” you might be saying, “why are you skipping part 1 and jumping right into a review of the sequel?” Well imaginary reader, besides the fact that this is my site and I can do whatever the hell I want on it, the first half-hour of Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2 is literally a recap of the first film. That means one third of this movie’s 90-minute runtime is essentially flashback footage depicting ‘last time on Silent Night, Deadly Night,‘ like the opening sequence of a television show. By starting here I can kind of take a look at both films at once. I do admit though, at the time I’m writing this, I haven’t seen the first film. But I really don’t think it’s necessary thanks to the handy flashbacks that open Part 2.

There’s actually an air of suspense and tension when this thing starts…. a man smoking, sitting alone in a white room. Another man enters and begins setting up a tape recorder. They stare each other down, the man in the chair grinning awkwardly, while the other man looks uncomfortable, scared, even. Unfortunately, when a third character enters, Dr. Henry Bloom (James Newman), all the anxiety in the room is instantly vaporized. Why? Because the characters start talking. You see, despite their best efforts, these over-actors accidentally create one of the funniest Christmas horror films of all time, just by opening their mouths. Most of the credit for this goes to Eric Freeman for his absurdly grandiose performance. I never thought Santa murdering people could be so damn funny.

SNDN - 1 “I don’t know what made him stop…. actually, I do know what made him stop.”

Dr. Bloom is a therapist, interrogating convicted psychopath Ricky Caldwell (Freeman),  fresh off his most recent murderous rampage. Ricky answers the doctor’s questions about his childhood with an angry, yet surprisingly open and cooperative inflection. He readily describes his early years, his story intercut with flashback footage from the first film. It’s strange though, since Ricky tells his life story as if he sees the world from the perspective of someone else. That’s probably because the previous installment in this series was all about Ricky’s older brother, Billy (Robert Brian Wilson in archival footage). Since the first Silent Night, Deadly Night didn’t have much for Ricky to do, the man barely makes an appearance in his own life story! I have to question the reliability of his narration then, since most of the scenes he describes took place when he was either too young to really remember them, or when he wasn’t even there to witness them. He describes events and conversations that he count’t possibly know about since he wasn’t present for them.

The flashbacks begin with Billy at age seven, while Ricky was just a newborn. The two of them were witness to the brutal murder of their mother and father by a man dressed as Santa Clause on Christmas Eve. This obviously had a deep psychological effect on young Billy, who is forced to repress the trauma as he grows up in a conservative Catholic orphanage with his brother. They are mistreated there, beaten by a strict Mother Superior. With the church’s strict teachings and Billy’s childhood anguish, he becomes more and more haunted and disturbed. When he leaves the orphanage at eighteen, he also leaves Ricky, now twelve, behind to fend for himself. This fact renders everything Ricky ‘remembers’ of Billy’s story as speculation, at best.

SNDN - 6Unless Ricky had a photographic, telepathic memory, even as a baby.

Billy gets a job at a toy shop as an in-store Santa. Dressed as Father Christmas, his killing spree begins when he considers his parents, both killed by Santa on Christmas Eve. To him, that’s what Santa does: he kills people. So just like the man who killed his folks, Billy puts on the red suit and murders everyone in the toy store before heading out into the night wielding an axe. And like a lot of horror movies, teenage philanderers in Silent Night, Deadly Night are the primary targets hunted down and killed by the crazed villain. Influenced by the church’s sex-shaming and his own recollection of his mother’s rape, Billy punishes any couple he catches getting it on by putting them on Santa’s naughty list. Blaming the church for everything, his binge-murder session ends back at the orphanage, where he is shot down by the police right in front of his own brother.

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Santa as the toy store archer.

With the first film effectively summed up, we return to the therapy room and finally, Ricky’s story begins. Like his brother, he is traumatised and conflicted by his childhood. Since he was only a baby when his parents were killed, their death never had much of an effect on him. Instead, seeing his brother gunned down right before his eyes is what drives him to insanity. After the orphanage closed, Ricky was adopted by a foster family who treated him fairly well, in comparison to the nuns in the film of course.

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“It was about five years later that my stepdad died…. And guess what? That hit me pretty hard.”

As Ricky tells his story to Dr. Brown, it’s surprising how much honesty and openness he exudes despite the pure hatred in his voice. He even shares the intimate details of the murders he got away with, the ones no one knew he had even committed. The doctor is able to discern from these details that for every victim Ricky kills, he is triggered by seeing the color red; the color of Santa’s suit. When Ricky comes across a street tough shaking someone down for money in an alley, for example, Ricky takes the guy out by stabbing him with a red umberella.

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Ah, what better way to get into the holiday mood?

Things get better for Ricky, for a while, when he meets Jennifer (Elizabeth Kaitan). She’s the girl of his dreams and for a few moments the film becomes a teen romance story. We follow Ricky and Jennifer as they go for long rides on his motorbike and on dates out to the movies. Funnily enough, the movie they see is about a man who dresses up like Santa and kills people. Footage from the first movie is used AGAIN for the movie-within-a-movie sequence. You’d think Ricky wouldn’t be too keen to watch something that resonates so closely with his own experiences. But he sits through it anyway and since it’s a movie about Santa Clause, the appearance of the colour red itches Ricky’s trigger finger and he has to step away to kill some loud-mouth hecklers at the back of the theatre. Meanwhile, Jennifer is hit on by her abrasive ex-boyfriend, Chip (Ken Weichert).

Sometime later, while the two lovers frolic in the suburbs, Chip appears again, making another move on Jennifer. Not impressed, Ricky electrocutes Chip to death using a car battery and jumper cables. He kills Jennifer afterwards too, because he thought she was a virgin until Chip confirmed otherwise. In his mind, she had to be punished for that. Things sure escalate quickly from here. When a passing police officer sees Ricky’s massacre of Chip and Jennifer, he pulls his gun and begs him to stand down. Ricky simply steals the weapon from the cop and plays target practice with the people in the neighbourhood. This brings us to one of the funniest line readings ever, a moment that has become an iconic, celebrated b-movie staple and internet trend:

Eventually cornered by the police, Ricky ends his spree by trying to shoot himself; but alas, he is out of bullets. And this brings us to the present time, with Ricky in therapy after being brought in. When the man who set up the tape recorder steps in to see how the interrogation going, all he finds is Dr. Brown’s dead body with the audio tape wrapped tightly around his neck. I guess that’s why Ricky was so willing to share so much with the Doctor, knowing he would kill him eventually anyway. So somehow Ricky has escaped from a windowless room with only one exit, and it had been established that there were people waiting outside the door.

SNDN - 2Seriously, how did he get out of here?

But where has Ricky gone? The police are able to figure it out pretty quickly. They assume, correctly, that he intends to finish what his brother started by finding and killing Mother Superior, the woman from the orphanage he and Billy both held responsible for their terrible childhoods. It’s a race against time for the police get there before any harm comes to Mother Superior…. but the cops must have taken the long way since Ricky arrives first,  even after stopping at some point to get himself a Santa suit to commemorate the occasion. So if the police knew the attack was coming, why not just phone Mother Superior and tell her to make a run for it? But the police arrive late, long after Ricky has already beheaded her. When the cops shoot Ricky down, he manages to muster up a blink and a grin before the credits roll, letting the audience know he is still alive. Since he didn’t have any more brothers to be traumatised by his death, someone needed to survive for the next sequel.

When making this second installment, I bet the filmmakers really regretted killing Billy off at the end of the first movie, since it looks like they gave Ricky the exact same traits and qualities his brother had. Horror sequels are often just loose remakes of their predecessor (that’s remakes, not recycled footage), so the filmmakers  made Billy and Ricky’s killing sprees very similar to each other. Instead of creating a new character identity for Ricky, he is given the same behavioural ticks his brother had, like wearing the Santa suit while doing his killing. Billy had a reason for this, since in his disturbed mind that was how Santa behaves. Ricky didn’t have as much motivation for the red suit, other than to follow in his brother’s footsteps. I’ll accept the Santa suit though, since the selling point for these movies is Santa as a murderer, but it goes a little too far when the two of them behave the exact same way while killing. They both use the words ‘punish’ or ‘naughty’ while they kill people and they have this bizarre sense of vigilante justice, as if their murders are justified. You could argue this is the influence of the church, since the words ‘punish’ and ‘naughty’ were used by Mother Superior while she whipped them as kids. Both siblings also use death by strangulation fairly regularly. One possibility for the similarities though, which may have even been intended by the filmmakers (if you trust imdb trivia), is that Billy was merely the rantings of a mad man; a conjuring of Ricky’s warped imagination. That would explain why they both behave in similar ways, and why Ricky could describe events he never saw in detail.

Whatever the case, this twisted little film is a lot of fun to watch and should be a staple of any bad movie lover’s holiday line-up. There’s lots to find funny, considering everything from the bizarre over-the-top murder methods (including being strangled by Christmas lights) to Eric Freeman’s eyebrow-acting; the film rarely lets up on the laughs. I do appreciate the the characters as well and the obvious effort made to give them a deep-seeded backstory and logical motivation for killing. That can be said for both Billy and Ricky. At least the filmmakers tried to ground their story. I feel like if this same script were given to a someone like Christopher Nolan today, it would only take a few minor re-writes and a much better cast to turn it into a sincere thriller. There’s even a story arc for both characters that is resolved at the end of Part 2, with Ricky avenging his brother and himself for their torturous upbringing.

SNDN - 8In the first film, this guy enters a room and fails notice the legs hanging from a wall-mounted moose’s antlers, right next him.

I know most people who watch this movie would just take it out to the trash bin on the next garbage day, but Silent Night Deadly Night 2 is something I will cherish forever as a holiday classic.


 

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