Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Holiday Horror: Silent Night, Bloody Night (aka Night of the Dark Full Moon) (1972)

Silent Night, Bloody Night (aka Night of the Dark Full Moon) (1972)
Director: Theodore Gershuny
Starring: Patrick O'Neal, James Patterson, and Mary Woronov
Running Time: 85 min

  This is an old drive-in film that died out in the 70's, but was reintroduced to a new audience in the 80's with the help of Elvira's Movie Macabre and has since had a bit of a cult following.  It stars Mary Woronov (The House of the Devil, Eating Raoul) who was part of the "Warhol Superstars" and I feel is a really underrated scream queen.  Also, it has John Carradine (The Howling, The Sentinel) who was a brilliant actor and has said that he's "made some of the greatest films ever made - and a lot of crap too".  So, I wonder where Mr. Carradine would put this film?

  Diane Adams is strolling through the grounds of the old Butler mansion, which is about to be demolished.  She is reminiscing over the horrible events that happened last year and how nobody knew that truly terrible secrets of that house or their town until then.
  She remembers that it started in 1950, when Wilfred Butler ran out of his house on fire and forgetting to stop, drop and roll, he was burnt to a crisp.  In his will, he left the mansion to his only living relative, his grandson Jeffrey.  The house then became a "haunted house" or a "cursed" place in the town and no one dared to walk the grounds or go near the place because it was too frightening.
  Now 22 years later, Jeffrey wants to sell the place because he needs the money and the town counsel wants to buy the old place for some mysterious reason.  So, he sends his lawyer to hash out the deal and tells the town council that the want 50 grand for the whole place.  The town agrees and tells the lawyer that they will have the money for him tomorrow.  The lawyer tells them to swing by the Butler place to give him the money in the morning and the town counsel is shocked that the lawyer is staying at the mansion.  The lawyer tells them that he's not afraid of any spook stories and bids them a good day.
  Meanwhile, a crazed inmate at a nearby mental institution escapes and the police advise everyone to be on the lookout for this dangerous and crazy individual.  However it's business as usual for the lawyer and his girlfriend, who head back to the creepy old house just as night is settling in and have some dinner.  After supper, they head up to the boudoir for some sexy time and then get violently hacked to pieces with an ax by a maniac.
  After the bludgeoning, the killer puts on a very unconvincing girl voice and invites the town counsel to come and visit her at the Butler mansion.  Diane gets on of these weird calls but her dad the mayor isn't home but she'll let him know that Mary-Anne called when he gets back.  Coincidentally after the bizarre calls and shit, Jeffrey Butler shows up at Diane's place looking for help cuz his car broke down and he can't get into his house.  After seeing some I.D, Diane puts her gun away and the two of them go looking for the sheriff and find a whole lot of mystery instead.  Abandoned cars, Wilfred Butler's diary and eventually a bevy of mutilated corpses, which seems to get larger every time Jeffrey leaves the room.  Will Diane be able to recount this terrible tale of terror and get through the events without having some sort of psychotic breakdown or will the story of the Butler house and it's secrets remain hidden for ever?

  There is some serious camp value to this film but the story is really all over the place.  Right off the bat director Theodore Gershuny (Sugar Cookies, Kemek) has a man on fire running out of the house which is definitely an attention grabber and for the rest of the film there is an assortment of violence that makes this an enjoyable fun film.
  And even though the story throughout the film is a mish mash of confusing dates and facts, the reveal at the end is so disturbing in every way possible that it pretty much trumps all the shitty writing up until that point.
  Also, I like John Carradine (The Ten Commandments, Vampire Hookers) in this movie.  Although he isn't in it that much, he is probably the best bell ringing mute ever.  Same with Mary Woronov (Nomads, Chopping Mall) who plays Diane.  She does a great job playing a tough girl looking for answers with her new mysterious friend.  Again she isn't in as many scenes as you would expect, which is weird because her character is suppose to be narrating, but she looks scared when she has to and she screams real good when directed to.

  Again, the story is kind of all over the place and there are times when it really drags on and on.  The time lines that are concocted here kind of work, but not really, and sometimes you end up trying to doing the math for characters ages in the many lulls in the film.  There are plenty of things that don't make sense and the ending kind of clears of them up, but not really.
  Also, this isn't the best looking film to watch and time has not been kind to the reel that this version of the film came from.  Now in public domain, this hasn't received the love or attention that other older films have gotten and it's a pretty dirty viewing.  As well as, some of the murder scenes seem to have been cut a little too soon and I'm not sure it's due to the cut of the film or if it's just how the film was actually edited.  There are some good death scenes in this, like I mentioned earlier but they're just not edited together well in this version.

  This may be on the crap side of Mr. Carradine's filmography but it isn't totally terrible.  There is an interesting and gross type of mystery in play here but the story is developed so poorly that the only time it really shines is at the end of the film.  It has some killing and there are some unintentional funny bits and that always helps a bad film and makes it a bit more fun.  So, if you're looking for a time waster with an unsettling ending for holiday viewing this might be the gift you're looking for.

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