Monday, February 13, 2017

Silent Night, Bloody Night (1973)








DIRECTOR: Theodore Gershuny

WRITERS:

Jeffrey Konvitz
Theodore Gershuny
Ira Teller

CAST:

Patrick O'Neal
James Patterson
Mary Woronov
Astrid Heeren
John Carradine
Fran Stevens
Walter Abel
Philip Bruns

PLOT:

When a man inherits an old mansion, he soon discovers that it was once a mental asylum that housed the criminally insane. As he begins to investigate the history of the old house, he soon uncovers crimes that have taken place over the course of the mansion's history. When the man decides to sell the place, he will have a tough time trying to sell it as a serial killer has escaped from another mental institution and has taken refuge inside the mansion.







Here we have another early slasher film that I had never heard of when compiling my list for my Slasher Retrospective. So going into the movie, I was a little excited to see what would be on offer as I went into Silent Night, Bloody Night and completely blind. When I read the title for this movie, I thought that the title may have had some sort of connection to the infamous Silent Night, Deadly Night that came out eleven years later. So I was pretty excited to sit down and watch this possible Christmas slasher.

Silent Night, Bloody Night takes a rather slow burn approach with the pacing and its storytelling. The movie opens with our owner of the house bursting out of the front door. He's been set on fire, and he collapses into the snow and dies. It's an excellent little start to the film that sets the somewhat dark tone for the rest of the movie. We will soon discover that this house has a much darker history than anyone in the town could've ever imagined. Welcome to Silent Night, Bloody Night.

Now we jump twenty years later. A lawyer and his mistress who are trying to sell the mansion on behalf of the owner's grandson decide to spend a night in the old asylum. Little do these two realise that they're being watched by a serial killer. The end result of the cheating lawyer and his mistress is watching them being hacked up with an axe and is the highlight of the film for me. It's a glorious scene where the red stuff is used by the bucket load. It's also a scene that really shocked me as I'd thought that these two were the main characters in the film. So when they are dispatched of so violently, I had my jaw on the floor.

After this rather brutal scene, we are introduced to the proper main character and the man who is eager to get rid of this house. He wants to sell it off and be done with it. I thought it was a nice choice on the writer's part to subvert expectations somewhat. I liked that they actually tried to dedicate half an hour of the movies running time to the terrible history of this mansion. I was really enjoying the death scenes of people who were coming into contact with the house. It was a nice way to move the movie along even if these scenes are quite slow.

From this point on, the mystery and whodunnit sort of kicks in. We get our two leads trying to uncover the mystery of who is killing the townspeople. Cue a few scenes of them doing their best investigating. These scenes sort of just get us to the third act. The scenes of them going around the town trying to find out what happened to the local sheriff and stuff didn't do much for me. It's sort of feels like it's there to knock off one of the supporting characters and to get us into the reveal of our killer.

There is this rather impressive twelve-minute backstory sequence that gives us some very dark reveal into the history of the house and its original owner. It is shot in this 'yellow' drenched sort of 'old-timey' aesthetic. They have done something to the film stock to give us this classic look and feel. I enjoyed this moment in the movie. Even though it goes for twelve minutes, I was really enjoying how they sort of changed the way the film looked to make it clear we have gone back in time. It was a nice little touch to the film that I wasn't expecting them to deliver.

The final few minutes of the movie felt anti-climactic for me. I think after the rather excellent backstory and the reveal of the original owner and the killer finally revealing themselves, we have two of the three remaining characters being killed off in a sort of pistol duel. We basically have this remaining character kill the killer, and they walk off into the sunset. It's all very light-hearted in at the end. We also never get any sort of send off for the townspeople who have been killed. Still, the film is more positive than negative.

Lastly, the acting in Silent Night, Bloody Night is excellent. Patrick O'Neal plays the cheating lawyer to perfection. Mary Woronov is my favourite thing in this film. She plays a tough as nails woman who takes no shit from any man. When we meet her, she welcomes a man into her house and holds him up at gunpoint. I loved this scene. Lastly, James Patterson plays our grandson who has inherited the house plays that brooding, red-herring pretty well. For a few minutes, I thought he was the killer.







DEATH TOLL: 12

BLOOD AND GORE:

- Someone is set on fire.
- A dog is stabbed.
- Someone is hit by a car.
- Someone has their head bashed in with a shovel.
- Someone is stuck in the eye with a cocktail glass.
- Two people are hacked up with an axe.
- Three people are shot dead.
- Someone is killed with an axe.
- Someone is found dead.







Silent Night, Deadly Night is a movie that is a very slow burn slasher film. It almost felt like a sort of Hammer Horror take on the slasher film. It has the huge, grand old location, it has the incredibly talented cast. I found myself enjoying it more than not, though. The film has a few brutal deaths and a couple of little shocks and surprises in store for the audience. While the movie isn't scary, it will be bloody enough for horror fans. Keep an eye out for the flashback sequence, and axe attack as both scenes do elevate this low budget slasher.


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