Thursday, October 26, 2017

Silent Night, Deadly Night III: Better Watch Out!

The original SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT trilogy concludes — not that anyone realized at the time there was one. SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT III was directed by, of all people, cult icon Monte Hellman, whose credits include TWO-LANE BLACKTOP, the Hammer crime drama SHATTER, and the two independent Jack Nicholson westerns THE SHOOTING and RIDE IN THE WHIRLWIND. Remarkably, Hellman managed to get the film written, shot, edited, and playing film festivals within about four months. But what else would you expect from the director of BEAST FROM HAUNTED CAVE?

Mad doc Richard Beymer (a long way from WEST SIDE STORY) is performing experiments with blind psychic Samantha Scully (BEST OF THE BEST) in hopes she will be able to contact comatose Ricky Caldwell (TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2’s Bill Moseley). In a coma since being shot by cops at the end of the second movie, Ricky lays on a gurney with his brain exposed inside a clear dome attached to his head. Scully has occasional flashes of Ricky’s subconscious, which allows Hellman to recycle footage from the previous films (while cutting around Tara Buckman’s bare breasts).

Scully, her brother Eric DaRe (TWIN PEAKS), and DaRe’s new girlfriend Laura Harring (MULHOLLAND DRIVE), whom Scully for no reason hates on first sight, head to Piru, California to spend Christmas Eve with her grandmother Elizabeth Hoffman (SISTERS). Coincidentally, Ricky wakes up, kills a drunk Santa inexplicably roaming the hospital halls, and not only heads to Piru, but gets there first! Nobody seems to notice a barefoot man in a hospital gown and a clear plastic dome encasing a bloody brain walking on the 101. Hellman must intend this as satire or black comedy, but it just plays like he is stupid.

While THE TERROR, a public domain horror movie starring Hellman’s old buddy Nicholson, plays on television, Dr. Beymer and cop Robert Culp (THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO) follow a trail of murdered corpses to Piru in hopes of finding Ricky before Ricky finds Scully. Hellman, Rex Weiner (THE ADVENTURES OF FORD FAIRLANE), and Arthur Gorson (SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT 4) are responsible for the very thin story, which not only has just a skeleton plot, but also fails to enhance its characters. Though one can see Moseley trying to project something to engender sympathy for Ricky, the screenplay doesn’t back him up, and the actor frankly looks ludicrous in his “Spock’s Brain” helmet.

While Moseley, Beymer, and Culp (the only actor appearing to have a good time) are solid, the younger actors are horrid. Samantha Scully is attractive, but a blank slate as an actress. Because the writers made her character unlikable, despite her blindness, it takes a stronger performer than Scully to make the audience care about what happens to her. Even when Harring is being strangled by Moseley, Scully reacts as if she’s reciting her grocery list. Harring delivers the film’s requisite nudity, and DaRe is weak and unbelievable.

SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT III doesn’t even register as a slasher movie, as the kill scenes are lacking in both suspense and gore. I think the blood may be ketchup. Someone must have taken the tape home from the video store (I admit — I did), because the series continued, despite this film’s dismal quality. With the Ricky Caldwell story finally put to bed, Part 4, released one year later, took the franchise in a new direction with a plot unrelated to the first three films.


English Teacher X said...

Well what would YOU do if you saw a guy with a transparent brain-box on his head walking down the highway?

Anonymous said...

Hellman was also one of the directors of THE TERROR.