Sunday, December 06, 2015

To All A Goodnight

I love the title, but little else about this seasonal slasher directed by David Hess, the star of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, and written by Alex Rebar, the star of THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN. How inept is TO ALL A GOODNIGHT? It casts Jennifer Runyon as the plain, hideous girl who can’t get a date. It shows a killer screaming, “Diiiiiiiiie!” And it doesn’t know that AIRPLANE! put a capper on scenes of men slapping hysterical women and telling them to snap out of it.

Some bitchy sorority sisters and their equally dickish boyfriends, spending the night together in the sorority house while the rest of the campus is home for Christmas break, are stalked and slashed by a killer in a Santa suit. Two years earlier, a sorority sister accidentally fell off a balcony to her death, so obviously some kids must pay. Eventually, only the virgin (Jennifer Runyon) and the nerd (Forrest Swanson) are left to unmask the murderer. Is it Ralph the crazy Bible-thumping handyman? The canola-baking neighbor lady? The housemother? One of the students? The pilot of the private plane that brought the boys to campus played by porn legend Harry Reems?

The idea of a killer Santa Claus was still somewhat fresh at the time, though I don’t think Hess emphasizes the novelty as much as it deserves. As the Final Girl, Runyon gives her first motion picture her all, though she made a better impression later in GHOSTBUSTERS, UP THE CREEK, and CHARLES IN CHARGE, as well as one of the BRADY BUNCH reunions. Her acting is bad, but so is everyone else’s. Stan Samshak as a police chief wearing a loud sports jacket is laughably bad, particularly the scene in which he describes a victim’s prison record while cupping Runyon’s chin in his hand.

Shot in ten days around Loyola Marymount University, GOODNIGHT is not a good film, but it boasts an impressive body count and draws laughter with its absurd twist-upon-a-twist ending. Hess never directed another feature and probably didn’t deserve to based on his clunky handling of this one. The gore and skin content indicate Hess knew what his audience wanted. He just didn’t have the talent to parlay his knowledge into an exciting, interesting thriller.

1 comment:

Grant said...

"The idea of a killer Santa Claus was still somewhat fresh at the time."

That underlines why I don't watch those stories (except TALES FROM THE CRYPT, which I'm sentimental about, and which ALSO came a lot earlier). Scary Santas, but also grubby ones, have become such a cliché, and one of those clichés that entertainers seem to think will always work. But to me, it's twice as true of COMEDIES as horror stories, with their endless grubby, foul-mouthed Santas with drinking problems.(Sure, I like the one in A CHRISTMAS STORY as much as the next person, but that's another exception.)