There is no point in remaking anything. If one cannot do something different with the formula or add to the content already there then why bother? This is the question every filmmaker should ask themselves before undertaking any sort of remake project. Frankly, most of them are throwaways that exist solely for the sake of making a few extra bucks off of an already established title. Silent Night is, mercifully, not a remake but a re-imagining of the controversial 1984 slasher classic Silent Night, Deadly Night. However, with the original being such a phenomenal cult classic, how can this possibly measure up?
The Christmas season has rolled around again and the quiet (and fictional) town of Cryer, Wisconsin is preparing for the season with the annual Santa Claus look alike competition. While usually a joyous time of the year, Aubrey (Jaime King) finds herself in the depths of depression, still trying to cope with the loss of her husband. However, after Deputy Jordan (Brenden Fehr) does not show up for work, Sheriff Cooper (Malcolm McDowell) forces Aubrey to come in, not giving a single crap about how depressed she is feeling or how she is not even supposed to be there today. Turns out the day has much more in store for Aubrey and Cooper because there is a demented, mass murdering Santa Claus (Rick Skene) has town, and he is ready to clean up the naughty.
Had writer Jayson Rothwell and director Steven C. Miller gone the route of a direct remake we could have cried havoc and let slip the dogs of war. Considering Silent Night, Deadly Night hardly warranted the sequels it received (most of which absolutely sucked), one would not think that a remake would even have been in order. It was a fine stand alone film that did allow room for a sequel, but without it feeling obligatory. Silent Night goes back and simply takes the skeletal frame of the original: a guy in a Santa Claus suit killing people. It actually manages to take a route different enough from its source material that it need not be compared to the original (though comparisons are inevitable), much less mentioned in the same breath. Whereas Silent Night, Deadly Night was largely psychological, this version takes us back to basics with a silent killer approach.
What you might first notice about this film is that the whole thing is shot in very dreary colors. It is something that us northerners will find ourselves at ends with. For one, the Christmas season tends to be very colorful. Lots of bright, warm reds and greens all around with lavish decorations, from inflatable Santas to nativity sets, and some crazy light designs that burn like stars. On the other end though, the weather tends to be dreary and cold with perpetual gray skies from late October to March. Silent Night could have attempted to find a balance to this, but instead it keeps itself looking drab to the point of gray-scale. The dark, depressive tones in horror films is commonplace nowadays, but it would have been nice to see a break from this.
Colors are not the only depressing thing about Silent Night, however. King's performance as Aubrey is one of almost utter desolation. Her character is written as depressing to the point of her almost weeping every time she steps on screen. It is understandable that she is depressed that her husband died, but we are never fully given any understanding to why his death is so monumentally devastating. The loss of a loved one is always sad but the only clue we kind of have is that Aubrey possibly slipped up and had a hand in it (e.g.: she hesitated when her profession called for her to kill). We might understand her pain better if we had a further explanation but the audience is unfortunately left with only vague details. Because of this she is pretty unpleasant to watch. King turns in a good performance, but it crosses the line into melodrama far too often.
But that is why we have McDowell's performance. This guy is the reason for the season. Every time he is on screen he absolutely steals the show without even trying. Every sentence he speaks, every word he says is hilarious and a complete counter to Aubrey. With killer instinct, insane dialogue, sarcastic spats, and soliloquies about justice and its ugly pursuits, Cooper is the most fun this film has to offer. He is focused and alert, but his actions are not without question. Not to mention he is hasty and unforgiving in conviction. But when it comes to Sheriff Cooper, justice does not mess around.
What viewers might find the most strange about this film is the way people act. Many of them are straight out of a Rob Zombie film, cruel and hateful, spitting vitriol at everything that comes in contact with them. Virtually no character outside of the police force is likable. They spit surprising insults at Aubrey (the doormat) and even hurl direct sexual harassment. And this is not just one character, it is several. One of them tells a bizarre and essential, but strangely out of context, story to Aubrey. It makes for some grossly imbalanced dialogue, but the audience will likely understand that things need to move along and dismiss these odd qualities. Still, many will wonder why Aubrey does not slap them with sexual harassment every time one of them wisecracks about their tightening pants or her body.
Beyond this, the film actually has a pretty good flow of events and some great gore effects. One scene includes a fantastic wood chipper sequence, and another involves an excellent ax to the face. If you have seen Silent Night, Deadly Night you may also enjoy the one homage kill (no spoilers on that one). It is also neat that Miller keeps the killer Santa Claus wielding an ax, though he also uses plenty of other weapons like Christmas lights, a fireplace poker, and a flamethrower to name a few. The final reveal about the killer is something that a lot of people are going to have issue with. It is easy to miss on the first watch because the film just glazes over it and and rolls the credits. A very strange and questionable approach when all is said and done.
If you fancy yourself a fan of the original Silent Night, Deadly Night then you will probably have fun with Silent Night. It has some problems but none of them drag it down enough to make it unlikable. Aubrey may be a quick trip down melancholy lane, but Cooper tips the scales enough that her sadness does not drag the film through the muck. Though having the film fully focused on Cooper would have rocked. It is great to see that Miller did not do a shot for shot remake and instead decided to inject some classic and modern methods, keeping the film both relevant and traditional. Though that sometimes works for better or worse. Three cheers for no CGI blood (second best decision this movie made). No, this is not better than the original, but it manages to still be a good romp. If Silent Night is at all attempting to revive the franchise then have at it. In the approving words of Sheriff Cooper: 'Gentlemen... Ho! Ho! Ho!'