Synopsis: A young boy sees his father killed by a toy that was anonymously delivered to his house. After that, he is too traumatized to speak, and his mother must deal with both him and the loss of her husband. Meanwhile, a toy maker named Joe Peto builds some suspicious-looking toys, and a mysterious man creeps around both the toy store and the boy’s house…but who is responsible for the killer toys?
Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toymaker 5.25
eyelights: Jane Higginson. the twist.
eyesores: the gimmicky killings. the direction. the score.
“I tried to be a good boy, father…”
After going completely off-topic with ‘Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation‘, it was easy for the producers to get the series back on track to some degree: with this 1991 follow-up, they began by setting the picture at Christmas time. That’s a good start. They also centered the plot around a toy shop and the customized toys that are produced there.
Deadly customized toys.
If this seems vaguely familiar, it’s because it’s not too far off from the concept of ‘Halloween III‘, which found a madman distributing deadly Hallowe’en masks so that he could kill all the children who wore them. It also echoes a Stephen King short story called “Battleground”, which can be found in the ‘Night Shift’ anthology and ‘Nightmares and Dreamscapes‘ mini-series.
From that perspective, ‘Silent Night, Deadly Night 5’ is interesting. While it emulates concepts that were arguably done better, the way it integrates it into the holiday season is novel: gifts are not to be opened before Christmas day, or else they toys contained within strike. This is the hard lesson learned by the Quinn household in the prologue.
The film follows Sarah Quinn and her son Derek two weeks after the gruesome death of his father, Van. Traumatized, Derek is now mute, while Sarah still wakes up to the nightmarish recollections of that fateful night. Soon, however, Derek begins to find more presents at their doorstep and Sarah sees trouble brewing at the local toy store.
Further to that, they are stalked by a mysterious biker, who also frequents the toy store, buying from there regularly. He will begin to pop up at the Quinns’ door and will even break into the toy shop. Is he the insane toysmith? Or is it the hard-drinking shop owner? Or is the culprit the shop owner’s erratic and weird son?
The Quinns will soon find out.
Honestly, ‘Silent Night 5’ got off to a great start with the prologue, giving us a well-constructed (if gimmicky) death scene. I had hope for the picture. But then the following kills were all lacking: A toy called Larry the Larva? Really? Or rocket-powered roller blades (as if the wearer couldn’t just drop to the ground!). It left me groaning.
And then there was the matter of the weak-@$$ performances, most notably by Brian Bremer as Pino, who acts demented and unrealistic (it turns out there’s a reason for this, but we don’t know until the very end – until then he’s grating). Even Mickey Rooney, who plays the shop owner, Joe, overdoes most of his lines, nibbling on the scenery.
Not that subtlety has ever been his forté.
There’s this terrific scene (by “terrific” I mean “horrific” – in that bad way) in which Tracy Fraim, who plays the mysterious biker, takes a colleague’s shift as the store Santa Claus so that he can talk to Derek. When Sarah tries to take Derek away, the biker just yells “Don’t go! Don’t go!” for no reason whatsoever. And not at all convincingly.
Speaking of the biker’s colleague, in a bewildering twist it’s Ricky from ‘Silent Night, Deadly Night 4’. Again played by Clint Howard, presumably Ricky got his crap together and can now hold a job. But it has been at least ten years since the events of the previous film – as evidenced by Kim’s return, now a mom and Sarah’s closest friend and neighbour.
Coincidence, much? Yeesh.
As Sarah, Jane Higginson is pretty much the only person worth watching in this picture. She doesn’t deliver an award-winning performance, but she’s quite good and makes her character sympathetic. She is the anchor of the picture – not that this is saying much, given the material, the characters and the quality of the performances all around.
The picture adds a few layers of melodrama which at least gives it some meat, but much of this is awkwardly staged by the director, who decided to build scenes like the one where the biker chases after Sarah even though it turns out that she knows him. Incapable of explaining why she ran away, the filmmakers actually had the characters wonder about it.
“Why did you run?”
“I don’t know.”
The suspense sequences were sometimes better staged, although they were marred by a terribly ineffectual score by Matthew Morse, making even the spookiest moments seem almost goofy. The music for the ending was better, but a few directorial choices limited its impact. At least the twist, which is probably too obvious, was nonetheless good fun.
‘Silent Night, Deadly Night 5’ doesn’t make a whole lot of sense (ex: the toymaker had priors, but the cops weren’t keeping a watchful eye on him?), but it’s such a superior film to the previous sequels in the series that it was almost a breath of fresh air. Would I have liked it on its own? Who knows. But, after parts 2-4, I got a mild kick out of it.
But consider it with caution – it’s not a gift from the movie gods.
Date of viewing: November 15, 2015