Friday, December 27, 2013

Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (1987)

Directed by:
Lee Harry

Thanks to a parent-infuriating ad campaign featuring everyone's favorite ambassador of Christmas goodwill as an axe-murdering maniac, the original SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984) gained almost immediate infamy as a slasher flick in particularly bad taste. This first sequel, however, took a little more time to gain its own kind of infamy... as one of the worst films ever made! Pretty much flatly dismissed in its day as useless trash, Part 2 has slowly but steadily gained its own devoted fan following and has been wowing bad movie fans for the past 25+ years with its hilariously awful acting and dialogue and pathetic attempts to pad it out to feature length status by recycling tons of footage from the original film. Just how much footage? At least half of the running time! This was never even intended to really be a sequel in the traditional sense. The producers of the original had hired director Lee Harry to film some framing sequences (all set in an asylum) and then simply re-cut the first film to try to pass it off as a sequel. Instead, Harry (along with three other writers) scripted more than was originally intended and the resulting film (which has about 40 minutes of new footage) was then shot over a 10 day period. I suppose we should thank Harry for at least doing that much.

On Christmas Eve, Ricky Caldwell (Eric Freeman), the equally unhinged brother of the original film's "Santa Claus Killer" Billy Chapman (not quite sure how that surname change came to be), sits in a mental institution angrily scowling and puffing away on cigarettes. Psychiatrist Dr. Henry Bloom (James Newman) shows up, sets up his tape recorder and attempts to get Ricky to tell him his life story. Ricky isn't too fond of recounting his tale for this nosy "pencil neck piece of shit" but seeing how it may be his last chance to come clean he decides to humor him. And thus begins a long series of flashbacks to the original film, including repeat scenes of Billy and Ricky's parents being killed by a psycho Santa, their ill-treatment at Saint Mary's Orphanage at the hands of the cruel Mother Superior and 18-year-old Billy's eventual murder spree before he's shot and killed by the police. Ricky seems to have amazingly vivid recollections of some of the events, especially when you take into consideration he wasn't even there to witness most of them!

It isn't even until the 40 minute mark that we get to hear a little about how Ricky ended up in the mental institution, which is then shown in a series of side-splitting flashbacks. At age 12, he's adopted by Martha and Morty Rosenberg (Corinne Gelfan, Michael Combatti), who are concerned over the fact that young Ricky has seizures whenever he sees nuns and seems to react violently to the color red ("Red car. Good point."), but Sister Mary (Nadya Wynd) ensures them that all he needs is a stable family. Five years later, Ricky's stepfather dies, which hits him pretty hard. After all, "You tend to get paranoid when everyone around you gets dead." Ricky goes for a walk and encounters a man roughing up his girlfriend, which brings on traumatic flashbacks to his parents getting killed... never mind the fact he was an infant when that happened. After he runs over the guy repeatedly with a jeep, the victim's girlfriend walks up to him, smiles and calmly says "Thank you" (?) A year later, Ricky hears something that sounds like "some squirrel getting his nuts squeezed," gets into an altercation with a thug (Frank Novak) and then impales him him with an umbrella that is then opened.

Ricky ends up bumping into the beautiful Jennifer (Elizabeth "Cayton" / Kaitan), but even she cannot calm the snarling beast. The two go on a date to a movie theater where we see even more footage from the original Silent Night and Ricky kills an obnoxious heckler in the audience ("Naughty!"). He uses a battery charger to make Jennifer's ex-boyfriend's eyeball explode, strangles Jennifer with a car antennae ("Uh oh!") and then shoots a cop in the head with own gun before going on a ludicrous shooting rampage through suburbia while laughing maniacally and shouting things like "Punish!" and, most famously, "Garbage Day!" (a clip of which has managed to get 5 million hits on Youtube). Once he's cornered by more cops, Ricky turns the gun on himself but discovers he's out of bullets... Back to the present day, Ricky murders Dr. Bloom, manages to escape the nuthouse and then heads out after "that bitch Superior." The wheelchair bound Mother Superior (Jean Miller) is said to have suffered from a stroke but they've applied some kind of weird burn / scar make-up to her face to try to disguise the fact it's a different actress in the role!

Freeman's ridiculously over-the-top performance (and hilariously overactive eyebrows) have made him something of a cult icon over the years. When no one was able to hunt him down to do a DVD commentary track, fans went on a crusade to locate him and a website was even set up specifically for the cause (http://www.findingfreeman.com/). About a week ago to this day, Freeman finally surfaced, appeared at the New Beverly Cinema for a special screening of the film and did an interview with FearNet. Freeman's only other notable film appearances were in David DeCoteau's bizarre slasher / gore flick MURDER WEAPON (1989; where he was billed as "Damon Charles") and a bit in the comedy Ghost Writer (also 1989). He did not get to reprise the role of Ricky in SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT III: BETTER WATCH OUT! (1989) and the part was given to Bill Moseley. The cast also includes a young Tim Abell (under the name "Ron Moriarty") as a detective. 

Terrible as this all is, in some strange way I actually prefer watching this sequel to the original film. Not only do you get loads of laughs in the new footage, but it also cuts out the middle man by showing all of the highlights from the first film. Both films have been issued numerous times on DVD by Anchor Bay.

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