“Now you’re putting hummus on top of the burger!” wails Malcolm McDowell’s Sheriff as dogged deputy Jaime King (My Bloody Valentine 3D, Sin City) claims that there has to be more to the case of the psycho killer Santa Claus than they think. Steven C Miller’s loose remake of the 1984 fun-but-not-really-classic Silent Night, Deadly Night could have done with a bit more hummus, but it’s entertaining nevertheless.
It’s the night before Christmas, and a small Wisconsin town is filled to bursting with chubby men in Santa outfits, one of who is punishing the wicked with great abandon; carving a bloody trail through the town’s seedy underbelly. Can grieving Deputy Bradimore (King) solve the case before it’s too late?
Although it was controversial at the time, the original doesn’t have the greatest brand recognition (it’s possible that more people have seen the “GARBAGE DAY!” clip from Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 than either film), so Miller is pitching to a fairly niche audience with his psycho Santa tale. Having shown inventiveness and skill on his previous low-budget horrors The Aggression Scale and Under The Bed, he’s a good choice to liven up a script that veers between gloomily routine slasher tropes (horny teens, pervy priests, and a recreation of My Bloody Valentine 3D‘s topless chase sequence) and surprisingly good self-aware humour.
While it would certainly be untrue to say that there’s something here for everyone, Silent Night climbs over the top often enough to get a few giggles, the townsfolk are loathsome enough to make there are enough good practical gore effects to satiate most fans’ blood-lust, and there are some highly entertaining performances from the cast.
King and Ellen Wong (Scott Pilgrim) are good despite being stuck in straight man roles, but McDowell tears great bleeding chunks out of the scenery as the Sheriff so arrogant he closes off the town and delivers monologues about his “almost primeval” detective skills. There’s also an excellent turn from Donal Logue (Blade, Terriers) as a bitter Santa, who gets a movie-stealing speech near the end of the film so good that you wonder if you’re still watching the same film.
Silent Night would be more fun if it veered off the beaten track more often, but Miller manages to create some well-shot set pieces with confident, stylish camerawork. He includes enough nods to the original to raise a knowing smirk from the fans, and makes sure that the cast-members who are there to steal scenes get the job done. It’s not particularly memorable and there’s nothing you haven’t seen before – with the possible exception of Malcolm McDowell making a cat noise – but the target audience (you know who you are) will have fun with it. Like that last mince pie you don’t really need but gobble up anyway, this is an enjoyable late-night holiday treat. Ho ho ho.