15 October 2012

Silent Night, Deadly Night 3

United States - 1988
Director - Monte Hellman
International Video Entertainment, 1988, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 28 minutes

The third installment in this infamous franchise picks up sortof where the second film left off. Ricky, the younger brother of the original killer having eyebrowed his way to vengeance in the last film is now (played by a new actor, Bill Mosely) recovering from traumatic and near fatal cranio-cerebral obliteration at the hands of the police. His doctor, a highly unorthodox man, has installed a plastic dome on Rickys’ head in order that we might be grossed out by the sight of sloshing fluid.

Alas, said fluid is the only opportunity for merriment in this otherwise trying film. Acclaimed director Monte Hellman, the Corman-school auteur behind such great existential films as Two Lane Blacktop and The Cockfighter directed this puzzling digression into banality. I really want to blame somebody else for this film, but Hellman was at least partly responsible for writing the script, and has asserted that while not his best movie, this is his best work.

To be honest I suppose Silent Night, Deadly Night III does bear some measure of its director’s mark, but Hellman appears reluctant to make a horror movie. And who can blame him. He’s being asked to pick up the pieces of a terrible sequel and somehow renew a squandered franchise. Many of the elements of his own road-movie narratives are here, but they’re hampered by horror standards Hellman seems forced to include. Nor are the horror standards; Final Girl, psychic connection with killer, mad doctor, gritty practical cop; ever given much room to really breathe. I’m not exactly a cheerleader for formula, but I can appreciate it when an exploitation film, like home cooking, gives you the predictable comfort you crave.

That seems to me to be exactly the opposite of Hellman’s proclivity for traveling and searching films which leave questions unanswered and often unasked. Silent Night, Deadly Night III is caught between this hodgepodge of incomplete ideas, both counterintuitive and predictable yet fully neither. I’m not going to defend the ramparts of genre exclusivity and argue that the two should remain separate. That the film is coherent is remarkable, but a success it isn’t.

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