DVD Review: SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT (1973) [Film Chest]

silent-night-bloody-night-bloody-faceSpoiler Alert Defined: As I do not believe in spoiling anyone’s good time, my film reviews reveal nothing that cannot already be seen by viewing the motion picture’s original theatrical trailer.

 

“Come on. No more side trips. Let’s go out there…”

–Jeffrey Butler

 

Release Dates:

1973

12/10/13 (DVD)

 

The Gist:

A “slasher” film is a subgenre of a horror film, and apparently not a word in MS Word. A slasher can include but not be limited to the following: an unnamed, often not shown, psychopath stalker who habitually murders slash slashes helpless victims in a ritualistic and consecutive fashion. The murders are often clever and innovative ways of doing so and on the whim, usually an act that would take an everyday person ‘weeks’ of planning. The tools are typically found objects and sometimes-actual tools. Other factors often come into play… seclusion and isolation, sex and drugs, a twisty whodunnit ending, POV cams where it appears as if you are seeing through the killer’s eyes. At times, there is reason behind the madness, but more frequently, it’s just because you slept in the wrong house.

SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT is a terribly unknown film in that subgenre, but in my opinion, actually pioneered it. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m aware there are a few others that came first. Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, Francis Ford Coppola’s Dementia 13, Mario Bava’s Twitch of the Death Nerve/Bay of Blood. Yet no film so elegantly fused together all the characteristics of the films above, added more, and secured it as a staple for all slasher films to follow. Bob Clark’s Black Christmas would rip off SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT a year later. John Carpenter’s Halloween would rip off Black Christmas a few years after that.

The writer/director, Theodore Gershuny, was an unknown at the time and still holds that title, even to most educated connoisseurs of the subgenre today. This would be his second film and last to venture into the horror film genre in general, though he later would write and direct a decent amount horror TV, with that of Tales From The Darkside episodes and a few of Monsters.

A film that is still banned in Iceland to this day, don’t ask me why, SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT begins with Diane Adams’ (Mary Woronov) voiceover, recounting the town’s sordid history while having a stroll through the woods. We find out early that she has survived the series of horrifying events, a new trick at the time, and has appeared today only to watch the infamous death house be bulldozed to its foundation. Now we begin the flashback that is the movie.

Jeffery Butler (James Patterson) inherits a house from his grandfather, who died in a fire, only under the stipulation that he must never sell it. This lasts a decade until he needs the cash and comes home to a house he never stepped a foot in. The house goes up on the market, then the killing starts. Those who know of the house’s best-kept secrets are savagely slaughtered, one by one, until the slam-bang conclusion that no one sees coming.

This picture embraces some of my favourite themes and topics: bell ringing, axed hands, tan-shaded sunglasses, a wrench to five faces in five seconds, blank stares, heavy breathing, a Mexican standoff, a man on fire and running through snow, and a room full of more birds than anyone should ever own.

The Verdict:

The evolution of the slasher film has been taken on and tackled by many a horror genre leader, but this particular film has vast incidences of “firsts on film”. It may not be the first killer cam, Peeping Tom used it during a sequence, but it does possess the first death cam. Escaped mental patient set on vengeance, check. The last one left alive being a female, check. Ominous heavy breathing over the phone, check. Another first is shots of expressionless townsfolk staring blank and directly into the camera, an eerie trick later used in films such as Let’s Scare Jessica To Death and really any effort by David Lynch. In fact, there are too many comparisons to Lynch films to list all of them here… small town, the way the actors relate to each other, etc. This film may also be the first to kill a barking dog for silence, knife wise at the very least. The verdict is that if you’re a fan of the slasher subgenre or a fan of horror films in general, this is a must see, at least to establish a sense of precedence. For this is the movie that teaches you when someone calls, whispering and breathing severely, to run away as fast as you possibly can. Stranger danger!

 

The AV:

To review the audio and visuals of SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT is to hold it against all versions that came before it, and that is precisely what I did. On my third viewing of this release I watched it side by side, the Film Chest version against a public domain option. The latter was atrocious in comparison. Film Chest 71581_largefilled in almost every scratch and tear with barely visible and faded black, instead of odd white it had before. However, there are still a few scenes where the film is so harshly damaged that nothing could save them. A minute problem I have with this release is that they didn’t bother to digitally fix the shaking opening credit sequence, which is actually a relatively simple process. The crushing is on and off, mostly off. Yet the strong blacks no longer swallow the night scenes whole, a deterrent that made all previous versions unwatchable. There are still a ton of pops and hisses with the sound. Nevertheless, the sound is consistent whereas other versions possessed one or two points where dialogue dropped down to nothing but a whisper. The final product from Film Chest isn’t pristine, far from it to be truthful, but this is tenfold better than the other DVD or public domain options out there. Bottom line is whether you’re a newcomer to this early-seventies trendsetter or a seasoned veteran, this is the version worth owning.

The Supplements:

Sadly… none.

 

The Video Specs:

Codec: MPEG-2 (5.73 Mbps)

Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Original aspect ratio: 1.78:1

The Audio Specs:

English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono

Subtitles:

None

Discs:

DVD-5 Disc

Single disc (1 DVD)

 

Link To Purchase:

http://amzn.to/1bVKxJx

 

 

 

 

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Christopher Gibson

Chris can be found only at night, playing vast hours of XBox 360, reading uniquely disturbing novels, and scouring Netflix for late sixties horror flicks. He has 69,000 Gamerscore and counting. Supposedly at the age of three, he beat Super Mario Bros. on NES, though possesses no recollection of this. Writing novels since the age of fourteen, he hopes to one day publish them. On Friday nights, he is seen at the local indie film theater, then the pubs next door shortly after, for thorough critique among friends. Follow him on Twitter @Literaryman420 

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  2 comments for “DVD Review: SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT (1973) [Film Chest]

  1. December 27, 2013 at 4:58 AM

    Hey Christopher,

    I’ve been waiting for this film to have a remastered release for many, many years. Suddenly, it gets not one, but two separate releases in the original aspect ratio. I was wondering if you had seen the Code Red version that uses the beginning “Death House” titles, maybe get a qualitative comparison.

    • January 4, 2014 at 4:35 PM

      Sorry I haven’t gotten back in a quicker fashion, been busy with the holidays. During my second viewing, I watched it against the Code Red version. And although I thoroughly dig what Code Red is doing in the world of remastered horror, I have to say that I found their version subpar. The facial colouring was too orange. The exterior night scenes were still pitch black and made it difficult to see what was going on, as was the case in the many public domain versions that have been released. I also noticed a line on the right side of the screen during some scenes that wasn’t there in the Film Chest remaster. In my opinion the Film Chest version is superior, and until someone does a “Gone With The Wind” esque remastering (which will most likely never happen), it will be the reigning champion in my mind for years to come. Hopefully this helped. Oh and they both use the DEATHOUSE, misspelled title card.
      –Christopher Gibson

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