Hello, Fellow Fans! In the spirit of the season, we’re featuring five reviews of our favorite Yuletide-themed horrors — one a day from now until Christmas! Enjoy!
There aren’t very many films that I’ve sat through on several occasions that still chill my blood when I revisit the experience. Theodore Gershuny’s extremely underrated Silent Night, Bloody Night is one that does. Since this is a terror-filled mystery, I don’t want to get too much into what the story entails, especially since if you stop paying attention to the film, even for a few moments, you will completely lose track of what’s going on. However, I will do my best to make it intriguing for those of you unfamiliar. Unless you’re new to this site, I shouldn’t have to remind anyone of the fact that short attention span Horror is not my cup o’ coffee.
The story begins with a narrated prologue, telling us a little about Christmas Eve, 1950 and the events at the Butler House, a large home outside of a small town (that happens to share its name with the town mentioned in Romero’s Night of the Living Dead) which has a colorful history that we learn more about as the film moves forward. During a calming exterior shot of the massive house, a door opens and out comes a man on fire! I would like to quickly point out how rad this scene is. Not just because of the stunt work involved, which is always an amazing feat, rather for the fact of the owners of this gorgeous home being okay with someone lighting their self on fire, in the house, and letting them rush out and run around in the yard.
Those of you that have read other reviews I’ve written here may remember my picking on a certain short film that had material on the floor to protect from fake blood staining it. So let it be written: the owners of this house were totally cool and obviously true supporters of art! After the calm turns chaotic and then back to calm, we are brought into present day and are slowly introduced to the characters in this story, some who last and some who don’t. The pace is never too slow, nor is it in a rush to get to the killing. Everything flows with the right emotion. I suppose you could think of it like watching an icicle gradually form into a fine point. There is even a line delivered by Patrick O’Neal that can be interpreted at face value, or slightly deeper, when he says, “One of the great pleasures in life, is the pleasure of anticipating pleasure.” That’s what properly executed Horror is all about! If there is one element this film is positively strong in, it’s anticipation.
Ultimately, Silent Night, Bloody Night is a tricky film to lay out for someone that hasn’t seen it, without blowing the mystery and suspense, which is why I’ve given you so little to go on. So goes life as a writer. What I can give you, oh faithful reader, are descriptions of some of my favorite aspects to this piece of art, which is what this is. When it comes to the visual appeal, you’d be hard-pressed to find something as sharp as Silent Night, Bloody Night. The cinematography by Adam Giffard is absolutely haunting!
There are angles used that throw things just slightly off kilter and moods brought to life with the lighting, or lack thereof. You could easily declare this alchemy creates its own character. Each shot that involves the oil lamp is perfect! There are also several first-person shots that, to my mind anyway, set the foundation for John Carpenter’s Halloween. There is even a scene where the killer is breathing into the phone that completely makes me think of the scene in Halloween after PJ Soles has been strangled by Michael Myers and he is breathing into the phone with Jamie Lee Curtis on the other end. On the topic of Halloween, there is another scene involving the killer and a dog that senses the danger that also found its way into Carpenter’s vision. I can’t say these elements were ripped off, though they were clearly inspiration. I would even go so far to say that I’d bet Jamie Lee Curtis studied the weeping of Mary Woronov.
The musical work of Gershon Kingsley is also to be appreciated. There are themes that are very minimal and dark, and there are themes that are a bit more powerful, depending on the mood. Naturally, we hear the melody of Silent Night, Holy Night used at different times, which works beautifully. Frankly, aren’t a lot of those old Xmas tunes a bit haunting? I could dwell on this more, but I’ll condense it. There are strings and a piano, all of which are perfect for Horror, and they serve their purpose perfectly in this film.
I have long enjoyed this film and certainly wish for others to enjoy it, as well. I don’t have any real traditions for this time of year, however, watching this is always on my list of things to do. I highly recommend giving this film a shot. Turn down the lights, turn off your plastic rectangles and allow yourself to get sucked into this vision. I assure you, the tiniest hairs on your neck will stand before it’s all over. Silent Night, Bloody Night comes from a time where being scared by Horror was far more important than being shocked by it. I will leave you with an exchange between Patrick O’Neal and Astrid Heeren that pretty much sums up my feelings on this subject:
“…that’s the trouble, nobody remembers anymore.”
“That’s what usually happens in America.”
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