Killer Santa Horror Film Retro Evaluation

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A man with a bloody forehead and his face frozen in a scream

Screenshot: Intercontinental Releasing Company

Today there’s no scarcity of Christmas-themed horror movies, particularly ones that characteristic a killer dressed as Santa Claus. However within the slasher style’s earliest days, that hadn’t but turn into a trope—1972’s Tales From the Crypt gave us a red-suited maniac, to call possibly essentially the most notable early instance, and 1980’s To All a Goodnight picks up what that anthology put down, whereas additionally borrowing generously from what’s nonetheless the best Christmas slasher of all time, 1974’s Black Christmas.

In all probability the most important trivia level that To All a Goodnight brings into the world, nonetheless, is that it’s the primary and solely narrative characteristic directed by David Hess, a horror icon due to his creepy star flip in Wes Craven’s 1972 Final Home on the Left. Launched the identical 12 months as Friday the thirteenth, which raised the bar for splatter due to Tom Savini’s ugly particular results, To All a Goodnight feels comparatively cold regardless of its respectable physique depend. Lots of its kills occur offscreen, little doubt a results of what was clearly a bare-bones manufacturing finances—additionally doubtless why all the film takes place in a single setting, and the appearing is so uneven.

Horror followers will acknowledge all of the anticipated beats in place for its script (author Alex Rebar’s different efforts embrace 1980’s Terror on Tour, important viewing to your subsequent “rock n’ slaughter” theme night time)—however once more, 1980 was comparatively early for a slasher movie, so maybe audiences on the time may not have anticipated every thing that occurs like up to date viewers will. Or possibly they did; To All a Goodnight is hardly delicate, although it does whip out a twist on the finish that’s each utterly unearned and simply wild sufficient to work.

After a prologue that units up the killer’s motivation—it’s the usual: revenge after a prank gone wrong—inside actually the primary minute, we soar forward two years, the place college students on the “Calvin Ending Faculty for Women” (a fancypants California boarding faculty, conveniently located in the course of nowhere, the place all of the high-school women appear to be they’re about to graduate school) are flouncing off for Christmas trip. The youngsters are precisely dubbed “wealthy little pompous bitches” by one of many few grownup characters available, who embrace the resident housemother, Mrs. Jensen (Kiva Lawrence), and the creepy groundskeeper, Ralph (West Buchanan). The killer begins to strike as soon as the few college students who’re sticking round over the break launch into what they’re anticipating might be a nonstop social gathering with boys who fly a non-public aircraft in for the event. Are the boys additionally wealthy little pompous bitches? After all they’re!

Image for article titled To All a Goodnight Is Maybe the Most Under-the-Radar Christmas Slasher

Screenshot: Intercontinental Releasing Company

There’s actually just one character whose dying you aren’t actively rooting for, and that’s the baby-voiced Nancy (Jennifer Runyon, who made her debut in To All a Goodnight however loved cheap success after, together with taking part in the beautiful scholar Invoice Murray pretends is psychic in Ghostbusters). Nancy is keen on kittens and pigtails, and sips on milk as a substitute of beer. She’s so glowingly harmless that Ralph, whose title may as nicely be “Crimson Herring,” takes a shine to her, one thing that will doubtless freak her out even when he didn’t roam the dorm toting a pair of backyard shears and saying issues like “There’s evil right here, I can really feel it. The satan’s right here!” (Because it occurs, although they had been each launched in 1980, To All a Goodnight got here out a number of months earlier than Friday the thirteenth, which additionally encompasses a “Loopy Ralph” character who tries to warn everybody of their imminent doom, however is so demented no one pays him any thoughts.)

Even semi-awake viewers will simply clock the killer’s id by strategy of elimination—who’s curiously absent at any time when the ho-ho-homicidal fiend seems?—however To All a Goodnight does handle to go away some treats wrapped below the tree. One is the twist on the finish, which reminds us that everybody seems the identical in a Santa swimsuit, and likewise that Santa fits are simple to return by simply in case, say, you wanted a couple of individual to be operating round in disguise.

There are additionally some bizarre particulars sprinkled amid the in any other case apparent plot. These embrace oddities like an offended signal posted on the dorm fridge scolding any would-be meals thieves (the digital camera lingers on it greater than as soon as, for some purpose); weird appearing decisions (as when a cop character delivers a zoned-out monologue whereas gripping Nancy by the chin); and stuff that you simply’d count on from any ‘80s-era teen-centric film, together with excessive horniness even when the children know there’s a killer of their midst. Additionally, Deep Throat star Harry Reems has a humorous cameo because the personal aircraft pilot. The characters could also be genuinely obnoxious, the gore disappointing, and the dialogue less-than-memorable, however To All a Goodnight captures a second in time when Christmas slashers hadn’t been achieved to dying—and helped pave the way in which for future classics like Silent Evening, Lethal Evening, which insured that variations on psychotic Santas would turn into a heartwarming vacation custom.

To All a Goodnight is now streaming on Prime Video.

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