Synopsis: ‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, Santa Claus is stirring, and he s not bringing gifts. Five young female boarders at the Calvin Finishing School have set their sights on a festive Christmas holiday romp. They have just drugged their housemother and smuggled their boyfriends into the house. But their fun-filled promiscuous frolic will soon turn into a blood-soaked nightmare when a sadistic maniac dressed as Santa Claus arrives to deliver some holiday cheer, or maybe that’s FEAR. The insane Santa Claus starts slashing his way through the house, and the gory body count begins. So you better watch out, as this Santa knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake! Jennifer Runyon (in her film debut) stars in this 1980 slasher cult-horror favorite, directed by David Hess (Krug in Wes Craven’s Last House On The Left) and written and produced by Alex Rebar (The Incredible Melting Man).
eyelights: Jennifer Runyon.
eyesores: its non-plot. the crappy kills. the laughable staging. the half-assed direction. the day for night shots. the third act.
“I know I saw it. I think.”
‘To All a Goodnight’ is a 1980 slasher film by David Hess, the b-movie actor who made his debut in Wes Craven’s ‘The Last House on the Left‘. It came at a time when, in the aftermath of ‘Halloween‘s success, all days of festivity were being given a horror makeover: 1980 alone saw the release of ‘You Better Watch Out‘, ‘Terror Train‘, ‘New Year’s Evil’, ‘Mother’s Day’, ‘Prom Night‘ and ‘Friday the 13th‘ (with which it shares its few plot points).
The setting is Calvin Finishing School for Girls, during the Christmas break. With most of the girls and staff leaving to be with their loved ones, five girls, a cook and a handyman remain behind. The girls invite four guys over in order to party and get laid. Unfortunately for them, a masked killer dressed as Santa Claus is stalking the grounds and, one by one, they fall prey to all manners of grisly death. Who is this killer, and how can he/she be stopped?
Um, yeah… you know the drill.
Frankly, ‘To All a Goodnight’ is not just derivative and clichéd, it’s an especially inept picture:
- The staging is terrible, as is the editing. It was clearly Hess’ first picture, and it’s unsurprising that it was his last.
- The performances are amateurish, if not outright risible (one girl affected a crap Brit accent which is to kill for). Heck, even their passionate moaning is ridiculous.
- The dialogues are horrendous and sometimes really awkward. For instance, characters frequently talk about the subject of their ridicule or contempt to each other while that person is still in the room. Wow.
- Even the audio recording is $#!t. There are exchanges in which some of the dialogues were clearly dubbed in. Sigh.
- As for the camera work, the picture features some of the worst “day for night” shots I’ve ever seen. They’re “day for day”, really. And there are even blurry shots.
Now, one might think that none of this matters, so long as the visceral aspects of the picture are delivered with gusto.
The kills looks stupid, are poorly-staged and executed, and the effects are shoddy at best. There is absolutely no suspense in any of those scenes. The killer also often manages to get ahead of the victims, somehow – and, in a Scooby Doo moment, even manages to hide in a knight’s armour without anyone noticing, waiting for his/her moment to strike. Adding to the shoddiness is the fact that the kills are all easily cleaned up afterwards. No one notices anything.
It all leads to a demented finale that’s ridiculous even by ‘Friday the 13th’ standards (and for more inept, if you can imagine that!) – even though they are echoes of one another.
I honestly had a difficult time plodding through it even though it stars Jennifer Runyon, whom I find absolutely adorable – she wasn’t a great actress at that point (it was her debut performance), but I’d watch her anytime. With looks like that (because lesser actresses have made careers on looks alone), I wonder why she didn’t she make it; the only other time I’ve seen her anywhere was in the opening of ‘Ghostbusters‘, having spent most of her career doing TV.
The only other thing I like in the whole picture is the fact that the girls are the initiators this time; they’re the ones on the make and they have no hesitation about it. That’s refreshing even today. However, beyond that, there’s little else except watching these young adults hooking up (leading to some minor and entirely gratuitous nudity) and getting killed. There is no real character development and watching them kill time is pretty lame stuff indeed.
‘To All a Goodnight’ (which, I must point out, should be spelled “To All a Good Night”) is, without a doubt, one of the lesser movies of an already weak genre; it’s pretty much ‘Friday the 13th’ except bad. Really bad. I can’t possibly recommend this movie to anyone for any reason aside as late-night fodder for the peanut gallery; it is so bad, that it’s a wonder that it hasn’t been riffed to death already. Lord knows it deserves nothing less than such (mis)treatment.
And no one deserves its punishing incompetence.
Date of viewing: December 12, 2015