In 1950, a wealthy man dies under mysterious circumstances and leaves his sprawling mansion to his estranged grandson (James Patterson, In the Heat of the Night). Twenty years later, on Christmas Eve, the grandson, who has never lived in the house, hires a lawyer (Patrick O’Neal, The Stepford Wives) to sell the property, but someone is determined to prevent the sale from ever occurring.
Reaction & Thoughts:
“… they were the last victims in that house of victims.”
Somber, weird, eerie and kind of perverse, Silent Night, Bloody Night throws in everything but the kitchen sink and viewers are asked to sort things out in their heads. Despite being bogged down by a choppy (no pun intended) and tangled narrative, I have to admit that this horror hash is interesting and kind of entertaining.
Although hardly a classic, this super-low-budget horror film has achieved long-lasting notoriety because it is the very first holiday-themed slasher produced in the United States. The movie predates cult classics like Black Christmas (1974) and Halloween (1978). That alone makes it stand out among other horror films from the same era.
Directed by Theodore Gershuny from a script by Ira Teller and Jeffrey Konvitz (The Sentinel), Silent Night, Bloody Night distinguishes itself from its counterparts in other ways too. First, the movie is told via flashbacks. Since the film is narrated by “The Final Girl” (director Gershuny’s then wife, beloved cult actor Mary Woronov, Death Race 2000 and Eating Raoul), we know exactly who is going to survive the carnage.
More significant, Silent Night, Bloody Night takes itself quite seriously and that’s interesting in itself. In truth, the overly-convoluted storyline plays at times like a straight gothic drama with sporadic moments of violence. The fact that this isn’t a slasher in classic tradition will undoubtedly turn some viewers off. However, I (sort of) enjoyed the movie precisely because it doesn’t really follow the “rules” of the subgenre.
Finally, in contrast to the teen-oriented slashers of the ’70s and ’80s, the cast is mostly composed of old pros. In what appears to be a nod to Janet Leigh’s Marion Crane, top-billed Patrick O’Neal (The Stepford Wives) has a small role as a lawyer who mysteriously “vanishes.” Veteran character actors Walter Abel (Island in the Sky) and Philip Bruns (Flashdance) have key supporting roles. John Carradine (The Grapes of Wrath) plays a newspaper editor. They all add an air of credibility to the proceedings.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
As a side note, Silent Night, Bloody Night (aka Night of the Dark Full Moon) is one of the first films distributed by Cannon Films (this is a few years before Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus took over the company). Anyhow, while I admit that the movie is a bit of a mess, I can’t honestly say I was bored. Flaws and all, I recommend it to slasher completists and/or people who enjoy the offbeat, strange and unusual. Followed by a sequel. Remade in 2013. Color, 83 minutes, Rated R.