Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Christmas 2016: December 10

Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (1987)

I’ve made my fandom of the original “Silent Night, Deadly Night” well known. That film is the perfect Christmas hangover cure and one I’ve utilized many times. Fed up with the forced jolliness of the season? Nothing like a murderous Santa flick with a clear grudge against the holiday to cure what ails ya’. Like any good eighties slasher flick, the original “Silent Night” left the door open for a sequel. That follow-up would come three years later. While the original has a cult following among slasher fans for its mayhem and campy humor, the sequel has gained fans mostly for its unintentional hilarity. The movie would even spawn an honest to goodness meme in the form of “Garbage Day!” In some ways, the infamous sequel has overshadowed the original.

The original concluded with Billy Chapman, traumatized child turned slashing Santa, getting shot to death in front of his little brother, Ricky. Ten years later, much like his brother, Ricky has grown up into a heavily muscled man. Ricky also has something else in common with Billy: Violent episodes triggered by Christmas iconography. He tends to brutally kill anyone who transgresses against his moral code. That murderous streak got him locked up in prison. After a rambling confession to his shrink, he escapes, dons a Santa suit, and goes after the abusive nun that tormented his brother. On Christmas Eve, the naughty will be punished once more.

Notoriously, about half of “Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2” is composed of footage from the original movie. According to director Lee Harry, the producers originally wanted him to make a sequel entirely out of old footage. He managed to talk them into coughing up enough funds to shoot some new scenes. Yet “Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2” still revolves around a flashback heavy structure. Ricky narrates extensive scenes from the first film, even scenes he wasn’t in. We basically get a reprise of all the nudity and violence from the original. Scenes from the original “Silent Night” are squeezed into every corner of the sequel. When Ricky takes his girlfriend to a movie, they happen to see a film about a killer in a Santa suit. It’s composed, of course, of scenes from part one. It is clear Lee Harry was trying to take make the most of his sticky situation.

This is odd but that’s not the reason fans love “Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2.” You have the unique acting stylings of Eric Freeman to thank for that. Freeman, whose tall frame and bulging pectorals make him an odd choice for Santa Claus, essays the part of Ricky. Freeman gloriously overacts. He wiggles his eyebrows excessively. He frequently punctuates his murders with a repetitive maniacal laugh. He shouts all of his dialogue in a ridiculously gruff tone. This makes lines like “Red car. Good point!” into hysterical highlights. His acting decisions are fascinatingly odd and often hilarious. There are two possibilities here. Either Freeman realized the material was awful and decided to ham it up. Or he was truly that tone deaf a performer. Either way, his acting is legendary among bad movie fans.

One could make the case that “Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2” was meant to be intentionally funny. A few scenes are obviously going for laughs. Such as Ricky interrupting two loud mouths at the movies or encountering a little girl during his rampage. The killer’s methods of murder are usually absurd. Like an impalement via umbrella or a ridiculously extended electrocution. Yet the film’s biggest laughs are of the unintended variety. Teenage Ricky runs over an attempted rapist with a car, in a moment that is so overheated it becomes funny. A slow motion love scene quickly becomes amusing. When he finally dons the Santa suit and goes after Mother Superior, the old woman tumbles from wheelchair to wheelchair. (In order to cover up a new actress playing the part, Mother Superior has had a stroke. For some reason, this has resulted in her face becoming burned.)

For all its chuckles, no scene is more absurd then the day time shooting spree. You know the one. It’s the scene that birthed the notorious “Garbage day!” line. Throughout the film, Ricky’s victims have mostly been assholes, keeping with the theme of punishing the naughty. At this point, the script abandons all pretenses. Ricky guns down a guy standing on his porches. The garbage day victim is guilty of no crime other then carrying his garbage can out at a weird time. The scene escalates in ridiculousness, the madman even shooting a car, resulting in a lackluster vehicle flip and explosion. Naturally, Eric Freeman laughs insanely throughout the entire killing spree. It’s a random sequence that connects to the rest of the film in only the loosest of ways. But it sure is unforgettable.

A lot of people dislike this part 2 for being mostly composed of footage from part 1. Which is a totally valid complaint. Yet how can I dislike a movie this entertaining? It’s utter garbage but it’s absolutely hilarious garbage. My only real issue with “Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2” is its lack of killer Santa action. The further sequels would ditch that angle entirely, concerned about reigniting the controversy that first one started. Ricky would return in two of those sequels, played by different actors, despite increasingly unrelated stories. Eric Freeman has mostly disappeared but once expressed interest in making a stand alone sequel to this one. Entitled, one assumes, “Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2: Part 2.” Which, one also assumes, would be released not on Christmas Day… But on Garbage Day. [7/10]

Digimon: A Very Digi Christmas

Once upon a time, I was waaaaaay too invested in “Digimon.” Though obviously inspired by Pokemon’s massive success, the series had a more serialized story and a complicated mythology. I liked the way the show invoked “Alice in Wonderland,” with its plot of kids sucked into an alternate reality. (Of course, Lewis Carroll didn’t write about constantly leveling up critters that could be made into toys.) What I truly loved was the characters, fraught with anxieties and doubts. Even the cheap animation, awful soundtrack, and goofy dubbing couldn’t disguise this. As a kid, I was hooked. I even wrote some awful fan fiction, which is thankfully lost to the ages.

“A Very Digi Christmas” is one of the series’ most controversial episodes, at least among fans. And it has nothing to do with the story. The plot continues the season’s arc of sinister digital forces encroaching on reality, in the form of evil monsters and black spires. The Christmas elements come into play when the season two batch of heroes reunite the season one cast with their digital monster companions, as a holiday present. Another reason you can tell it’s December is because of the snow on the ground and the (somewhat cringe-inducing) holiday flavored poem the episode concludes with.

So why the controversy? Throughout the first season, hints were constantly dropped that series hero Tai was romantically interested in Sora, the neurotic but sweet natured tomboy. In “A Very Digi Christmas,” we discover that Tai does have romantic feelings for Sora… Feelings she doesn’t reciprocate. Instead, Sora is attracted to Matt, the handsome, guitar playing rebel. This reveal comes out of nowhere and totally flies in the face of what we already know about the characters. (The show would further twist the dagger during the series finale, by revealing that Sora and Matt eventually marry and have kids.) As much as the fandom bitches about this scene – and, believe me, I’ve done my share – it’s a brief moment. There’s even some poise in it, when Tai gracefully lets his love interest walk away with his best friend. The dude takes it way better then you’d expect.

As a standard episode of “Digimon,” “A Very Digi Christmas” is loaded with stock footage and repetitive combat. Yes, we see every Digimon transform and combine with each other, in especially drawn out sequences. The combat is underwhelming, mostly composed of special attacks getting shot at the enemy monsters. The English dub writers would constantly add jokes to the dialogue, which undermined any tensions the action could’ve created. Yet what I most like about this one is how Ken, a former villain attempting to redeem himself, is accepted into the group thanks to the magic of Christmas forgiveness. It’s well done enough to almost make up for that bullshit Sora/Matt reveal. Almost. [6/10]

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