Bonus Reviews: Silent Night (2012) and Gremlins (1984)
Horror Bulletin Bonus for Week 150
For this week’s bonus films, we’ll look at a couple of surprising good Christmas-based films. The first is the more-or-less reboot of “Silent Night Deadly Night, “ this time just called “Silent Night” from 2012, and the next is 1984’s “Gremlins,” brought to you by Steven Spielberg.
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Silent Night (2012)
• Directed by Steven C. Miller
• Written by Jayson Rothwell
• Stars Malcolm McDowell, Jaime King, Donal Logue
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 34 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
A remake of the original Silent Night, Deadly Night with a few callbacks to the other films in the series. There’s some humor, some good gore, and lots of fun murders. I don’t know that the series needed a remake, but it was well done.
As the credits roll, a man shaves in the bathroom while a woman in the next room, gagged and tied up screams. The man takes a halloween mask and cuts the lower face off. He puts the mask on, affixes a long white beard and then dons a Santa suit.
He goes downstairs where a man is tied to a chair with Christmas lights wrapped all around him. Santa grabs an ax. The man screams that he didn’t know the other woman was married and then realized Santa isn’t her husband, he’s just a sicko. Santa puts down the ax and electrocutes the man instead.
Deputy Aubrey answers the phone, and Sheriff Cooper needs her to work tonight. Deputy Jordan has vanished. It’s hard, since this is her first Christmas without John, but he insists she come in anyway. Her father, Hank, is playing Santa somewhere tonight. It’s Christmas Eve, and we have Santas all over town. She stops in at church and Reverend Madeley comes on to her in the creepiest way possible.
An entitled kid opens the door for the Santa in the mask. He tases her and impales her with a chimney poker. The kid totally deserved it, so maybe he’s a good guy this time around?
Deputy Aubrey gets a call that one of the Santa’s in the town square is making children cry. He tells one kid that his parents sold his gifts on eBay. He’s a jerk and maybe a little crazy, but he does have a permit. She gets called away to investigate a house with a funny smell.
Grandpa tells Dennis that Christmas Eve is the scariest damned night of the year. It’s the first thing he’s said in over a year, and it’s the same little speech as the grandfather in the original movie said.
Aubrey goes to the house with the smell and finds what’s left of Deputy Jordan and his girlfriend from the opening sequence. It’s… a mess. The sheriff arrives and takes charge. The road into town is closed, so they can’t call in the State Troopers; the sheriff sees this as an opportunity to show what they can do.
Model Tiffany, who is the mayor’s daughter, leaves a photo shoot and passes the bad Santa on the way out. He shows up at the shoot and kills the photographer and another model. The third model runs away, but he catches her and kills her in a wood chipper. The sheriff’s office soon starts getting really busy. They find a video camera at the porno shoot, so they hope that will show something.
Santa goes to church and watches Reverend Madeley’s sermon. There’s only one old woman in attendance, and she watches Santa let the Reverend have it.
Aubrey finds a big guy named Karsson in a Santa suit at a bar and questions him. Karsson tells her a story about a guy in a Santa suit that used a flamethrower to kill some people. He then runs off. She catches up and he pulls a knife on her. Afterward, she calls her father and talks about quitting the force. He says that when the time comes, she’ll know what to do. She warns him not to go to the big Santa parade tonight.
Sheriff Cooper says Karsson must be the one who killed the pornographer. It had to be someone who knew about the adultery, the pornography, and other bad things. So far, all the victims have been pretty bad people. Why?
Meanwhile, evil Santa is hanging around outside the Mayor’s house. Tiffany and Dennis go to the guest house to make out. Santa kills the mayor while he’s on the phone with the sheriff, but the sheriff is clueless about what happened. Santa then impales Tiffany on some antlers mounted to the wall. Dennis soon gets a splitting headache from Santa’s ax. Santa gives the mayor’s littlest daughter a candy cane on the way out.
Aubrey and the Sheriff head to the big Santa parade. Aubrey spots the grouchy Santa from that morning and goes after him. They give chase and soon take him into custody. He’s still a jerk, but Aubrey changes her mind about him being the killer.
Aubrey spots Karsson and tries to arrest him alone. He pulls a gun, and she kills him. Deputy Giles does “Garbage Day” but Santa kills him. Sheriff Cooper then does battle with Santa, who has a flamethrower. Aubrey recognizes a wrapped gift in Karsson’s place and sees that it matches one that her father got. She rushes home, but her father is already dead.
Killer Santa then tears up the jerky Santa in the jail cell. Jerky Santa puts up a good fight, but Killer Santa uses his “Ho-Ho-Ho” brass knuckles on him. Aubrey arrives at the police station and finds the bodies.
Santa attacks, and Aubrey hides. She finds the flame thrower just in time to torch Santa. Aubrey then goes off to rescue Brenda the dispatcher who is locked in a closet in the burning police station. We see the Santa mask burning, but what happened to Santa?
The next morning, we see a burned man in a pickup truck leaving town. He has a flashback to when a man in a Santa suit killed his parents with a flamethrower. That evil Santa was then killed by Aubrey’s father. He starts the truck and drives away, his mission complete.
It’s clearly not a straight remake of Silent Night Deadly Night (original), but there are enough bits cribbed from the original films that it’s clearly related.
Malcolm McDowell chews the scenery as the super-macho tough-guy sheriff who can’t wait to take on this case. He likes to speechify about hunting cave bears. He’s foul-mouthed and cynical in a fun way.
There are numerous characters that you suspect could be the killer, but we don’t get to see who it is until the very end. It turns out to be nobody we’ve seen before, but it does tie in to the original once again with him being driven insane by watching his parents murdered by Santa.
It was pretty good. Not quite as crazy as the original, but much more modern.
• Directed by Joe Dante
• Written by Chris Columbus
• Stars Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 46 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgement Zone
An absolutely fun movie of destruction and mayhem that still holds up after all this time. The only drawback might be all the pop-culture references, some of which might not be recognized by younger folks. That aside, the puppetry and special effects work is top notch. It’s horror with a body count, but loads of dark humor. Gizmo the Mogwai, the cute little furry creature, comes with a strict set of rules, and boy you’d better follow them closely.
Rand Peltzer is wandering around Chinatown, looking for a gift for his son for Christmas. He narrates the story. He goes into a sketchy-looking basement store with an even sketchier-looking old man who runs the shop. Rand is an inventor, and he tries to sell his “bathroom buddy” travel kit (which fails spectacularly). The old man’s grandson sells Rand a strange looking creature called a Mogwai; the old man doesn’t want to sell, but the grandson sneaks him out. The boy explains three rules to Rand:
1. Don’t expose the Mogwai to light. Light can kill it.
2. Don’t get it wet.
3. Don’t feed it after midnight.
Simple enough, right? What could go wrong? Credits roll.
We get glimpses of the town of Kingston Falls and meet Billy, Rand’s son and next door neighbor, Mr. Futterman. Billy works at the bank with Kate, who Billy likes a lot. Mrs. Deagle is a rich old woman who terrorizes the town. Rand returns home and gives Billy his gift, which is a furry little creature that’s super cute. His name is Gizmo.
Gizmo spends his days watching old movies on TV. When Billy’s friend Pete comes over, they talk about Gizmo. Pete accidentally gets Gizmo wet, and he sprouts little versions of himself. This saddens Gizmo; he seems to know where this is headed. There’s one with a stripe on his head who seems to be their leader, but they’re all a little misbehaved and rude.
Mr. Futterman drinks too much at the bar where Kate works and he grumbles about gremlins in machinery. Kate explains that some people get really depressed at Christmastime; she doesn’t celebrate Christmas. Billy feeds the little Mogwais, not realizing they unplugged his alarm clock; it’s actually after midnight…
The next morning, all the little Mogwais except Gizmo have turned into green globes of slime; they’re in cocoons. Once it gets dark outside, they hatch into reptilian-looking Gremlins. Gizmo is terrified of them. They understand how to use all the electronic devices and understand far more pop-culture references than they could possibly know, being only a few hours old. But that makes them pretty entertaining.
Billy’s mother does battle with some of the Gremlins using her kitchen appliances, and some of them die in spectacular ways. Stripe escapes to the outdoors. Billy tracks Stripe’s footprints in the snow, which takes them both to the local YMCA. Stripe ends up jumping into the swimming pool. All that water gives him unlimited reproduction…
Billy runs to the police, but they think he’s crazy. The Gremlins run amok all over town, terrorizing everyone in funny ways.
Mr. Futterman’s TV stops working, and when he goes outside to check the antenna, the Gremlins run over him with his own tractor. The Gremlins go to Mrs. Deagle’s to sing carols, and it goes badly for her. Then they all go to Dorry’s pub where Kate is working; she serves them until she can’t anymore. She finds out they still don’t like bright lights and uses that to escape. Kate tells Billy why she hates Christmas.
Before long, the town looks like a post-apocalyptic wasteland, the Gremlins have been everywhere. All the Gremlins head to the theater to watch Snow White. While Billy and Kate go down to the boiler room to blow the place up, Stripe goes out for snacks across the street and misses the explosion.
Billy, Kate, and Gizmo go after Stripe; if he gets to water, it’ll start all over again. They hide in a big store that has a big fountain in the middle; we already know what a bad mix that is. Stripe shoots Billy with a crossbow and then it’s just Stripe vs. Gizmo. The radio announces that the marines have arrived and plan to turn the fire hoses on the creatures if they reappear.
Stripe gets into the fountain and starts to bubble— just as he gets ready to spout, Gizmo opens the window blinds, flooding the room with sunlight. Stripe instantly decomposes. The officials blame mass hysteria for all the destruction.
The old Chinese man who originally owned Gizmo returns and wants him back. They all realize that it’s for the best that he takes him home. “You are not ready,” says the old man.
The details of the little town and getting to know all the characters before the action starts is a big part of this film. It didn’t rush into the monsters, but lingered on the nice, small-town life first.
The puppetry and animatronics used here are second to none, even thirty-something years later. Although we see Gizmo and his children early on, we don’t actually get to see a Gremlin until almost an hour into the film.
Polly Holliday, as Mrs. Deagle, is channeling the Wicked Witch of the West in every scene. The other actors play their characters, or in some cases, stereotypes, really well for the story. The real show-stealers though are the hideous, but lovable Gremlins. Of course, Gremlins excel at making machines go haywire, and that’s what they do here— They just have so much fun terrorizing the town. The soundtrack is also super memorable.
If, by some chance, you haven’t already seen this a dozen times, it’s absolutely fantastic. This was my dozen-plus times watching it, and it’s still fun.
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