Santa is an axe wielding mass murderer! In Silent Night he is anyway, a slick, excessively gory remake of an obscure 80’s slasher called Silent Night, Deadly Night, which I’ve still yet to see. This new version is a heavy handed, knowingly silly affair, as a small town Sheriff’s department races to find a heinous killer who dresses like the red guy and has been wantonly slaughtering townsfolk all morning. A timid deputy (Sin City’s Jaime King) is the front runner to head him off at the pass, joined by the cantankerous, mouthy Sheriff, played by a hammy Malcolm McDowell with attitude to spare. The murders are so over the top it seems like the filmmakers wanted to outdo each and every slasher film out there, an impossible task, but they throw Paint at the wall furiously anyway. Electrocution by Christmas lights, high powered flamethrower, a souped up stun gun used to skewer an annoying 14 year old chick, but my favourite has to be the naked stripper fed through a giant wood chipper in a scene that would have Fargo covering it’s eyes. That’s the kind of flick it is, sleazed out to the max, tongue firmly in it’s cheek and never too serious. Problem is, a few of the actors (I’m looking at you,
priest dude) take it way too far into camp territory and ruin whole sequences with their wannabe satirical blathering. McDowell gets the tone right though, and is a right treat as the world’s most sarcastic lawman. Donal Logue also fares well as a bad tempered grinch of a mall Santa who eventually tangles with the murderer in a fiery police station set piece. Maybe I was just tired, but when the origin of the killer is finally revealed, which I waited for the whole time, it seemed like kind of a confusing letdown, a bit less of a surprise than it should have been. Worth it for the kills and a couple entertaining performances, but ultimately not much.
The best horror film of the year so far has arrived in the form of The Void, a genuinely spooky, deliriously gruesome 80’s throwback that gets tone, pacing and atmosphere right on the money, hitting that sweet spot that not all homages can fully grasp. It’s this year’s It Follows, I’ll put it that way. Balls out ballistic, atmospherically eerie and gorier than a chainsaw mud wrestling competition for spastics, it starts somewhat reigned in and then amps up to feverish nightmare fuel once it gets going, and boy does it ever get going. When emulating classics from distant eras, it’s important that these films find their own specific flavour and unique groove, as well as cleverly wearing influences on their sleeve. There’s an obvious adoration for John Carpenter’s The Thing running through it like an undercurrent, but the filmmakers find their own otherworldly pulse, and the fabulously icky body horror is subservient to an overarching plot involving forces from another dimension beyond ours, which a few lunatics are foolishly trying to contact. That happens later on though, once that special ripcord within the horror genre is pulled, the one that separates an uneasy opening act, a calm before the storm and the craziness to follow as soon as that first inciting attack occurs. The premise? Solid and simple: a small town cop (Aaron Poole) brings a blood soaked drifter to a nearly shut down county hospital run by a weary skeleton crew. No sooner has he arrived, bad shit starts happening. Some of the night staff go madly insane and start lobbing their own body parts off, while white cloaked cult weirdos gather outside to prevent anyone from leaving the building. A gruff, shotgun toting badass (Daniel Feathers) breaks in and pretty much violently threatens anything that moves. Corpses come alive and transform into glistening, pulsating piles of aborted pizza pocket waste, and to use the time honoured slogan, ‘all hell’ quite literally breaks loose. The head doctor (veteran character actor Kenneth Welsh, aka Windom Earle, is devilishly scary) clearly knows more than he lets on, and the new bodies pile up on the rotting older ones as dark forces gather for some kind of… birth. The actual how’s and whys of the story are left appropriately vague, as is tradition in hectic 80’s creature features with a supernatural twist. The term ‘void’ is never mentioned by anyone, rather hinted at by glimpses of a dreamy, austere parallel dimension that calls to mind everything from Altered States to Beyond The Black Rainbow to The Cell. A buddy of mine referred to the film as “Carpenter Fanboy Porn”, and while that’s definitely one angle you can look at it from, there’s more than just that, if you widen your gaze. It’s clearly a love letter to the man and his work, but it has its own thing going on as well, and feels at once as fresh as the titles it looks up to must have when they came out, and as lovingly nostalgic as a throwback piece should. The filmmakers have deliberately left it open for a sequel as well. Bring on the franchise, I say, the genre can really use stuff like this to fill the Void.