Director – Lee Harry, Screenplay – Joseph H. Earle & Lee Harry, Story – Lawrence Appelbaum, Joseph H. Earle, Lee Harry & Dennis Patterson, Producer – Lawrence Appelbaum, Photography – Harvey Genkins, Music – Michael Armstrong, Special Effects – Lassilo Baur, Makeup Effects – Chris Biggs. Production Company – Silent Night Releasing Corporation
Eric Freeman (Ricky Caldwell), James L. Newman (Dr Henry Bloom), Elizabeth Cayton [Elizabeth Kaitan] (Jennifer), Jean Miller (Mother Superior), Kenneth Brian James (Chip), Darrell Guilbeau (Ricky at 15), Brian Michael Henley (Ricky at 10), Randy Baughman (Eddie), Joanne White (Laura), Randy Port (Loudmouth in Theatre)
Dr Henry Bloom interviews Ricky Caldwell where he is imprisoned in a psychiatric institution. Ricky tells how his brother Billy became a psychopathic killer who dressed as Santa Claus after witnessing their parents being murdered by a hoodlum dressed in a Santa suit and then experiencing subsequent institutional abuse growing up in a Catholic orphanage. Ricky went through the same experiences alongside Billy. Ricky began to kill in his teens and then went on a killing spree after his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend taunted him. Ricky now kills Bloom, escapes the asylum and heads off to kill more people dressed in a Santa suit.
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) was a modestly successful entry among the 1980s fad for holiday-titled slasher films. The film gained a degree of notoriety after parental groups’ picketed theatres because of its supposed trashing of a family icon like Santa Claus. The film was successful enough to inspire several sequels, of which Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 was the first. (See below for the other sequels).
Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 is a unsung classic when it comes to bad movie stakes. One of the things that you immediately note is what a massive cheat it is. Almost half of the film is composed of stock footage that replays substantial sections of Silent Night, Deadly Night – of the sequel’s 88 minute running time, 38 of these are taken up by stock footage from the first film. There is something outrageous in the bold-face sham the producers are pulling over our eyes – not only are you watching a sequel, which by its very nature is self-confessedly only trying to exploit the success of the original, but we are also being made to watch the original over again for much of the sequel’s running time. These recycled scenes are interspersed with new scenes of Eric Freeman who plays the brother of the first film’s psycho Robert Brian Wilson as he tells his story to a psychiatrist (James L. Newman). You do have to applaud a certain cleverness to this – small inserts have been made to the scenes from the original where the parents are killed and at the orphanage in order to add the brother as a supplementary character in the margins.
What makes Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 such a classic in the bad movie stakes is the hysterical performance from Eric Freeman as this film’s psycho. Freeman has clearly been chosen more for the insolent, mean expressions that he is capable of giving than any real acting ability. His sneering taunts and the expression of meanness that he manages to put into every line make for a truly hysterical performance. Just the way he delivers some of his lines – “Red car. Good point!” or “Eat shit” – can be absolutely guaranteed to have you rolling in hysterics.
Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 is filled with a number of scenes that are positively side-splitting (in a purely unintentional way). There is a rather funny scene where the young Ricky comes across a man (Randy Baughman) trying to force himself on his girlfriend (Joanne White) and so gets behind the wheel of the man’s Wrangler and runs him over. Rather than be in the slightest way upset, the girlfriend just stands there and adoringly goes “Thank you” to Ricky. It gets even funnier as Ricky comes across a badly acted Mafia hood (Frank Novak) threatening a man in an alleyway and so lifts the hood up against the wall and impales him with an umbrella, whereupon the umbrella pops open and inflates on the other side of the man’s body. There is an hysterical scene where Eric Freeman and his girl (Elizabeth Kaitan) go to watch a movie in a theatre, which turns out to be the original Silent Night, Deadly Night. In the back row there is a loudmouth yelling “This movie is so bogus … The guy’s going to go down in the basement without a flashlight. Brilliant!” This must make Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 the first film ever that not only screens scenes from its original but also includes a scathing commentary, a moment of meta-fictional originality that must surely have inspired Kevin Williamson when it came to Scream (1996).
The funniest scene of all is when it comes to the climax where Eric Freeman runs amok – after Kenneth Brian James taunts him about Elizabeth Kaitan, he holds James down over the hood of his car and places a pair of bulldog clips from the battery into his mouth and electrocutes him, and then strangles Kaitan with the car aerial. Next a cop comes along but Freeman turns the cop’s gun around and shoots him in the head and then takes the gun and walks through the neighbourhood shooting people indiscriminately and laughing like a maniac, yelling “Garbage Day” as he hits one victim who is putting the trash out, before being captured by the police. Eric Freeman’s inimitable sneer and maniac laughter make the scene pricelessly funny.
The other Silent Night, Deadly Night films are:- Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: You Better Watch Out (1989), Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: The Initiation (1990) and Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker (1992). Silent Night (2012) was a very loose reworking of the original.