Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation
And if I die before I wake, thank you.
Year of Release: 1990
Also Known As: Initiation: Silent Night, Deadly Night 4
Running Time: 90 minutes (1:30)
Director: Brian Yuzna
Neith Hunter ... Kim Levitt
Maud Adams ... Fima
Tommy Hinkley ... Hank
Clint Howard ... Ricky
Jeanne Bates ... Katherine
Reggie Bannister ... Eli
Allyce Beasley ... Janice
The initiation is a bizarre, horrific ritual, which occurs every time this welcoming committee from hell needs a new member. The evil responsibility belongs to Fima and her demented assistant Ricky. They approach the task with a vengeance. Eternal life, it seems, requires no small sacrifice. Together, they find a young reporter named Kim. She's smart, beautiful, inquisitive, everything but willing to join their unholy club... and no wonder.
Membership lasts an eternity.
And you can imagine the dues.
Silent Night, Deadly Night 4, remindin' us that Christmas is the one magical time of year where you can light yourself on fire an plunge to your death off a six-story apartment complex without seemin' weird.
An speakin' of people who form puddles on the floor, I got a call from Sadie Bonebreak's hysterical other half yesterday, which for those of you who've never hadda deal with Mrs. Sadie when she's gone off the derp end, is basically like gettin' your mornin' coffee all in one gulp an then havin' to wait in line for the bathroom. You're expectin' 'er to tell ya somebody's been involved in a railroad accident or somethin', an then, after 10 minutes of tryna wring information out of 'er, ya find out her Everquest guild disbanded; it's ridiculous.
Anyway, this latest crisis involved Santa's Workshop over at Hammer Time Hardware, an apparently I was the only person on Earth that could help 'er cause nobody else "fit the costume."
"You mean to tell me you can't find an obese, red-nosed Social Security recipient in the land that progress forgot? Try bending over to tie your shoes in the park, you'll have a dozen to choose from when you stand back up," I growled.
"You don't understand - Sadie's playing Santa Claus; it's the..." she tried explainin'.
"Makes sense. Prolly upset the moral majority, but Asa'll have fewer sexual harassment suits with Irv 'the Perv' Knox outta the big chair," I reasoned, before returnin' to the moment an realizin' what she'd been about to ask.
"Oh HELL no - not me. Forget it lady, I'm not playin' Santa's eunuch for anybody," I declared. "Find somebody else for your kinky North Pole cosplay."
"There IS nobody else! I'm... p-playing Mrs. Claus... and t-the... costume w-won't... fit anyone... a-above 5'4"!" she whimpered between gasping sobs.
"You can cry til your mascara makes your shoes squishy! I haven't done any Christmas shoppin', Shankles' gotten 'imself Houdini'd up in a string of garland, an Tetnis said not to stand for long periods of time or else my frostbitten half-toe'll start bleedin' again," I told 'er.
"A-Asa... s-said... t-there's $20 in it... f-for you..." she bawled.
"Oh. Well, that's different - you tell Asa that for $20 he can book me as Elvish Presley an I'll sing 'Blue Christmas' for the little boogers," I said.
What? You can't judge me, I needed the money, an besides - you ever try wipin' your hinder with foolish pride? It ain't good for much.
Course as soon as I got fitted with my authentic Bavarian knee socks an matching pine tree air freshener ensemble, Sadie started laughin' so hard that she hadda grab onto the taxidermied reindeer Asa'd rented from Furry Mountain Stuffing to keep from rollin' down Santa Claus Lane.
"Nice to see you too, Sadie, I see you've dialed your beard back a little for the occasion," I snarked.
"Don't you listen to her, you look great!" Mrs. Sadie squealed; having swung back from the depths of her bipolar depression of two hours prior.
"Now listen, all you hafta do is manage the line and take the kids' picture with Santa once they've told her what they want for Christmas; easy as pie!" Mrs. Sadie assured me, her Xanex having kicked into high gear. "And remember - we're making precious memories these kids will treasure forever - so we want to do everything we can to make sure they have the best Christmas ever!"
The only chance *my* Christmas had of improvin' hinged upon my ability to find someplace high enough from which to dive onto Blitzen's antlers like Linnea Quigley in Silent Night, Deadly Night, but for what it's worth I took Mrs. Sadie's advice seriously an did my best to make this Christmas memorable for the kids.
I do hafta say that Santa Claus an I have serious philosophical differences where it concerns "good behavior," cause any kid who claims to've been good all year is obviously experiencing selective memory with regard to that time they dyed the dog's hair green with lime Kool Aid powder, or ran around the neighborhood playin' Buck Rogers usin' mama's vibrator as a disintegrator ray.
The way I figure it - ALL children are monsters, but to be fair, the behavior of any kid young enough to believe in Santa can still reasonably be attributed to their parents' guidance (or lack thereof), so the fact that all these kids were undoubtedly horrible consumerist mutants didn't mean they still shouldn't have the best holiday possible.
As you can see I was really startin' to get into the spirit of the giving season, an to make sure each kid woke up the next mornin' with somethin' they'd never forget, I came up with a little plan to grease the wheels.
See, when you live in a small town like I do, nothin' stays a secret very long, an when a guy spends as much time hangin' around the Gutter Bowl an the Grime Time as I do, well, you pick up on things.
For instance, little Irma Crankwright *really* wanted one of those new Scabbage Patch dolls that cry uncontrollably from malnutrition caused by bein' born into a trailer park meth family, only her mama wouldn't get it cause it was "too loud" an cause 'er dad works the night shift at Stumpy's Lumber Mill and Rendering Plant. So when she hopped down off Sadie's lap I suggested she ask 'er mom how come she only ever plays video poker at Berenstain Beers when 'er daddy's at work.
Or take Bimmy Wampler - *all* his friends have pellet guns, but his dad won't let 'im have one cause of that time he planted a marble into the side of Rocky Pogue's face with a wrist rocket as he was drivin' by the kid's house. I suggested he have a serious talk with dear-ole-dad about why it is his little sister from down the block thinks Boyd Tibbets is her real daddy, an how come they never do things as a family. I can't imagine there's *any* price those parents won't pay to get outta those conversations.
I tell ya, it feels good to give somethin' back around Christmas time, an once all their happy little faces'd scampered out the door an I'd pants'd Sadie for 'er previous crass commentary, I peeled outta there while she was fumblin' with 'er belt, bolted the door behind me, an settled in with Apollo, Shankles, an Chef Boyardee for my own brand of Christmas cheer.
Ya know what else feels good? Bein' on the other side of the bog of bad Silent Night, Deadly Night movies. Yeah, I said it - Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 1 1/2 (you can call it Part 2 if you want, but I'm still waitin' on 45 more minutes of new footage before I will) is a joke, and repostin' the Garbage Day meme on Facebook another 9000 times ain't gonna change that. Part 3 was even worse if you compare it strictly to the new footage in Part 1 1/2, but then along came Brian Yuzna, Screaming Mad George, Clint Howard, an a coven of Lesbyterian devil worshipers and all the sudden things started comin' back together. This might be Clint's finest performance since he combed his hair up like Eraserhead for The Wraith, but either way all these guys deserve credit for haulin' the franchise outta the sewage lagoon, an to show my appreciation I'm gonna share a few of the things I learned from their direct-to-videopus. First, when your apartment has bugs that're big enough to charge rent to, it's prolly time to just bite the bullet an break your lease. Second, Freud would have a lot to say about a man-hating lady cult whose mythological iconography deals extensively with the COCKroach. An third, once a woman goes Howard, she's fully empowered.
The movie begins with Clint Howard (the 8th actor to play Ricky over the course of 4 flicks) stoppin' his hobo shoppin' cart to grab some fast food he finds layin' in the gutter, only while he's flickin' the ants off his Whatabooger he looks up an sees this flaming woman on the ledge of an apartment complex go spillin' off the roof to 'er death while a young Alicia Keys draws morbid inspiration for a future Top 10 single. Next thing, we're in a Motel 69 where these two journalists (Kim an Hank) are rootin' around on their lunch break, an when they get back to the office Kim starts feelin' a little unappreciated when editor-in-chief Reggie Bannister gives the Barbie-Q Banzai story to Hank an tells her to go do the dishes in the break room. Kim is P.O.'d, so she decides to investigate the burning ma'am on 'er own an ends up in this occult book shop where she hasta scream at Clint for wipin' day-old burger grease on 'er blouse, until Octopussy (Fima) shoos Clint away an gives 'er a book on the sexual practices of Wiccan hippies an invites 'er to a picnic. Kim says she'll try to make it, but that she never eats clams that're attached to someone. Then Kim goes up on the roof an considers jumpin' as a practical alternative to dinner with Hank's folks, while Clint fishes Geena Davis' maggot baby from The Fly outta one of the roof's exhaust vents an squints at it like he's tryna decide whether or not to bread it before he sautees it over a burn barrel.
Then Kim goes to dinner at Hank's parents' house where his bigoted Burt Young/Wallace Shawn composite father tells 'er a woman's place is in the home pickin' a man's yellow underwear up offa the floor an that Judaism is just false Christianity for foreign agitators who refuse to kill themselves slowly with bacon grease like God intended. Now Kim's real hacked off upon realizin' she had sex with a guy who was once housed in said bigot's ballsac, so she goes home to read Fima's book about the Cult of the Polyester Pantsuit until this cockroach the size of a bean bag starts scurryin' around 'er livin' room knockin' over the furniture, an that makes 'er so sick that she hasta go blow mama's hors d'oeuvres into the crapper before passin' out on the bathmat. The next mornin' Kim decides to go to Fima's clam bake in the park an tells the other members of 'er oyster lovin' coven (Katherine an Jane) about how she ain't really on the Cinder-ella suicide story officially an that she's just doin' it to stick it to the patriarchy, only before they can get 'er drunk on wheat grass juice Hank finds 'er an tells 'er she'd better get to work cause Reggie's gettin' more'n more irritable an paranoid about the possibility of comin' under attack from hostile Christmas tree ornaments. Fortunately Hank covers for 'er an Reggie's so relieved to have an extra body around to shield 'im from any skull-seeking missiles that might fly offa the office Spruce that he tells Kim she can work on the Falling Starlet story as long as it doesn't interfere with 'er vacuuming duties. Then Kim goes to Fima's loft to listen to more New Age zen-chi-nirvana bullstuff about how 'er daughter, Lilith, ran off with 'er deadbeat boyfriend an that it was Fima's husband's fault cause all he ever did was watch wrestling in his underpants an take hits of Cheez-Whiz straight offa the can instead of nurturing her delicate flower... or something like that, I was kinda fascinated by Octopussy's visible struggle to hold 'er Swedish accent back at the time, so don't hold me to it.
Anyway, next thing you know Fima spikes Kim's tea with Tannis root an makes 'er eat a stink bug while she's drowsy, an when she wakes up several hours later there're a coupla Asian princesses takin' 'er clothes off while Katherine rubs charcoal cave drawins on 'er torso. Then Clint comes in an drops the sea monkey he fished outta the exhaust vent onto Kim's belly an it squirms up 'er crotch chasm an roots around in 'er there awhile an turns into a 2' cockroach that crawls out 'er mouth an starts makin' a beeline for Joe's Apartment, til Clint chops it in half an dribbles insectoid goo all over 'er face an baptizes 'er in the name of The Applegates. Needless to say these women're either Satanists or cultivators of the finest LSD this side of a Roger Corman movie, only Kim don't know which, so she runs home an overflows the toilet with the newspaper an tries downin' 800 morning after pills at once til Hank holds 'er face to his semi-masculine chest an attempts to smother 'er in his day-old Brut residue/night sweat cocktail. Course this makes Kim hornier'n a nun at the farmer's market an she starts grindin' Hank down to the bone til Clint walks in an starts watchin' Silent Night, Deadly Night III on TV an ruins the mood. Nothin' against Clint mind you, but exposure to Part III has been shown to cause cancer of the imagination in lab rats. An honestly, Clint really just pawn in game of life here - a simple man, just doin' his job, an along comes Hank with a broom threatenin' to Swiffer off his protective layer of epidermal crud. Clint gets fed up with this pretty quickly an bites through Hank's achilles tendon to teach 'im some manners an proceeds to recreate the bedroom door scene from The Shining with a steak knife before finally havin' to stab Hank 27 times so he'll mind his own business.
Then Janice from work comes by an for a second it seems like maybe Kim isn't doomed to live out the rest of 'er life in a Franz Kafka novel, cept all Janice does is scold Clint for spoilin' his dinner an tell Kim to go back to Fima's apartment so they can fix 'er up with an East German shot-putter. It's worse than that though, cause by the time Kim comes around she finds 'erself in a meat freezer that's all lit up red like they're filmin' a sequel to Suspiria, an Fima threatens to tell the story about how she coulda married Roger Moore again if Kim won't have devil sex with Clint. Then Kim has this weird nightmare where she's become Baba Naga an can't walk no more cause she's got a snake's tail, an when she finally snaps out of it an heads over to the bookstore the next day things're real awkward between her an Clint cause she thought they had somethin' but he never called. On the plus side, Fima tells 'er that she's officially a full member of the Witches of Leastdick and eligible for incredible discounts at The Lesbonanza House of Female Empowerment, an that all she hasta do to claim her swag bag is find a suitable male sacrifice by the end of the day so her legs won't spontaneously combust - cause if you wanna be liberated, you gots to be tribulated. Kim's still not sure she wants to put all her eggs in Fima's basket, so she calls the cops over to inspect 'er apartment to find justice for Hank, only Janice went around scrubbin' the place like a tweaker on tax refund day an so the cops just think she got dumped on the streets when the country ran outta mental health care funding. Then Clint starts followin' Kim around cause he's supposed to help 'er kidnap Hank's little brother an sacrifice 'im to the great serpent god Quetzalcotwatl, an she basically makes Clint's life hell until 'er ankles start sparkin' like tinfoil in the microwave an he hasta explain to 'er that she's either gotta get with the program like right now or end up starrin' in Katy Perry's "Firework" video. This's about as far as I can go without givin' away the ending, but I can assure you there's still plenty more flesh eatin' millipedes to come, so you'll prolly wanna track this one down to satisfy the entomological curiosity that's built up inside you.
That Brian Yuzna, what a rascal - went and told the suckers at LIVE that he was gonna make 'em a Silent Night, Deadly Night flick, and next thing you know we've got Rosemary's Baby with leftover goo effects from Society. Initiation is kinda the Halloween III of the series, in that it would probably be remembered more fondly had it not been passed off as a Silent Night sequel. Purists don't really care for it for the same reason they hate Jason Goes to Hell, but unlike the Friday the 13th series, the Silent Night flicks had seen a precipitous drop in quality after the first one, and whether you approve of the new direction or not, I don't think there's any question that Part 4, as a film, is a major improvement over both Parts 2 and 3. I'm assuming the executives at LIVE insisted that both Christmas and the Ricky character were carried over (which if true might possibly be the first instance in history where executive meddling actually helped a movie), but although Yuzna did include both, the Christmas aesthetic is, sadly, very half-hearted. I've got no problem with the plot divergence from sequels past, but I think shooting someplace capable of receiving snow with a little Christmas atmosphere would have been a good compromise/tie-in. That said, Yuzna never really seems to get the respect he deserves as a director; seemingly stuck in the shadow of Stuart Gordon with whom he produced Re-Animator, Dolls, and From Beyond. It probably doesn't help that some of his better films as a director were made in the '90s (which is generally considered to be a lackluster decade for the Horror genre), but based upon his credits you'd think his name would come up more frequently where it concerns important contributions to the genre. As for the reason LIVE allowed the shift away from the Santa Claus killer angle, it's possible that the studio was a little distracted at the time given that their chief executive had been murdered by his sons, Lyle and Erik Menendez, a few months before the flick was greenlit; just spit-balling here, but I suspect there might have been a *little* disarray at the office between Summer 1989 and Winter 1990.
Anyhow, now that I've gone and filled everyone with Christmas cheer, let's see if the awesome combination of Clint Howard and Octopussy can carry this misfit toy to a passing score. The plot, like most of Yuzna's movies, is goddamned weird. Not quite up there with the big boys like Cronenberg, Lynch, and Cohen, but still fully capable of gettin' you banned from all family functions if you bring it up at Christmas dinner. I'm sure there's supposed to be some statement being made about the place of women in society, but damned if I can figure it out since all the men in the movie are chauvinistic assholes and the women are all crazy, evil, or both. The one thing that's really confusing is - why, if this coven blames men for all of society's woes, are all the men at the company Christmas party revealed to be in on the plot to bring Kim into the coven? Shouldn't they want as few women as possible to become man-haters? Or, if the coven has some kinda control over them, why are they allowed to be sexist jackasses for the entire movie up to that point? Shouldn't the witches be plunging stakes through their hearts at a shrine to Jane Fonda or something? Lotta mumbo jumbo goin' on here, and the story kinda falls apart at the end when you get that "everyone's in on it" twist at the end that conflicts so strongly with what we've witnessed up to that point.
The acting is passable, although there're quite a few scenes where Maud Adams is struggling to contain her Swedishness, and apparently, in a movie about witches trying to convert journalists to Paganism by feedin' 'em bugs and threatenin' to light their toes on fire, the character just being from Sweden was too unbelievable so she couldn't just speak with her natural accent. Neith Hunter's delivery gets a bit dicey at times too, but you've gotta consider that whoever took this role had to be willing to get nekkid several times, grind all over Tommy Hinkley, have devil sex with Clint Howard, wear a fleshy mermaid tail, and then have brine shrimp guts dribbled all over her face while being paid scale, so in light of all that I'm gonna cut her some slack. Reggie Bannister's pretty well wasted as the male chauvinist editor, but Clint Howard's great with his mildly miffed performance. All the wall-to-wall weirdness going on seems completely normal to him, and he's trying to do a good job for this coven of evil broads while constantly being met with resistance that his character doesn't understand, all while playing the role with a strange child-like quality made even more hilarious by goofy, adolescent dialog. The scene where Allyce Beasley's character comes to Kim's apartment and discovers Clint has killed Hank is hysterical, as Allyce's scolding is met with the line: "I had to! He hit me first!" In short - Clint saves the day.
Here's who matters and why (less Clint Howard and Reggie Bannister): Neith Hunter (Near Dark, Silent Night Deadly Night 5, Carnosaur, Fright Night Part 2), Tommy Hinkley (Buried Alive 2, Star Trek: Generations, Watchers II, The Terror Within), Richard N. Gladstein (Silent Night Deadly Night 3 & 5), Allyce Beasley (Wishcraft, Rumpelstiltskin, The Tommyknockers), Glen Chin (Godzilla 2000, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, Jekyll and Hyde... Together Again), Maud Adams (Rollerball, Tattoo, La mort mysterieuse de Nina Chereau), Jeanne Bates (Eraserhead, Mullholland Drive, The Phantom 1943, Mom, The Stranger 1973, The Strangler, Back from the Dead, The Soul of a Monster, The Return of the Vampire), Ben Slack (Society, The Shadow Men, Piranha 1995), Conan Yuzna (Silent Night Deadly Night 5, Society), Marjean Holden (Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Jurassic Park 2, Ghost of Mars, Babylon 5: Call to Arms, Vampires 1998, The Philadelphia Experiment II, Nemesis 1992, Dr. Caligari 1989, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure), David Wells (Starman, Demon Hunter 2005, Starship Troopers 2, Terminal Error, Contagion 2002, Progeny, Buried Alive II, Future Shock, The Philadelphia Experiment II, Return of the Living Dead III, The Guyver, Society), Dani Klein (Trancers II), Ron Martin (Quarantine 1989), Samantha Scully (Silent Night Deadly Night 3, Bloodsuckers 1997).
The mainstream defectors are as follows: Allyce Beasley (the voice of Miss Alordayne on Recess, Agnes DiPesto on Moonlighting), Maud Adams (Octopussy in Octopussy, Andrea Anders in The Man with the Golden Gun), Jeanne Bates (Nurse Wills on Ben Casey).
The special effects are where the flick really shines, as the illustrious Screaming Mad George manages to pull off another amazing collection of monstrosities on a direct-to-video budget. The bulk of the creature effects consist of differing varieties of creepy crawly insects of varying sizes, and often equipped with believable, well executed animatronics - so if you can get a woman to sit through this flick with you, at least consider marryin' her. Additionally, we've got the serpentine tail, hanging sides of beef in a meat freezer, and the bendy hands that contort and entangle in the same style as the effects from Society (both effects are good, though there's one shot where you can see the actress' real hands holding the fake ones), and an excellent rooftop dive while the stuntman was on fire. The only weak effect is probably the least important, and that's the body of the burnt roof jumper as it lays stationary on the sidewalk, which is a less than impressive half-dummy (its legs had been burnt off as a plot point, which is likely the reason why it had to be a dummy rather than a human stand-in), but by-and-large, another great effort by Screaming Mad George and his crew.
The shooting locations are alright, but suffer from a complete lack of Christmas atmosphere as a result of having been shot off-season in L.A. Admittedly, Christmas happens in a lot of places without snow, so from a technical stand point it's not fair to ding it for that - however, the lack of exterior festive decorations are a real bummer. Bottom line - whether it's by design or not, it does suck some of the fun out of the movie. The interiors are adequate but boring, and in general none of the locations add anything to the flick's atmosphere. The soundtrack was composed by Richard Band, and with the exception of the opening/closing track, it bears a very strong resemblance to Puppet Master, which he'd composed the year before. Not nearly as catchy, but his fingerprint is unmistakable, and while the scoring as a whole is largely generic and unmemorable, it's adequate. Overall, I think Silent Night, Deadly Night 4 is a little greater than the sum of its parts, and that's fortunate, because on a technical level it's essentially an F+. That said, if you're expecting a guy in a red suit rampaging through the suburbs, you're not gonna like this one. However, it's textbook Yuzna, so if you liked Society, Return of the Living Dead III, or Progeny, you'll probably find something to like about this one too.