Silent Night, Deadly Night was sure to have a sequel before it even came out. Back in the ‘80s, it didn’t take a lot for a horror movie to get at least one. However successful it may have been, Silent Night, Deadly Night was controversial, and that was what mattered. Despite actually being far from the first film about a killer Santa Claus, it had a marketing campaign with TV spots airing right at prime time, right when kids would be able to see it, leading to a lot of angry parents boycotting the feature. Even veteran actor Mickey Rooney sent in an angry letter, though in an ironic twist, he would wind up starring in Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toymaker.
Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 is kind of the stuff of legend. It’s one of the most infamous sequels ever made, thanks largely to the “garbage day” sequence. The sequel occasionally follows Ricky, Billy’s baby brother glimpsed in the opening of the original, now an adult destined to go down the same dark path. I say “occasionally” because most of the movie is told through Ricky’s flashbacks recounting his brother’s story, as the producers initially didn’t want to spend any money on the sequel and demanded that it be entirely recut from footage from the original. Given that that would be next to impossible, they eventually convinced him to give them at least a little money for some new footage.
Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out is the first sequel to be comprised entirely of new footage and because of that, it almost feels like the first true sequel in the franchise, even though it picks up off the end of Part 2. This is the last of the series to adhere to a Christmas slasher vibe before going in wildly different directions with Part 4 and 5, but even then, it’s a pretty bizarre movie that makes a lot of weird choices. Because of that, even its boring stretches can be kind of interesting.
First and foremost, we have the return of Ricky, our killer who was left for dead in the original. The logic here seems to be that they needed to find a way to bring back Ricky because Billy died in the original—but they’re already resurrecting a killer, so wouldn’t the original one make the most sense? Either way, now we find out that Ricky didn’t actually die, but basically became a vegetable. He’s catatonic, he can’t speak or really even do anything at all. Replacing Eric Freeman, who was barely even an actor at the time, is Bill Moseley, which has to mark the first time that a killer was recast with someone way more well-known for the subsequent sequel.
Even still, there’s something kind of uniquely old fashioned about Silent Night, Deadly Night 3 that makes it appealing. Despite its low budget, it has an Amicus vibe that I appreciate, with echoes of Wait Until Dark as well.
It’s amazing that in a decade filled with silent killers, this was the first slasher to couple that with a blind protagonist. Oh, and this girl’s also a psychic, which gives the movie a dose of Lucio Fulci aesthetic as well. These elements are so perplexing for something like this. Considering that both previous Silent Night, Deadly Night flicks followed a very standard killer in a Santa outfit premise, the direction the third takes is at the very least bold. It’s unexpected.
That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s great, but in terms of carrying on the story from the end of Part 2, this has to be the most outside-the-box approach imaginable. It’s not at all what you’d expect Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 3 to be having seen the first two, and invited things to get even weirder—abandoning the original storyline completely, even—in Parts 4 and 5.
In some ways, the casting of Moseley is the most surprising thing about the entire film. Both Silent Night, Deadly Night and its sequel lent themselves to over-the-top villain performances, something that Moseley had more than proven himself fit for in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. He could have perfected that role, had he been allowed to go to town with it. Seeing him as a silent, lumbering monster is on one hand a disappointment, but on the other hand, kind of fascinating. For Moseley, despite all the B-Movie villains he’s played, it’s certainly against type.
Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 3 is at the very least a better crafted movie than its predecessor, but it lacks some of Part 2’s scrappy, good-natured spirit. Even still, there’s just something interesting about it, an atmosphere that harkens back to the made-for-TV movies of the ‘70s, which this often feels incredibly similar to. Add to that a dose of Fulci logic and we’re left with a film that might not necessarily make it into the annual holiday horror rotation, but is nonetheless an interesting and uniquely odd little slasher.