Remember when, in its second episode, Clerks: The Series decided to do a clip show? The whole joke consisted of, “Hey, we only have one episode to draw clips from! Isn’t that tedious?” Now, imagine if a movie did it only without the self-aware sense of humor, acknowledging such an absurd concept. What you get is Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2, the second film in the series which consists of 50% clips from the first film in the series. This s--t’ll make a Grinch out of anybody.
It was the clips from Footloose that *really* confused me, though.
After watching his brother get shot to death by police, Ricky (Eric Freeman) has grown up to be good ‘n crazy. Rotting away in an insane asylum, he’s interviewed by a psychologist (James Newman) who hopes to get to the root of Ricky’s psychosis. After a lengthy summary of the trauma that caused his older brother, Bobby, to go insane and murder people while dressed as Santa Claus, Ricky gets down to business. And by “gets down to business”, I mean that he breaks out of the asylum, puts on a Santa Claus costume and makes a B-line for the old nun who tormented him in his youth.
According to Director Lee Harry, the studio that commissioned Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 gave him less than a pittance with which to fund the production. The studio had originally expected nothing more than a recut of the first film, but Harry endeavored to do the most with what he had to work with. I’ll give Harry props for trying his best to overcome those setbacks, but man, it’s hard to believe that this movie could have possibly been any worse.
Get ready for lots of sitting and talking.
The first half of Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 consists of Ricky retelling the origin of his older brother, Bobby, set to shamelessly recycled clips from the original film. They try to frame this as being Ricky’s origin by putting greater emphasis on the two or three scenes from the first film that Ricky was actually in. Nice try guys, but we still end up with Ricky describing scenes where either he was an infant or scenes in which he wasn’t even present. The reuse of footage gets even more bewildering, as later in the film, the scene from the original where the guy in the Santa suit holds up a gas station is repurposed for a movie that Ricky and his girlfriend (Elizabeth Cayton) go see.
If you actually make it through the first half of the movie, you are then treated to Ricky’s proper origin. So yes, you have to sit through TWO origins in this movie; one for the character who dies during the clip footage and another for the actual star of the movie. Ricky’s origin consists of flashbacks to all the killing he did before he was locked up and, in fact, features nearly all of the original kills in the movie. I criticized the original “Silent Night, Deadly Night” for lacking enough Christmas-themed kills, but the deaths in these flashback scenes don’t even take place in the winter (and needless to say, no Santa outfit). They’re mostly just Ricky walking around a suburb, killing random people and spewing some uninspired one-liners all the while.
Eric Freeman’s performance as Ricky is… legendary. Well, maybe “infamous” is the better adjective, come to think of it, as that at least implies a hint of the terrible. Freeman’s acting is more irritating during the first half of the film, where he has to try his hand at being “subtle,” and subtlety is not his strong suit. Really, the first half mostly consists of him saying something snide to the psychologist before setting up the next clip; repeat for forty minutes. Freeman’s at his “best” when he’s going crazy and hamming the film up with his maniacal laughter and s----y catchphrases. The kills during his suburban rampage begin with promise, as he shoves a jumper cable into one guy’s mouth and electrocutes him, but quickly descends into mundane strangulations and gunning bystanders down with a pistol (though there is one impressive moment where a flipping car comes a half-inch away from killing Freeman’s stunt double).
If, by some Herculean exertion of pure willpower you make it through all of *that*, the last ten minutes of Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 consist of an extended chase scene, where Ricky incompetently tries to kill a geriatric nun in a wheelchair. The nun is, of course, Mother Superior, the one character from the first film everybody wanted to see get killed but survived at the end. The footage-recycling takes the movie’s coherency level down yet another notch, as Mother Superior is played by Lilyan Chauvin in the first half of the film, while during the climax she’s played by Jean Miller. They try to cover this fact up by masking the character in leprous deformities supposedly caused by a “stroke”, but when the first forty minutes feature the character portrayed by one actress, then in the last ten minutes she’s played by somebody else… You might as well just go the Ed Wood route and have Mother Superior holding a cape over her face for the rest of the film.
Ricky’s back story is almost harder to sit through than the preceding clip show, as at least the first 40 minutes boil Silent Night, Deadly Night down to its highlights. The half hour covering Ricky’s youth is just boring like you wouldn’t believe, particularly a drawn-out sequence in a movie theater where Ricky is bugged by a bleach-blond yuppie douche appropriately named Chip (he’s the guy who gets the jumper cable to the mouth, by the way). It just goes on and on and by the time you get to the “pay off”, you feel suitably scammed because that s--t just ain’t worth it. Okay, so the wheelchair chase is hilarious, but I don’t think it was meant to be.
Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 is the ultimate low point of the franchise, which can be hard to believe once you see some of the other sequels (especially the fourth one). It’s often chided as being awful for its shameless use of clips, but the “original” half of the film might actually be worse than the clip half. Freeman’s epically terrible performance is fondly remembered in a “so bad, it’s good” sort of way, and I’ll admit that when he’s going over the top he can be really damn funny, but those moments amount to maybe 10 or 15 of the film’s total 87 minutes. For the remaining 72 minutes, you’re more likely to be asleep than in agony.
Well, now that that roadblock in my enthusiasm for reviewing this series is safely behind me, I can move onto Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out! For those with vague memories, that’s the artsy one where B-movie star Bill Moseley takes his turn at playing the killer Santa.