Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Written and directed by Lee Harry
1987, 88 minutes, Rated R
Released on December 11th, 2018
Eric Freeman as Ricky Caldwell
James Newman as Dr. Henry Bloom
Elizabeth Kaitan as Jennifer
Darrel Guilbeau as Young Ricky
Jean Miller as Mother Superior
Kenneth Brian James as Chip
Randy Baughman as Eddie
Nadya Wynd as Sister Mary
Billy Caldwell went on a killing spree for Christmas and didn’t stop until the cops shot him dead in front of his little brother, Ricky. Several years later, Ricky went on a killing spree of his own and ended up in a mental hospital. In an extended therapy session, he reflects on his brother’s crimes and his own troubles to his psychiatrist Dr. Bloom. Ricky escapes the hospital and is soon stalking the streets in his own Santa suit with his focus on the nun who caused so much unhappiness in his childhood.
Once upon a time (1984), there was a movie called Silent Night, Deadly Night and to everyone’s surprise it was both controversial and lucrative. Three years later, the company that owned the video rights (L.I.V.E. Entertainment) hired director-editor Lee Harry and three other writers (Joseph Earle, Dennis Patterson and Lawrence Appelbaum) to pen a sequel using ample footage from the original film to pad the running time. Forty minutes of the first movie ends up in this installment and when that proves to not be enough, the entire closing credits of the original are tacked on at the end of this one making for a feature that is still under ninety minutes!
Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 is guilty of a lot of things, but failure to entertain is not one of them. Much has been made of the extensive flashbacks that mark the first half of the picture, but as a nice counterpart, a second wave of flashbacks are presented for the next 20 minutes explaining why Ricky is now insane. The material is fresh, but the willingness to attack the basic elements of narrative structure is absolutely fascinating.
Ricky commits his first murder after witnessing a guy beating up his girlfriend to put her in the mood for some sweet lovin’. It turns out that the color red is a trigger for our favorite psychopath and this abusive asshole is driving a red jeep. Ricky kills the schmuck and the punching-bag thanks him for it. Later, he witnesses a merchant being roughed up and dispenses with some improvised justice involving the world’s handiest umbrella.
Elizabeth Kaitin (Friday the 13th Part VII) appears as Ricky’s girlfriend Jennifer. In an extremely surreal turn of events, they go on a date to the movies and watch… Silent Night, Deadly Night. Despite her choice of films, Jennifer is a girl that likes Ricky enough to have bland vanilla sex with him. Apparently she was a bit more fuckable in the back seat of a car with Chip (Kenneth Brian James), a notion that drives Ricky over the edge. He goes on a murderous rampage that ends with the deaths of several innocent bystanders and one of the most dangerous car stunts in low-budget cinema.
Ricky Caldwell is a character so complex that not just one actor can successfully portray him, as witnessed by the 6 actors credited with the role between these two films. The actor/age breakdown is as follows: From the archived footage of part one, we see Ricky age four (Max Broadhead), and at age 14 (Alex Buxton), not to mention the footage of the baby that witnessed his parents’ murders. New footage for Part 2 brings us Ricky at age 10 (Brian Michael Henley) and at age 15 (Darrel Guilbeau) before settling on the fantastic originality of Eric Freeman’s performance as an adult. The Ricky character would return a final time in Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 3, played by Bill Moseley.
Freeman does not get enough credit as an actor. His interpretation of the character is so compelling that it deserves repeat viewing. Many will point to his intense eyebrow acting or the questionable line readings and forced laughter, but the sensitivity he brings to the role is unmatched by anyone who spends half a feature recounting events that his character was either too young to recall or was not even present for in the first place.
Director Lee Harry is an opportunistic talent, who makes the most of a less than fantastic situation. Saddled with incorporating half a feature into your own material can be daunting or even leave an artist discouraged, but Harry makes it his own. Although he only directed one other feature (Street Soldiers), he has made a solid contribution to the B-movie world of terrible. Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 is worth checking out if for no other reason than to see how a train wreck can be polished into a minor car accident.
Video and Audio:
Scream Factory’s disc starts with a note about the transfer. The original film elements are missing, so a 2K scan of an archival print was used as a source. The company used their HD restoration of the original picture for the frequent flashback sequences.
The movie arrives in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio and the picture looks terrific with bold colors and rich black levels. The new material is a little less clean than the archival footage but is still a step up from the DVD release. Colors are bold and black levels are rich with flesh tones appearing natural throughout.
A DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track preserves the original stereo recording and does a marvelous job delivering a well-balanced mix of music and effects tracks that never intrude on dialogue levels.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
The disc arrives with two audio commentaries, one vintage and the other newly recorded in 2018. The new recording features the long-awaited return of actor Eric Freeman sharing his thoughts on the project 31 years later. It is nice to hear his recollections from the production and how he approached the material. Freeman is joined by director Lee Harry and co-star James Newman, who contribute quite a bit of information on their own, but this is largely Freeman’s track.
The second commentary first appeared on the DVD and features Harry and Newman once again, this time joined by co-writer James Earle. The discussion is pretty solid and full of interesting anecdotes that flow at a respectable pace before falling short at the end. It is fun listening to their comments over the copious flashback material they did not create.
The all-new retrospective documentary Slay Bells Ring Again (75 minutes) looks back at the lasting impressions of the film featuring interviews with several members of the cast and crew. Director Lee Harry is joined by actors Eric Freeman, James Newman, Elizabeth Kaitan, Darrel Guilbeau and make-up artist Christopher Biggs. The history of how the project came together is covered as are some of the preparations made by Harry, including a look at his storyboards and stills. The cast talks about how they came aboard the production and have nothing but nice things to say about each other, but everyone agrees the producers were applying a lot of pressure on the shoot. The participants marvel at the idea that there is so much interest in this picture today and remain unsure of how “Garbage Day” became an internet smash. The documentary is feature length and moves at a brisk pace covering a lot of ground, but would benefit from a few more interviews.
Garbage Days are Here Again (19 minutes) finds host Robert Patterson and special guest Eric Freeman touring the film’s original shooting locations. Patterson is very thorough in tracking down these landmarks and Freeman is quick to share anecdotes from the production. The star seems a little uncomfortable and new to this sort of thing, but is gracious and appreciative that people are interested.
The short film Ricky Today (8 minutes) features a 2018 interview with the character Ricky Caldwell after he has just screened his biopic Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2. We get the man’s thoughts and criticisms of the material and find he is still a danger to society. There’s not a lot of substance here but it is nice to catch up.
Make-up artist Christopher Biggs (The Unnamable) sits down for the extended interview I Don’t Sleep (62 minutes) in which the artist reflects on his career in the industry. He reveals how he got into make-up and some of his first jobs working for Roger Corman before catching a break with companies like Full Moon and New Line Cinema. He shares tales from numerous projects, including Critters and Teen Wolf. He talks about how he made the transition to digital effects and what he has been working on recently. The discussion is a little long, but Biggs is a good storyteller and the piece never really drags until he gets mired down in computer software details near the end.
The original theatrical trailer has been included
A teaser trailer for the documentary Finding Freeman is also included.
Completists will want to hang on to their old Anchor Bay DVD release, as it includes a photo gallery of posters, production stills and storyboards. The original screenplay also appears as a PDF to be read on your computer. Both of these items are missing from this Blu-ray.
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