And now we go way off the rails. Which is not necessarily such a bad thing. Into the Silent Night, Deadly Night picture comes one Brian Yuzna, best known for producing cult horror favorites like Re-Animator, but by no means a slouch as a director himself. Figuring (quite rightly) that the whole Billy/Ricky -as-killer-Santa thing had run out of gas, the producers of the now straight-to-video Silent Night series figured that Yuzna could give their flagging franchise a shot in the arm, and that he certainly did, even if the end result was, shall we say, mixed at best.
Look, I’m not going to kid you here — 1990’s Silent Night, Deadly Night 4 : Initiation isn’t a very good movie. Storywise, it’s a bit of a mess, and that’s me being polite. The acting takes OTT to ludicrous extremes. And the Christmas connection is tenuous at best (indeed, you could just as easily have set this story around Halloween, thanksgiving, Easter, or even the 4th of July). However, I’m willing to give Yuzna and co. points for trying something different here.
The first thing you need to know is that this movie has nothing to do with the previous three — the whole sordid history of the brothers Caldwell is just that, history. The Silent Night, Deadly Night franchise at this point is just a label for DTV Christmas-themed (again, in this case only vaguely) horror films. Our story this time revolves around an intrepid young reporter named Kim (Neith Hunter) who is investigating a bizarre death that occurs around Christmastime (and that’s the extent of the holiday connection here — told you it was shaky at best). A woman on fire leapt to her death from the top of a building and our gal Kim wants answers, damnit! The answers she finds, though, just lead to more questions —
First she learns that the woman dies from spontaneous internal combustion. Don’t see that every day. Then she learns that the mystery lady had something to do with a modern-day ultra-feminist (to put it kindly) cult dedicated to the ancient Egyptian goddess Isis. Then she meets the cult’s beautitful leader, Fima (Maud Adams of Octopussy fame). Then she learns the cult has selected her to become the host for a reincarnated Isis, and she’s gonna be their new queen!
Oh, and along the way we’ve got giant maggots and the one and only Clint Howard as a guy named Ricky (not Caldwell and nothing to do with the first three flicks) in a comically evil scenery-chewing turn as a lecherous creep helping the ladies out.
Look, this isn’t Yuzna’s finest hour by any stretch, but it’s okay. It’s hard not not like, at least on some level, any movie with Clint Howard and giant maggots. But it’s a confused, jumbled mess of a film, even if it has its heart in the right place. It was certainly time (heck, well past time) for the Silent Night, Deadly Night franchise as a whole to move in a new direction. I’m just not sure this was the way to go.
Again, as with the last flick, this one’s available on DVD as part of Lionsgate’s three-disc Silent Night, Deadly Night Collection. There are no extras whatsoever but the digitally remastered full-frame transfer and 2.o Dolby stereo sound are both of very solid quality.
And so the post-Santa-slasher chapter of the saga begins on a bizarre and unique, if uneven, front. In a way this movie is almost a reverse image of part three — that was a standard, even dull, flick approached with competence and consummate professionalism. This was an attempt to do something utterly, weirdly different that fails in the execution. On to the next (and last) movie in the series, then, where weird is only the beginning!