Thursday, December 30, 2010

TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT (1980) - the lost pseudo-gem of the Santa slasher genre, hidden beneath an onslaught of disorientating film exposures

here's part 1 of the movie, posted by some wondrous soul on the Youtube gizmo

To All a Good Night could be seen as the “other” Santa Claus slasher, a precursor to the festive delights of Silent Night, Deadly Night (with all apologies to Christmas Evil, which is more of a “real“ movie). Unfortunately, the Christmas aspect is somewhat incidental. For one, the movie involves a group of young people on Christmas vacation, but takes place somewhere in Los Angeles. Sunshine and palm trees doesn’t exactly evoke the spirit of the holidays. Also, the killer is more or less an average psycho schmuck wearing St. Nick attire. There are no cool scenes where the big red fat ass throws a hand grenade down a chimney, or dismembers a naked girl with a razor sharp sled. It just doesn’t contain the “Christmas season gone very wrong” aesthetic the way Silent Night, Deadly Night does, and hence the film managed to skirt notoriety and outrage, and, resultingly, ticket sales.

We begin with a young girl during a vaseline smeared flashback (she isn’t smeared in vaseline, the camera lens is). She is being chased by her finishing school classmates over the side of a balcony, and her cranium structure gets irrecoverably rearranged on the concrete below. This will no doubt fuel a series of revenge murders when we flash forward to Christmas time two years later. Throughout, we bear witness to the unmistakable auteurist stamp of its creator, the indomitable David Hess, star of Last House on the Left and similar sicko epics. This amounts to cutting thick slices of hamfistedness (like repeatedly cutting away to the killer’s knife and gloves, or to a photo of the dead girl), mismatched/inadequate lighting, and a score that sounds like someone molesting a cello with a cheese grater while a dying robot weeps in the background. This was his only directorial effort, so maybe he was less an auteur than a flat out amateur. I guess we’ll never really know.

Our final girlisms rest capably in the sympathetic, sweet virginal hands of Jennifer Runyon. I myself remember her from Charles in Charge, as she repeatedly diverted my attention (with some help from Nicole Eggert) from the double A toolness of Willie Aames. She sits around and mopes while the other girls get frisky with the opposite sex. Intriguingly, the token nerd is seduced by the token slut in the bikini, and this results in actual sex sans a humiliating rebuttal. Me thinks she may be less a token slut that is selfish, conniving, and evil, but rather, an honest soul who wants to screw whoever happens to be around. God bless her.

Occasionally, a crazy soothsayer (the gardener Ralph) pops up and lectures the young people on the presence of evil, presented in plant metaphors, as opposed to Friday the 13th, where a soothsayer named Ralph makes no such allusion to soil and seed, and comes with the more direct “you’re all gonna fucking die!”. St. Nick ends up obliging his rants, showcasing what a truly ruthless fatty he is. My favorite murders are when he sticks a victim’s severed head on a shower nozzle for a soon-to-be victim to find, and when he sneaks into the small getaway plane that doesn’t fly (eschewing the stereotypical getaway van that never starts) and turns on the rutter while two victims are trying to fix it, thereby slicing them into Vic Morrow sized nuggets.

The final showdown is the true golden highlight of the film. Leah, the nutty ballerina, at some point completes a descent into batshit Kate Bush territory, and just starts dancing and singing as if no one else is around (let alone a dude in a Santa suit running around killing people). Santa is revealed to be the mother of the dead girl from the beginning (surprise), and she chases Jennifer Runyon around for a while, with Leah twirling and warbling in the background. Eventually, Jennifer pushes the killer over the balcony, and the mother ends up just like the daughter, although we never actually see the fall. We see her get pushed, and the film suddenly cuts to her spread out on concrete. I guess they couldn’t find a stunt double for an aging female Santa.

As if all of this wasn’t enough, Jennifer is then attacked by another killer Santa, this time the useless pork chief from earlier in the film, who happens to be the dead girl’s father. At least when a police officer is wearing his standard uniform, you can spot captain piggie from a distance and haul ass for the proverbial hills. Then again, at the rate this is going, it's also probably safe to assume malfeasance of some sort when confronted with a fella wearing a Santa costume. Anyway, the nerd shows up, grabs a crossbow, and bags himself a fat fuck fairy-tale/pork-trough hybrid asshole, and then runs off with Jennifer. I guess he would now have to be officially classified as an ultra cool super stud, assuming he dumps the glasses and gets contacts. Meanwhile, crazy Leah continues her melodic moans, eventually pirouetting her way out on to the balcony for her big freeze frame finale; a walking non-sequitur amidst a pretty righteous dual Santa slaughter.


  1. It's too bad that Jennifer Runyon is no longer acting these days. She was fun.

  2. @Morgan
    I think CARNOSAUR was her last movie, so yeah. I actually had a big crush on her when I was like 8 or 9, mostly because of CHARLES IN CHARGE, and slightly because of her scene in GHOSTBUSTERS. The only other movies I remember her from are UP THE CREEK and THE IN-CROWD. The latter is essentially HAIRSPRAY played straight, but it's a fun movie all the same. It's now on Netflix instant watch (I gots it on VHS yo), so you might want to check it out. It may be up your alley :)

  3. I love this cheesy, rough, underrated Santa slasher and prefer it to Silent Night, Deadly Night. The synthesizer score is really weird but awesome. Ahead of its time in a lot of ways, especially the high body count.

  4. @Ray
    Yea, the score is pretty weird, and the ballerina's singing at the end is even weirder accompaniment. Thanks for commenting!