PHANTOM OF DEATH - unrated US Vidmark release
1 and a half stars   

directed by: Lee Harry
starring: Eric Freeman, James Newman, Elizabeth Kaitan, Jean Miller, Darrel Guilbeau, Brian Michael Henley, Corrine Gelfar, Michael Combatti, Kenneth Brian Jones, Ron Morrarty, Frank Novak, Randy Baughman, Joanne White

(back of video blurb):

"The door of the mental hospital opens, releasing Ricky from its confines. He takes with him the terrifying memory of his brother Billy's death and the burning image of Mother Superior - the powerful figure that bought about his brother's demise.

For Ricky, starting a new life means avenging his brother's death. By whatever means necessary, whether it be the cutting edge of a shiny steel knife blade, or the electrifying charge of a set of battery cables, Ricky is set in this blind journey of revenge leading ultimately to Mother Superior.

As Mother Superior prays in the dark, we suggest she say an extra prayer for herself, because not even her faith will be enough to stop Ricky. But prayers will do little for her in the silent part of this night!"

choice dialogue:

"We've got a problem, sister. He walked outta here - and it's Christmas Eve!"

- a cop and nun join forces to prevent another Yuletide bloodbath.

slash with panache?

There's nothing more frustrating than, on Christmas Day, getting all overexcited at the prospect of opening the alluring package you've been gingerly fingering the last couple of weeks only to find that, despite all that spangly wrapping, lurking underneath is something you've already got. It's at times like these you can identify with Divine's portrayal of the teenage Dawn Davenport, in John Water's FEMALE TROUBLE, who on finding that her parents hadn't bought her the highly anticipated cha-cha heels pulls down the Christmas tree on-top of her aghast mother ("Not on Christmas, Dawn. Not on Christmas!"), during a spectacularly petulant tantrum. Now, my reaction to watching the sequel to trash classic and all-round festive cause-celebre, SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT, wasn't quite so over the top but had the decorations been up I could have definitely stamped on a stray bauble in frustration.

Ricky now and then - in flashback ...

SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 is an exercise in economical film making; it's the Eberneezer Scrooge of slasher sequels. Now, if you think back to the end of the first film where poor Billy - unhinged by the sight of seeing his parents brutally murdered by a hoodlum dressed as Santa - now all grown up, had gone back to the orphanage run by the uber-Joan Crawford of Mother Superiors, to exact his revenge on the woman who had unwittingly taken his latent psychosis and turned him into a demented festive vigilante in red and white fur trim; he, in a cruel twist of fate, shot dead before offing the old witch, by a cop, in full sight of his kid brother, Ricky, who utters the word "naughty!" to the camera (his vanquished brother's loony battle cry taken from the "Naughty or nice?" question asked of excited children by saner Chris Kringles), in the requisite sequel friendly ending.

Now, it's little surprise then to find that the sequel opens with an adult Ricky, who has seemingly inherited his brother's psychosis, interned in the nuthose; now being interviewed by Doc No.13, Dr. Bloom, who tries to ingratiate himself by saying to the flared nosed patient, "You can call me Henry - or, if you feel more comfortable, Doc", to which Ricky tosses off a "Fuck you, Doc!". The guy playing Ricky clearly relishes the chance to put in a performance unhindered by any modicum of restraint (firmly 50% cheese and 50% ham) and continues to taunt his interviewer, "What makes you think you can get into my head, like every other pencil necked piece of shit?". Actually, it's remarkably easy for him to 'get into' Ricky's head as this brief preamble is merely a thinly veiled device as the Doc questions him about his past the clips from the first film begin to run thick and fast; in-fact the first 45 minutes of the sequel is largely made of clips from the first film. To make matters worse this R-rated feature (was there ever an Un-rated release of this flick?) delivers a Stars-on-45 retread of the first flick's greatest hits, but is minus the level of gore on show in the uncut version (kind of like sucking sherbert-lemons and finding out that they're hollow). Ricky's detailed recalling of all the events that happened way back when is rendered pretty ridiculous by the fact that he wasn't even a year old when his parents were killed (something pointed out by the incredulous Doc), and wasn't actually there to witness any of his brother's murderous deeds, which, of course, doesn't stop him getting mileage out of such dialogue as: "On Christmas Day it all went straight to hell!", whilst rolling his eyes and gnashing his teeth (the trashy effect of which is heightened by the regular rude intrusion of a bobbing microphone into shot from overhead).

The three faces of Ricky

Finally we get to the climactic confrontation in the first film and they run out of footage to recycle, forcing them to actually address what's happened to Ricky since his brother's death. A twelve year old Ricky is fostered out to a nice Jewish couple (no Christmas' to worry about, you see), but has a "seizure" when he sees two nuns walk up a shopping street (in sinister slo-mo!), and then comes over all funny when he catches sight of some red material (Santa association, Sigmund). Despite this it seems he has a relatively normal adolescence until, when he's a young man (played by a different actor than the one in the sanitarium, which is odd as they seem to be roughly the same age); he flips when he sees a woman nearly raped by her boyfriend (flashbacks to his Mother's demise), and after seeing a flash of red knocks the man over with a van and reverses over him repeatedly (causing the the girlfriend to run up to him and, in a somewhat unlikely touch, gush her heartfelt thankyou's for grinding her ex-beau into the dirt). The coincidental flashes of the colour red continue to cause young Ricky to flip and, in the film's most memorable death scene he impales a sleazy loan shark on an umbrella, only for it to flap open bloodily behind him.

Ricky goes mental!

The film trundles on to the events that cause Ricky to end up in the nuthouse, pausing briefly for a touching romantic interlude when he gets jiggy with a cheesy blonde named Jennifer (the sax solo is deafening when she makes her entrance), who trills: "I really like you, Ricky - you're different!". Of course this can't last and she makes a big mistake taking him to see a film "... about this guy who dresses up like Santa Claus and kills people!" (actually the first film, in an early post-modern touch), where she meets an ex-boyfriend called Chip, who threatens to expose the fact that she weren't no virgin when she met Ricky. This all comes to a head in a mega-cheesy confrontation with Chip where Ricky's previous overacting pales into insignificance as wolfs down the scenery with such cheddary dialogue as "You stood me up, you cheated on me - *and* you ruined my best sweater!". After some car-part originated ultra-violence Ricky's mind snaps like a fragile wish bone and he wanders round a suburban neighbourhood taking pot shots at gormless looking extras, whilst remaining admirably bug-eyed and maniacally laughing like a loon on a diet of dairylea. This campaign of wanton violence only comes to an end when the police corner him and, deciding that he can't go on (I know the feeling) he turns the gun on himself only to find that he's used all the bullets. So it's into the loony bin for our Ricky, and fast forward to the present day ...

And then there were nun!

Wouldn't you know it, but Ricky knocks off the long suffering Dr Bloom and makes his escape; his intention only too clear - to finish off what Billy had started: the chop choppity-chop of bad, mad old Mother Superior (played it seems by a different actress than who was in the first film, and who, for some strange reason, has a horribly scarred face). This all leads to some more prime dialogue as some renta-cop gravely intones to a renta-nun: "We've got a problem, sister. He walked out of here - and it's Christmas Eve!".

Without 'spoiling' the outcome of the film let's just say that things move in exactly the kind of direction you'd think they would with Ricky netting a handy axe and Santa costume, and it all heads towards a festively high camp showdown and extended chase scenes between our psychotic Kris Kringle and the, now wheelchaired (but no slouch), evil Mother Superior (which should be much more fun than it actually is).

Whilst SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 isn't a complete turkey you'll need an iron constitution to sit through the interminable rehash of the first film (which would be even worse if you saw them on a double-bill, God forbid!); when it gets going properly it's often a lot of bad fun, but it's full of many missed opportunities. It's clear the makers had their tongues firmly planted in their cheeks (not least of all for listing the film as having four - yes, count 'em - *four* people responsible for the story), and this compliments the gleefully mean-spiriteded Christmas japes but a clearly, prohibitively scant budget and uneven pacing add up to a less than totally satisfying serving of tinsel decorated cheese, despite the deceptively high bodycount.


BODYCOUNT 26   bodycount!   female:6 / male:20

       1) Male shot in head (flashback)
       2) Female has neck slit with knife (flashback)
       3) Male strangled with fairy lights (flashback)
       4) Female cut open with boxcutter (flashback)
       5) Male whacked in the head with pick-axe (flashback)
       6) Female shot through with arrow (flashback)
       7) Female impaled on deer antlers (flashback)
       8) Male thrown through window (flashback)
       9) Male decapitated with axe (flashback)
      10) Male whacked in chest with axe (flashback)
      11) Male shot repeatedly in back (flashback)
      12) Male dies (unseen)
      13) Male run over repeatedly with car
      14) Male impaled on umbrella (!)
      15) Male killed (off-screen)
      16) Male killed (method unseen)
      17) Male electrocuted (jump-leads to the mouth)
      18) Female strangled with car antennae
      19) Male shot in the forehead with gun
      20) Male shot
      21) Male shot
      22) Male shot and blown up in car
      23) Male strangled with tape
      24) Male killed (off-screen)
      25) Male killed (off-screen)
      26) Female found decapitated