Dec 19, 2012
Featuring Warhol Superstar Mary Woronov (Chelsea Girls, Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills), as well as fellow factory fairies and fag hags Ondine, Candy Darling, Kristen Steen, Tally Brown, Lewis Love, flaming filmmaker Jack Smith (Flaming Creatures, Normal Love), degenerate artist Susan Rothenberg, and John Ford star John Carradine, Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972) aka Night of the Dark Full Moon – a dispiriting proto-slasher horror flick set during the eve of Jesus Christ’s birthday – is not exactly the sort of film you would expect to see with so much talentless star talent. Directed by Woronov’s then-husband Theodore Gershuny (Kemek, Sugar Cookies) and co-produced by tro-maniac Lloyd Kaufman (The Toxic Avenger, Tromeo and Juliet) and a couple other Hanukkah-honoring Hebrews, Silent Night, Bloody Night is the sort of innately antagonistic anti-family affair that is more likely to inspire more suicides and patricides during the holiday season than Christmas caroling and kissing under the mistletoe. Somewhat resembling an old school American home-movie due to its scratchy, grainy, and deteriorating film stock, as well as startlingly cinematically seductive sepia-tone flashback scenes which add to the film's overall ominous aura of domestic dismalness, Silent Night, Bloody Night is a wicked work that feels like it was directed by someone with an alien, adverse, antipathetic feeling towards Christmas and the typical American yokel family that celebrates it during the yuletide season. Featuring completely kosher horror genre clichés like rural-based incest, horrid and hidden familial secrets, peculiar peasant paranoia, small town small-mindedness, anti-Anglo hostility, and intrinsic distrust of all things traditional white Christian America, Silent Night, Bloody Night was a relatively ‘revolutionary’ horror films for its time, predating (although released in 1972, the film finished shooting in 1970) Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left (1972), Bob Clark’s Black Christmas (1974), The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978), Friday the 13th (1980), and countless other related works, but that does not necessarily mean it’s a superior work, just an overlooked one (relatively, speaking of course!) As amateurishly assembled as it is thematically aberrant, Silent Night, Bloody Night is a Christ Mass flick for Christ-Killers, Warhol factory addicts, and those seasonally sadistic spiritually stagnant individuals who are more naughty than nice.
Aside from all the Hollywood and mainstream media propaganda regarding slavery among a marginal and mostly wealthy minority of men mainly of English, Irish, and Jewish descent, few films have depicted the maniac and mongrealized microcosm that is the a good portion of the United States population; a citizenry descended from criminals, outcasts, political and religious fanatics, and savages and barbarians. In short, a nation of people so desperate in their life of misery and squalor that they were willing to risk everything, including their nationality, culture, customs, familiarity, extended family, and even their lives, in a gambling attempt at bettering their lives. Whether intentional on the director’s part or not (I would go with the former), if any horror film allegorically portrays the 'esoteric' genetic history of American and its inhabitants in an effective manner, albeit in a fiercely fictionalized and absurdly ridiculous manner, it is Silent Night, Bloody Night; a work where the most ostracized of social outcasts, mental patients, escape from the loony bin and make up the entire populous of a small town. Centering around the dark and tragic history of a small Massachusetts town (although filmed on location in the Hebraic haven of Long Island, New York), Silent Night, Bloody Night begins with the story of a once prestigious patriarch named Wilfred Butler (Philip Bruns) who returns to his majestic maniac mansion, which had been turned into an institution for the criminally insane, on one fateful and ultimately fiery Christmas Eve where he is set on fire and burned alive on that very same night. Flash forward to the present where the manor, now uninhabited but with all the original family's nicknacks and whatnot adorning the walls, is now in the hands of Wilfred Butler’s grandson Jeffrey (James Patterson), who inherited the house via his grandfather’s will and now wants to sell it, but the suspicious locals, including the mayor and sheriff, seem rather overprotective of the house. The mayor’s daughter Diane Adams (Mary Woronov) narrates the story and the doomful day inheritor Jeffrey and an escaped serial killer come to the Butler mansion just in time for Christmas. As all the characters in Silent Night, Bloody Night find out, the murderous lunatic is out to celebrate a venomous and violent “season of vengeance,” with a slick big shot lawyer and his exotic European wife being the first victims.
“That’s what usually happens in America” says the beauteous wife to her lawyer husband when he remarks that no one seems to remember what the “monument” (i.e. old family photos, antiques, furniture, etc.) in the Butler mansion is for. Indeed, Silent Night, Bloody Night is just a fictional version of so many forgotten tales of dubious founding fathers and the curious origins of everyday citizens. Although the locals of the town claim to be mostly the descendents of people who came to the town during the depression, their origins are much more ominous with their history of settling being more unsettling. While surely an uneven film that is somewhat slow to pick up pace, Silent Night, Bloody Night proves to be a dirty diamond in the rough among the sea of slasher sewage, especially when it comes to the film’s last 30 minutes where the morbid mystery of the mad manor is revealed to the audience via the narrated writings of Wilfred Butler and delightfully deteriorated sepia-tone footage that reveal the macabre and monstrous history of the town and its inhabitants. This sleazy yet strikingly stylized scene probably could be described as a “Night of the wanton Warhol Superstars” as this is when most of the factory burnouts make their appearance with Candy Darling – who despite having a penis, is easily the most beautiful “woman” in the film, thus making the seedy cinematic work hardly of interest to the oh-so many horror fans looking for some cheap carnal thrills – being the most visible. Ultimately, both Christmas and Warhol’s weirdos are only incidental to the story of Silent Night, Bloody Night, but these seemingly discordant ingredients also make the film worth seeing. Indeed, by no means a masterpiece in any traditional sense of the word, Silent Night, Bloody Night is, at best, a neglected proto-slasher flick and a curious cult item and, at worst, a miserable money-motivated propaganda film assembled by a conglomerate of hostile entities whose artistic ingenuity is no greater than their love of Christmas. More gritty than Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), more gruesome than Christmas Evil (1980), and featuring a more marvelous mythos than Black Christmas (1974), Silent Night, Bloody Night is one of few remotely redeeming slasher flicks that is not overblown nor overrated. After all, how many other no-budget slasher flicks feature an arthouse tranny that has starred in Paul Morrissey and Werner Schroeter films and a back-story that is quasi-Lovecraftian in its essence regarding tainted towns and bloodlines. Just don't watch Silent Night, Bloody Night after just realizing that you're significant other kissed someone else under the mistletoe, as you might find yourself intentionally overdosing on your alcoholic eggnog.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 9:33 PM
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