Santa Showdown: “SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2” VS. “SANTA’S SLAY”Movies/TV,News,Reviews Ken W. Hanley
Jingle the Bells! Hit the lights! In celebration of FANGORIA’s re-release of the remastered original SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT, we present to you SANTA SHOWDOWN, a battle between the more gruesome ghosts from Christmas Past. So sit down by the fire, enjoy some eggnog and pray neither of these Christmas killers make their way down your chimney…
ROUND TWO: SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 VS. SANTA’S SLAY
The holiday season can sometimes be the most wonderful time of the year for any horror fan, as it gives every horror lover a chance to bundle up on a snow day and revisit some of the creepiest of classics. As with any person on the naughty list however, you’re bound to get one or two pieces of coal in your stocking, and boy do we have two huge lumps here for you today. Presenting our challengers for this round: Lee Harry’s SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 and David Steiman’s SANTA’S SLAY.
Of course, even these films, like coal, have their qualities, especially if you’re looking for some so-bad-it’s-good entertainment in your Christmas chillers. But looking at them as straight-up horror films, both flicks don’t even get close to making the grade. SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 is a clear cash-grab trying to capitalize on the success of the controversial cult classic, and even goes as far as using an awkward amount of footage from that film via flashbacks. Meanwhile, SANTA’S SLAY is not a cash grab, trying (and struggling) to embrace the label of ‘black comedy’, hoping the camp factor and general earnest homage to classic Christmas entertainment is enough to keep the film afloat.
The line between SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 and SANTA’S SLAY is that of intention. By all means, SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 is the quintessential unintentional comedy, with fascinatingly bad acting, hilarious dialogue and a bizarre series of retcon to jumble up the series continuity. SANTA’S SLAY, from start to finish, sees itself as a comedy, with almost every piece of holiday iconography used as a murder weapon and blending physical hijinks with an unnecessarily large body count. In those respects, each has culled a respectable and loyal cult following, especially after SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 became an internet sensation.
In terms of filmmaking, SLAY is the clear victor, having shockingly good production value (courtesy of producer Brett Ratner and cinematographer Matthew Leonetti) and a capable, if sometimes misguided, cast. SLAY’s budget also allowed for a cameo-heavy opening scene which shows this murderous Santa Claus—played by professional wrestler Bill Goldberg— terminating the likes of James Caan, Fran Drescher, Rebecca Gayheart and Chris Kattan. If you assume that this scene is cathartic on many different levels, you are correct.
In comparison, SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 reeks of cheapness, frustration and carelessness. The action is absolutely bonkers, including a scene in which a car is shot in the radiator, flips on a conveniently placed hunk of dirt, flips back upright and then explodes for absolutely no reason. The acting is even more ludicrous, with characters often using their eyebrows to convey a range of emotion. Even the setting is absolutely surreal, indicated by a movie theater scene in which the film being watched is, of course, SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT.
Even the narrative of SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 is flimsy, taking upon the emotional journey of Billy in the first film and simply pasting it to the backstory of his brother, Ricky. The characters present never truly mean anything to the narrative aside from being set up to later be killed in ways that don’t carry the same holiday-themed edge of the original. SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 is merely memorable for just how brash it is in its nonsensical nature, which practically invites audiences to laugh throughout.
Meanwhile, even if tied together by the loosest of plot, SANTA’S SLAY does carry a cohesive narrative, including a backstory presented via Rankin-Bass-esque stop-motion and clear-cut protagonists and antagonists. The characters may be closer to caricatures, including Dave Thomas as a sleazy priest, Saul Rubinek as a Jewish deli manager and Robert Culp (in his final onscreen performance) as the wary grandfather, but they do lend a sense of universal balance to the absolute craziness that ensues. Furthermore, SANTA’S SLAY does attempt to establish Santa as a feasible villain grounded in fictional ancient mythology to rather entertaining results.
So which of these two is the best “worst” holiday horror? While SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 is a great watch for those who truly love gruelingly awkward cinematic missteps, SANTA’S SLAY is so over-the-top and cartoonish that I have to give credit where it’s due. It’s criminally stupid, and provides enough puns to drive even the strongest of stomachs to cringe, but it does so with a wicked understanding of how a holiday horror-comedy should be handled. Granted, it may be more enjoyable with some spiked eggnog, but nonetheless, it’s a knockout. SANTA’S SLAY is more likely to remind that sometimes, it’s nice to be naughty.
ROUND TWO: SANTA’S SLAY
For more information on Fangoria and Screenvisions rerelease of SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT, including theater listings, please visit FANGORIA On Screen.