"You'll scream till dawn!"
(back of video blurb): choice dialogue:
"Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, a creature was stirring... It promises to be an exciting holiday for the five young girls, boarders at the exclusive Calvin Finishing School. They have just drugged their housemother and smuggled in their boyfriends. A Christmas vacation frolic awaits. That is, until night falls. During the party-filled night, members of this fun-loving clan disappear one by one. In a series of grisly scenes, a mysterious, masquerading, and mad Santa Claus hacks away at their ranks. The abscence of their missing friends is overlooked at the next days picnic until one of the girls stumbles across Ralph Kramer. Someone has taken an axe to his head. The police are notified and everyone is confined indoors. But with the coming of night, the bloodbath continues. The murderer's victims meet their gory deaths as the maniac carries out his horrifying handiwork. The final hair raising chase scene, filled with suspense and chilling twists will leave you shivering for many nights to come." ...(courtesy of Kit Lively)
Who needs drugs when you can simulate the effects of a bad trip by just slipping this hunk of festive cheese into your VCR?...
TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT kicks off with a vaseline tinted prologue- "Calvin Finishing School for Girls... Christmas Vacation... 2 years ago"- a group of babbling sorority sisters chase another girl through the dorm halls, past suitably garish Christmas decorations. One of them is carrying an axe and sporting a billowing white beard. "Chop her head off!"- screams a particularly excitable filly. It’s crystal clear this is one of those darned pranks so popular in 80’s teen slashers. Crystal clear that is to all except the intended ‘victim’, who backs away, when finally cornered, and falls to her death from the landing.... Oh dear, someone’s goin’ to have to pay for that prank gone bad- mark my words!.... Sure enough the film propels itself to the ‘present’- the second anniversary of the tragedy. The school is winding up for the holidays and most of the students go on their merry way- that is, apart from a fresh gaggle of girls who are staying at the school. The same school where that girl fell to her death two years ago.... (The omens aren’t good).... The group that stayed behind consist of ne'er-do-well nymphs that just want to p-a-r-t-y, so much so that they’ve arranged for a load of college boys to be flown in (!). All of them are bouncy with anticipation, apart from the meek girl with her hair in bunches- the requisite virgin, Nancy. Another tried and trusted cliché rears its head in the "sex freak", a slapperesque English girl with more than toasted muffins on her mind! One of the other girls tells her to "Shove it!", to which she purrs- "Any particular place daaaarling?"... (You kinda know she isn’t long for this world) ... The only obstacle to their plans of festive debauchery is the presence of kindly Mrs Jensen- the house cook (‘cranberry jello surprise’ being a speciality), who is supervising the girls whilst the house mother- Mrs Calvin, is away. They aim to knock her out with drugged milk- which Nancy is cajoled into taking to her. The only other potential problem being the kooky gardener Ralph, who has a habit of wandering around the dorms clutching a pair of shears- (he surprises one of the girls in her room, telling her he has strict instructions to tend to the house plants- "God put ‘em here to give us pleasure", he mutters). When not indulging in pot plant topiary with his trusty shears, he takes to doom-saying, singling out the bookish virgin- "I want you to be safe Nancy- there’s e-v-i-l here!". He might be right. Somebody, dressed as Santa Claus, is prowling the grounds- an axe swinging at their side.... And lets face it you don’t have to be Einstein to guess where this one is going .... The boys arrive at the school and the ‘partying’ commences- which curiously consists of one of them singing out-of-tune folk songs as everyone else gathers round, snuggling under the light of the Christmas tree. "That was beautiful", gushes one of the girls as he finally stops his nasal whine... ( I thought I was watching a horror movie, not a John Denver concert!) ... Finally, as the couples pair up and wander into the night, Santa starts-a-slaying- his sack of sorrow full of sharp implements. "It sure doesn’t feel much like Christmas", muses Nancy as her friends are turned to mince-meat, during a rash of festive Ho-ho-homicides....
Words can only begin to describe just how deliciously bad TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT is- (dig that punning title!). It was directed by none other than David Hess- best known for his portrayals as bug eyed villains in films including Wes Craven’s LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) and Ruggero Deodato’s HOUSE BY THE EDGE OF THE PARK (1981). Quite how he and script writer Alex Rebar (star of THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN (1977)), came up with this turkey (and I mean that pun in a caring, sharing, topical kinda way), I have no idea- but I guess copius alcohol may have been involved!
In a sub-genre certainly not shy of clichés Hess’ film just about manages to include them all- and fluffs nearly every single one of them. By way of illustration, and in a jaw-droppingly banal moment near the end of the film, one of the surviving girls squeals the quasi-legend, "We’re going to die... We’re all going to DIE!"; to which the surviving male -the nerdy new ex-virgin, replies by slapping her face and barking "PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER!". It also appears that Hess just clear forgot to film some of the movie, either that or the partying excesses carried on in the editing booth. Unfortunately the William Burroughs ‘cut-up’ method proved unsuccessful when applied to a movie that, one would assume, was attempting to generate at least a little bit of tension. There is one scene where an individual approaches a balcony; until they are about six feet away. The next shot is them lying dead or unconscious on the floor below! The film is also somewhat hindered by an eccentric, but generally unappealing cast- you want them to die...and quickly! And to cap it all TO ALL A GOODNIGHT features one of the most ridiculous double twist endings ever committed to film; accompanied, bizzarely enough, by a doolally sorority sister shaking her booty like a ginger Kate Bush- trust me, it has to be seen to be believed!
Plus points (and there are a few), include enough wigged out cheese to make you go boss eyed with dairy delirium- yes, that really is a Wonderwoman poster on that girl’s wall and yes, that girl really is dancing around her bedroom in a leotard, holding aloft a tray of vol-au-vents! The dreadful dialogue also pays some dividends, with some great unintentional laughs. There is also a seriously high bodycount- 15 in all, where fx wizard-to-be Mark Shostrum provides some juicy shocks- not least of all an impressively nasty axe to the forehead gag. Unfortunately he isn’t helped by Hess’ minimalist use of lighting; i.e. he hardly uses any, and an obvious lack of funds. It is this lack of dollars for the red stuff which dulls a double death scene which is cheesy enough as it is, but could have been up there with the greats if it had been done right... Two dim-witted teens stare blankly, and at close quarters, at the propeller blades of the boys plane; trying to figure why the heck their ticket to safety won’t kick into life. Unfortunately for them, they notice too late that psychotic Santa is steaming up the cockpit. A flick of the switch and they disappear in a cloud of blood; or at least we presume they do as all we get to see is a bucket of offal thrown at the plane’s side!
Hess’ movie may have been the first of the 80’s slashers to be bad taste enough to make Santa a jolly slaughterer- but not the first movie to demonise Santa, check out the segment from the anthology,TALES FROM THE CRYPT (1972), called AND ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE, where Joan Collins is stalked by a maniac dressed as Father Christmas, (it was remade as part of the updated anthology HBO’s TALES FROM THE CRYPT TV series in 1989). The idea of the nightmarish killer Kris Kringle was obviously culled from this Amicus movie, but Hess’ killer has all the presence and panache of a Heffalump on rollerblades, dully plodding around the house without a nod towards building any modicum suspense. This Santa’s saving grace being an impressively varied sack full of goodies; he offs them with axe; cross-bow; rock; knife...
All-in-all TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT is the kind of slasher movie the Surrealists would have made if they had been around in the early 80’s; confounding, nonsensical, by turns grindingly dull and startlingly wiggy. This celluloid attrocity is the kind of movie that would feel more at home in the Betty Ford clinic than on a shelf down your local video store!
BODYCOUNT 15 female:6 / male:9
1) Female teen falls to her death from a balcony
2) Male teen stabbed
3) Female teen stabbed in the chest
4) Female teen has throat slit
5) Male teen has head split open with rock
6) Male teen shot through head with a crossbow
7) Female teen decapitated with axe
8) Male found dead with gaping head wound
9) Male has head split open with axe
10) Male has knife embedded in back
11) Male teen garotted with wire
11 & 13) Male and Female teens dismembered by propellor blades
14) Female falls to her death from a balcony
15) Male shot dead with a crossbow