Thursday, December 6, 2012

Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972)

From what I gather, Theodore Gershuny's "Silent Night, Deadly Night" is the first Christmas themed horror film. A public domain favorite, it's not mostly forgotten (it has something of a following and is being remade), and I figured "well, I'm reviewing three Christmas themed horror films, so I guess this would be a good final pick."

"He went to 'Jared"!
Jeffrey Butler (James Patterson) has inherited a mansion with a bit of a dark past. You see, years earlier the place was a home for the criminally insane, and his Grandfather Wilford set himself ablaze on Christmas Eve. The townspeople are all acting pretty hostile towards the whole situation, wanting the place to be demolished. To make matters worse, a serial killer has escaped and begins to go on a spree that doesn't involve shopping on Christmas Eve. So, why is this all happening, and what connection does Jeffrey's family have with it?
It's be lying if I said this is a perfect film. It wastes John Carradine in a rather thankless role as a mute newspaper editor, and at times the direction feels a bit off. Also, not the movie's fault, but time has not been kind to this sucker picture wise. The image is so faded at times that it becomes difficult to tell when it's night or day, and the sound is more than a bit muffled.

Thankfully, it hits more than it misses, especially in the atmosphere department. This is actually a pretty creepy little movie that makes good use of flashback sequences (which use Mary Warnov and fellow Warhol factory regulars Ondine, Tally Brown, Lewis Love and Candy Darling) to create a mood of unease, as well as some genuinely haunting visuals (the best being a group of inmates escaping and slowly walking around as if they were zombies) and an effectively unsettling but simplistic score to boot. It also moves at a pretty reasonable pace and thankfully doesn't offer too much fat in the story, keeping things simple and effective. Oh, and if your wondering if there's any blood, you might be satisfied. It's not what you'd call a splatter film, as it relies more on ambiance than it does gore, but you do get a few choice kills with the highlight being a shockingly nasty ax murder.

I don't know if I can call this a lost classic, but it is a nice little piece of atmospheric, low-budget horror from the 70's that somehow managed to cast a spell on me. Sometimes, that's all I want.

Rating: 7/10

Interesting bit of trivia: Lloyd Kaufman was one of the producers for this movie. Also, Miss. Warnov was married to the director at the time.

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