Film Review: Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (1987)
So, after you’ve made the most controversial, holiday-themed, slasher film ever, how do you follow it up? Well, if it’s the 1980s, you make an even cheaper sequel of course!
Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 tells the story of Ricky (Eric Freeman), the baby brother of Billy, the killer Santa Claus from the first film. It’s Christmas Eve and a now adult Ricky is being held in a mental hospital where he’s awaiting trial for several murders he’s committed. A psychiatrist (James L. Newman) interviews Ricky and gets him to discuss his troubled past. In doing so, Ricky recounts the events of the first film (shown in numerous and extended flashbacks) and then delves into his own teenage trauma.
Ricky is adopted by a loving family and able to get away from the orphanage that had scarred his brother so badly, as well as get out from under the tyrannical rule of Mother Superior. However, it seems the same trauma that afflicted Billy is tormenting Ricky as well. After the death of his adopted father, Ricky has a slight breakdown and commits random murders in an effort to punish those who he feels are naughty. After some more time passes by, Ricky falls in love with a girl named Jennifer (Elizabeth Kaitan) and seems to have his life back in order. That is, until Jennifer’s annoying ex-boyfriend Chip, sends Ricky over the edge. Ricky goes on a murdering rampage from there. He steals an officer’s revolver and begins shooting anything and everything in sight. In a standoff with the police, he attempts suicide, but the revolver is empty and he is arrested.
Cut back to the present day, and Ricky escapes the mental hospital, steals a Santa Claus suit and goes after the major source of he and his brother’s tortured psyches; Mother Superior.
There really isn’t much I can say about Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 because, in truth, there’s not really much there. Reading that brief synopsis, one may be led to believe that this sounds like a pretty interesting film, and while there are some entertaining bits to be sure, that synopsis presents the film as much more serious than it really is.
The original intent of the producers of Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 was to re-edit the original film and add a few new scenes to change the narrative completely, thus getting a new movie for the cost of next-to-nothing. Director Lee Harry wasn’t a fan of this approach and wanted to make a new film, but the budget wouldn’t allow for him to create an entirely new story. So, as a compromise, he and his co-writers wrote several short vignettes that served as the new film and used footage from the first movie as extensive flashback sequences to pad out the running time. If you are coming into this film having never seen the original, don’t worry because the first 40 minutes of the 88 minute run-time is the cliff notes version of Silent Night, Deadly Night.
It’s after this point, when Ricky’s story is being told, that the film takes a major turn in tone. Whereas the original film, for all intents and purposes, tried to play it straight and make a serious horror film, the makers of this film decided to make a dark comedy. The acting is off the charts campy and the killings are played more for laughs than screams. It’s made very clear that this film has its tongue planted firmly in its cheek and isn’t taking itself too serious at all. So much so, that there’s a scene where Ricky and Jennifer go to a theater to see a scary movie about a killer Santa Claus and sure enough, Silent Night, Deadly Night is the film they’re watching.
However, of all the campy fun this film provides, none is greater than the performance of Eric Freeman as Ricky. It’s abundantly clear that he is having a blast with this role and without a doubt; he is the single most entertaining thing in this movie. From the ham-fisted delivery of his lines, to his incredible eyebrow acting (according to IMDB his eyebrows move up and down 130 times!), Eric Freeman will grab your attention and not let it go. His charisma is off the charts and it really shows in scenes with the psychiatrist and the shooting spree with the infamous “Garbage day!” line.
Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 may not have the controversial reputation as its predecessor, but it has developed a strong cult following. I imagine this is mostly because of its campy overtones. It clearly doesn’t have the serious underlying themes of childhood trauma as the first film and it isn’t trying to. This is a film that knows exactly what it is and isn’t trying to be anything more. More importantly, it’s a film that was made on the cheap with few resources and yet managed to be somewhat coherent, fun, entertaining and have a long life when it could have very easily tanked and been an abysmal failure. If you’re a fan of the campy, so-bad-it’s-good, slasher film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, then I recommend you check this one out.