Synopsis: Ricky Caldwell, the notorious ‘Killer Santa Claus,’ awakens from a six year coma after being kept alive on life-support by a slightly crazed doctor experimenting with ESP and other special abilities. Ricky targets a young, clairvoyant blind woman, named Laura, whom is traveling with her brother Chris, and his girlfriend Jerri to their grandmother’s house for Christmas Eve, and Ricky decides to go after her, leaving a trail of dead bodies in his wake.
eyelights: the cute girls.
eyesores: its contrived attempt at continuing the first two films. the pointlessness and unlikelihood of the script.
“Merry Christmas!” “Not for you.”
Well, how do you follow in the footsteps of ‘Silent Night, Night Deadly‘ and ‘Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2‘, movies that both kill off their very human villains (sorry for the spoiler, but, seriously, if you’re reading this before having watched the first films, what in the heck were you thinking? :P). How do you continue a franchise of such pedigree?
Simple: bring one of the villains back.
And so it is that ‘Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out!’ brings Ricky back from the first sequel, leaving him in a coma (and with his brain exposed – after having being pieced back together by doctors). Eric Freeman didn’t return in the part, however (likely because being in a coma is too subtle for his brand of “acting”) so it’s Ricky in name only.
The rest of the characters and the setting are not just unrecognizable, they’re wholly unfamiliar: Laura is a blind girl with developing psychic powers who is being experimented upon by Dr. Newbury. In the process, she unknowingly develops a bond with Ricky, tapping into his horrific childhood memories. Unfortunately, this awakens the Kraken (so to speak).
On Christmas Eve.
And so it is that a nearly-catatonic Ricky wanders out of the hospital on a quest to find Laura, who has gone to her grandmother’s for Christmas dinner with her brother and his girlfriend. Along the way, Ricky will kill pretty much everyone he encounters, leaving enough clues for Dr. Newbury and Lt. Connely to eventually find their way to him.
Honestly, ‘Silent Night, Deadly Night 3’ has very little to recommend it. It’s too far from the original formula to satisfy fans of the series, too close to the original formula to make sense, and it doesn’t deliver any of it especially well. Even its attempts at subtly building suspense (instead of relying on gore and violence) are too obvious to succeed.
The worst of it is that most of the supposedly scary bits are merely Laura’s visions, creating a sense of remove as we know that the threat isn’t real. And when it’s not in Laura’s mind, then the sequences are so unrealistic that we can’t buy into them – like having Ricky grab a character by punching his arms through the front door (made of paper, was it?).
It also doesn’t make any sense most of the time:
- Ricky is alive and psychically connected to Laura, despite his brain having been patched together by a doctor. Plus which his brain is exposed, with only a transparent casing covering the top of his skull.
- Laura asks the hospital receptionist to tell her when her brother has arrived to get her, telling her to look for a red jeep. Except that they’re indoors without any windows anywhere. Huh? I know she’s blind, but she’s been there before, so she should know she’s a window-less room. And, anyway, the receptionist doesn’t even balk at that notion.
- Ricky leaves the hospital in the afternoon, and no one notices. Plus which he kills a visiting Santa and the receptionist on his way out and no one sees or hears a thing. Now, I know it’s Christmas Eve but, at 4pm, someone is bound to notice a creepy dude in a hospital robe shambling slowly down the hallways and then down the street.
- Not only is Ricky able to leave the hospital unnoticed, he thumbs a ride on the side of the highway. Creepy as he looks and incapable of talking, he still inspired confidence enough for someone to let him hop on. Must be the Christmas spirit.
- Ricky makes it to Grandma’s house before Laura, Chris and Jerry, even though they left before him, had their own lift, and knew the way there.
- Grandma, who is supposedly psychic herself (she can predict that the phone will ring, for instance), couldn’t tell that Ricky was dangerous – even though he showed up unannounced, looks creepy and doesn’t talk. She’s either an idiot, naive or is also infected with the Christmas Spirit.
- The Doctor and Lieutenant are driving around and we don’t know where they’re going. But, boy, are they in a hurry. We just don’t know where to, as it hasn’t yet been established where Ricky is headed.
- The Lieutenant leaves the keys in the car to go pee by the roadside – even though he had started to be concerned about the Doctor’s intentions. Either his brain was flooded with pee or he was a really bad judge of character. Either way, it doesn’t make sense for someone who’s made it to the rank of Lieutenant – you need to read people better than that.
- The whole ending has the blind girl and the coma patient playing cat and mouse. Really? She knows her grandmother’s house like the back of her hand, and he’s a shambling mess – and yet he still has the upper hand? Either way, it makes for a very uneventful and unexciting duel – even though it’s less risible than the ending of ‘Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2’.
Look, the cast does its best with the material at hand, but there’s simply not much to be done with it. This was likely a paycheque gig for all of them. What was surprising was to find Robert Culp slumming it here and two ‘Twin Peaks’ alumni in the same picture (Richard Beymer as Dr. Newbury and Eric Da Re as Chris, Laura’s brother). How did this happen?
Clearly, this was a low-budget movie made in a hurry: Monte Hellman (of cult classic ‘Two-Lane Blacktop’ fame, and who also did work on Roger Corman’s ‘The Terror’ and Paul Verhoeven’s ‘Robocop‘) reportedly rewrote, shot and edited this picture in just over two months. From that perspective, it’s impressive. But it doesn’t add to one’s enjoyment.
When the producers subtitled the film “Better watch out!”, they weren’t kidding.
Date of viewing: November 11, 2015