Since the early-noughties it seems we've been subjected to a rolling, never-ending, steamroller of horror remakes, the tenacity of which the Russian army would be in admiration of (thank you for saving everyone in World War 2).
Starting with films that are considered absolute classics of cinema like The Omen and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was the obvious starting point. It was after the vultures of the film industry had picked these prime pieces of meat clean however that they were forced to move on to remaking films that couldn't be sold on the basis of them being based on an absolute classic. It could however make up for it with public awareness of their notoriety. Films like The Last House on the Left and I Spit On Your Grave - essentially films that were, or very believably could have been, video nasties.
And so we roll around to the inevitable remake of Charles E. Sellier Jr.'s 1984 Silent Night, Deadly Night. Undoubtedly one of the most controversial films of the 80s, inspiring protests at cinemas across America, time has reaped a terrible toll on the shock of seeing a lunatic dressed as Father Christmas, and now the thought of a spree killing Santa Claus is actually rather charming.
Director Steven C. Miller's remake is thankfully a loose one, as there isn't much more tedious than seeing a remake's plot slavishly sticking to that of the original.
In the 2012 more snappily titled film we follow the footsteps of Aubrey Bradimore played by Jaime King. A good cop in a small northern US town, thanks to the day being Christmas eve she and her skeleton crew of police officers are left to their own devices when it comes to a killer Father Christmas who's slaughtering the people of her precinct.
|Uhhh, I've been good?|
King is absolutely fine in the role. That might seem like damning with faint praise, and to be fair, it is. She wouldn't be at all memorable if she weren't the character that most of the film follows around. She has the rather thankless Luke Skywalker role, the necessarily all around good egg who has a strong moral code and is dedicated to her job while still having a good relationship to those around her. The only time there's any character friction where she's concerned is when she's justifiably admonishing her lazy colleague Deputy Stanley Giles (Andrew Cecon) and a pessimistic Santa who tells the kids what the real deal with Christmas is. There is an attempt to give her some personal turmoil in the previous loss of her husband. It isn't really clear whether he's died or they've just broken up, but given how well adjusted Bradimore is its hard not to believe its the former.
The most interesting character is, of course, Malcolm McDowell as Sheriff James Cooper. Cooper is a cop who is glad to be cut off from any external support and takes this opportunity to to exact revenge for every parking ticket and other minor offence that's irked him through his career. He's a bull-headed, aggressive character who's happy to clobber whoever he's satisfied with for the crimes, as long as someone gets clobbered. Its great that we have him in the film to add a gusty counter-point to the rather bland Bardimore and his less capable force. Its also a problem because, as already mentioned, he's the most fun character, and we're left wishing we had more time with him and his belligerent brand of justice.
|Want to class-up your remake? Cast Malcolm McDowell|
Its worth noting that this is a film that's geared towards the horror audience, evident from its tone, clear adherence to certain conventions and its casting of McDowell. Unfortunately the average horror fan is desperate to see McDowell get the leading role (ideally as an amora.l cop) and go toe to toe with a psycho (ideally dressed as Santa). As such Silent Night is bitter-sweet for the horror aficionado. McDowell is on great form here, but we're so close to seeing him in the horror nerd's dream part its a crying shame.
The killer Santa in question, however, does work very nicely as the antagonist. Donal Logue plays the role with a lumbering gait we've come to expect from the more Jason-like movie killers, and it works nicely when combined with the inherent connotations of childhood and innocence that come with a Father Christmas costume. Its also nice to see they haven't 'grittied him up' as was the trend of several years ago, and his suit is bright white and red, not soil-covered and filthy as must have been a consideration.
His murderous actions are also above par. They're stylish but not robbed of their visceral crunch. The most entertainingly unpleasant effects are clearly achieved through physical effects, and the film doesn't skimp on the bloody shock moments. There's the requisite re-enactment of the original's iconic deer death but the real highlight involves a Christmas tree chipper among some other, lower-key pieces of nastiness. Its not terribly original violence, but it is very entertaining nevertheless.
If you're looking for a horror film to get you in the festive spirit, this one fits the bill nicely. Despite the empty lead performance there's some fine support in McDowell and an entertaining murderer who delivers charmingly splattery Christmas killing.
Follow RJ Bayley on Twitter: @RJBayley