So James Plumb directed Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection, my favorite “remake” of NOTLD ( blogged about it here). That’s why I couldn’t wait to see what he did with Silent Night, Bloody Night. But first, I had to revisit the original.
SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT (1972)
Classic b-movie actress Mary Woronov stars in the original Silent Night, Bloody Night. For an early “slasher,” it has a fairly complex backstory that plays out through narration and flashback scenes during the course of the film.
The Butler family owned a big house. The man’s daughter went crazy, so he turned it into a mental institution in hopes of helping her get better. Now, years later, his grandson wants to sell the house, even though it was made clear in the will that the house was to remain standing.
Someone isn’t happy with the decision to sell. When the grandson’s lawyer comes to town to handle the legalities, so does an axe murderer. Silent Night, Bloody Night is definitely creepy and almost seems like the inspiration for Black Christmas, which came shortly after it, from freaky phone calls to ominous camera shots in the dark hallways of the house.
Not to mention, the axe murders are brutal and graphic. There’s also a perfectly eerie, minor key version of “Silent Night” used as the soundtrack in many scenes. However, the plot has lofty goals, with numerous branching scenes, twists, and unrelated characters; it actually becomes a bit convoluted.
Then, almost like a movie within a movie, we get the full story of what happened at the house in the past, shot in a spooky sepia tone. It’s a very disturbing segment in which mental patients attack guests at an elegant party…and one of those guests happens to be drag queen Candy Darling.
When we return to modern day for the conclusion, it’s not unlike Black Christmas in that we never get to see the killer!
SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT: THE HOMECOMING (2013)
Where as James Plumb’s Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection is a reimagining of the original film, his take on Silent Night, Bloody Night is almost a scene-by-scene retelling. Plumb manages to combine the washed out grit of a 70s horror flick with the dark grisly feel of modern horror.
He also tightens up the plot just a touch, but since he’s sticking closely to the source material, there’s only so much he can do to streamline things. It’s sort of a no win situation. Change the plot too much and purists will complain. Follow the plot closely and create a film that suffers from the same flaws as the original! I think he walked a great middle ground here.
I love the subtle nuances Plumb brings to his version. He enhances the creep factor of the minor key “Silent Night” by making it out of tune as well. He puts his own spin on the camera pans through the dark halls of the Butler house, and it makes for some incredibly effective atmosphere. And the kills are even more vicious and violent than the original, living up to the level of gruesome necessary to satisfy today’s desensitized audiences. Plus, there’s a “cameo” by original Friday the 13th final girl Adrienne King—she’s the freaky voice on the phone!
Plumb also includes some unique new scenes that feel like nods to horror flicks like Black Christmas, Halloween, and Silent Night, Deadly Night. When the killer escapes a mental institution, there’s a relentless scene of a security guard being suffocated by a plastic bag over the face. The escaped mental patient steals a getaway car…from a guy in a Santa suit. A couple sneaks into the Butler house for sex and the guy (cute beefy hairy) is killed with a string of Christmas lights. There’s even a classic De Palma split screen used during this scene.
To update the film to modern slasher standards, Plumb gives the killer a frightening visual identity. In the original, we never actually see the killer, and the main girl doesn’t get a chase scene either. That has been remedied here. And the final scene is totally unique to the remake and is very reminiscent of the final scene in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The movie even closes with “camera flash” massacre photos.
I love the tone of Plumb’s retro-modern remake. Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming is one of those rare cases when a remake captures the spirit of the original film while changing it up just enough to create a superior horror experience. Now that I’ve seen two of his re-imaginings of horror classics, I can’t wait to see his upcoming original, Kerb Crawlers.
Here’s my video of loads of Christmas horror flicks you can check out: