Sunday, December 6, 2009

You Better Watch Out!...Even though you can't actually see

After the gloriously awful debacle that was Silent Night, Deadly Night 2, I imagine the franchise’s producing studio decided to tread lightly by ditching the controversial axe-wielding Santa Claus in favor of a tamer, “psychologically” menacing thriller more fitting of the turn of the decade. Gone was Garbage Day and abhorrent nuns. In was the dangers of hitchhiking and itty bitty scalpals.
Oh, and a whole lot of boredom littered with future minor celebrities, dangerously tight jeans, and snotty blind girls with mouths in need of Life Buoy soap.
Quick Plot: It’s been six years since the Garba--er, Christmas massacre committed by Richard “Ricky” Caldwell. A nefariously experimental scientist has kept the man formerly of expressive eyebrows (now embodied by a young Bill Mosely doped up on NyQuil) in a vegetive state, his head opened with a clear plastic beanie covering his brain in a manner reminiscent of Dr. Badvibes on the early ‘90s animated series C.O.P.S. Dr. Newberry tries to understand more about the operations of comatose victims by sending a vaguely psychic, extremely bratty blind teenager named Laura into Ricky’s subconscious. 

While there, Laura gets to relive a few highlights from the original film, including the infamous Santa car trouble/mother rape that was observed by the infant-aged Ricky in perfectly clear close-up. I’m somewhat forgiving of sequels that rely on flashbacks because you often need to guide viewers new to the series, but is it too much to ask for a sequence that a character actually witnessed? Especially when the entire point is to show the memories of our main villain, currently being seen by our new “protagonist?”
Moving on, Jenny--who happens to have been orphaned in a tragic plane crash, which I suppose is intended to provide us with sympathy for a hugely unlikable heroine--heads to grandma’s house for the holidays, hitching a ride with her big brother Chris (he who possesses an immaculate perm and even godlier furball of a chest) and new girlfriend Jerry (pre-Mulholland Drive amnesiac Laura Harring). Grandma, by the way, lives a fairy tale existence in a gingerbread house, wearing a Christmas decoration worthy bun while basting a juicy turkey, baking a gooseberry pie, and feeding random strangers with big heads and blank stares.

Yup, said silent caroler is none other than Ricky and eventually--reeeeeeeally eventually, after lots of forced conversation plus a rendezvous with a way-too-cheerful detective attempting to sell his partner a phone plan--the scrappy orphans engage in a slow and suspensless showdown with the non-Santaesque mental patient.
Sorry. I fell asleep and dreamt I worked at a magazine printing plant inserting those subscription renewal tabs inside each issue. It was so much more interesting.
I didn’t quite care for this entry in the Caldwell saga, mostly because it was just so...blah. Nary a sacred sacrament of the yule season is abused, and the only real reference to Ricky’s initial inspiration comes with a brief flashback. Unlike part 1 or something like Christmas Evil, there’s no mention of the “naughty” list and thus no real motivation for our killer to slay. He just shambles through pleasant winter weather seeking a woman we can’t even stand. 
It’s admirable enough that filmmaker Monte Hellman tried to put the story back on track with an actual script, but there’s just nothing to enjoy about Silent Night, Deadly Night III. The coma angle isn’t itself uninteresting, but we’ve seen it done to better effect in films like Bad Dreams  (which itself isn’t even that good of a film), while the kills are limited to gunshots and mild stabbings. Bah ho-hum. 

High Points
This is probably more of an oversight or budget restriction, but in an age of standard and overused sound cues, I actually appreciated the silence of some of the ‘scarier’ scenes
Low Points
It’s a minor quibble in a film rich in low points, but how dare a sequel that follows “2” then switch its title to the roman numeral III format? Like recasting Eric Freeman wasn’t bad enough!

I haven't wanted to punch a lead character so much since Natalie Portman helped destroy the Star Wars universe with her valium-induced performance
Lessons Learned
Being blind is no reason to not have impeccable make-up skills

The best way to find a missing grandmother is to get naked and take a soapy bath with your new girlfriend
It’s easier to survive a brutal stabbing than ten seconds of strangulation, but a knife wound is far more lethal than a few gunshots. Think of it like rock/paper/scissors, but less sensical
Upon meeting a blind person, the first conversational query should not be “So, how long have you considered yourself handicapped?”
Hospitals should probably require emergency contact numbers from their outpatients
Psychologists who decorate their offices like tropical rain forests may produce schizophrenic flashes in their patients’ fragile minds
Untrained actors can best act blind by squinting and tensing their lip muscles
Silent Night, Deadly Night 3 is now available in a triple pack with parts IV & V, so any completist will want to purchase the set solely for nostalgia. If memory serves, the next two films are far more enjoyable than this rather bland entry, so skip Part III and devote 90 minutes instead to more noble pursuits, such as building a mutant killer snowman or watching the 7 minute Garbage Day scene on loop.

There's really no better way to spend your time this December.

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