Monday, December 8, 2014

Horror for the Holidays: Silent Night, Bloody Night

Greetings and welcome with festive cheer for the holidays and we enter Day 1 of Horror for the Holidays. Boy nothing says Christmas quite like mono sound mix, a almost technicolor quality and more grain on the film than the movie " Field of Wheat". I did not have a lot of luck with finding a decent copy of today's movie but we are going to press on and soldier through this terrifying collection weird tales of family and friends in a mansion previously occupied by crazy people. No I do not mean a dysfunctional family, I mean the house used to be a lunatic asylum. This is Silent Night, Bloody Night.

Carter, are we cliche murder bait?

With captivating taglines like: The mansion. The madness. The maniac. No escape. It is almost as if the poster taunts you or dares you to enter this awe inspiring film. My belief is it is telling to run far far away as though you are being chased by Leatherface but that is my take on it. So scary is this poster that the faint of heart dare not watch this movie alone and in the dark.

Our movie opens in on Christmas Eve 1950, with a gentleman name of Wilfred Butler fleeing out of his house engulfed in flames flailing around in the snow and just died presumably so. Top that, Citizen Kane!!! Years later, lawyer John Carter (Patrick O' Neal of Dick and the Duchess, Route 66, Assignment to Kill, El Condor and The Doris Day Show) and his secretary Ingrid (Astrid Heeren of Vice and Virtue, The Thomas Crown Affair and Castle Keep) arrive 20 years later during that same holiday staple probably cursing having to work on the holidays. Carter and Ingrid practically are assaulted with greetings by the town Sheriff Mason (Walter Klavun of It Should Happen to You, The Boston Strangler and The Brink's Job), Mayor Adams (Walter Abel of Fury, Holiday Inn, Mr. Skeffington and Island in the Sky) Tess Howard (Fran Stevens of The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight and Silent Night, Bloody Night), the town's phone operator and Charlie Towman (John Carradine of Stagecoach, The Grapes of Wrath, The Unearthly, House of the Black Death, Shock Waves and Kung Fu). The lot of them greet Carter and Ingrid in wonder to what they are doing in their minuscule crappy town.

Lost in a Pantene moment.

Word spreads about town that Wilfred's grandson, Jeffery (James Patterson of Lilith, In the Heat of the Night, Castle Keep and A Fable) is selling the enormous mansion of a paltry price of $50,000 which becomes the buzz of the town so that the tale even makes its way to the local loony bin causing an insane psycho to escape. Coincidence? Nah. With the exterior shots even in daylight this house has a Gothic, eerie feel as disturbing events seem to unfold. What lurks in this house? What tales could it tell us and what is that smell in the basement?

Just a few observations at this time. The dialogue is written if you combined the visual skills of Dickens' A Christmas Carol with that of a Gialli (Italian thriller or mystery) or Giallo if you prefer. The flashback sequences seem to be in sepia filter so everything captured looks grainy and disturbing. The film is littered with red herrings making you have to use your brain to figure out who the killer is and why these specific people are dying off. Make no mistake folks, this is a pre-cursor to the slasher genre to the likes of the original Black Christmas or the original Halloween.

A nice steady pace unveiled with colored filters, still images, eerie composure and a gothic story makes this a bizarre choice to be placed in a Christmas setting. With the exception of the Mayor lightly whistling Silent Night and his daughter having a jolly outfit on the weather shots look latter Fall rather then Winter. A classic example of how a horror film follows the lick of a Rolling Stones tune. Jazzy and swinging, baby. Seriously though, modern horror directors could take notes from this movie and getalong fine. If confused and unable to find it by this title, you can try the three other English titles: Zora, Death House and Night of the Dark Full Moon.

Falling off the grid in the late 70s, our movie fell into public domain only to be discovered by Elvira, Mistress of the Dark's gang giving it a cult following for the VHS generation.

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