“Silent Night, Bloody Night” (1974)
Studio: Armor Films Inc.
Starring: Mary Woronov, Patrick O’Neal, James Patterson, John Carradine
Directed by: Theodore Gershuny
Running Time: 81 min.
Synopsis: A man inherits a house from his grandfather and wants to sell it to the town. Then mysterious murders start happening in the house on Christmas Eve.
Not to be confused with the cult classic, Silent Night, Deadly Night from 1984, this film came out ten years earlier and has a cult status of its own. The film can mostly be found on compilations sets because it fell into public domain many years ago and stars some horror favorites such as John Carradine and Mary Woronov, who was married to the director at the time, Theodore Gershuny.
The film starts off almost like a documentary with a narration from Woronov telling the back story which is about a man, Wilfred Butler, who died twenty years ago when he was set on fire. Stills of the family are shown as the narration goes on. We find out later that, now Butler’s house is owned by his grandson and is selling it to the town. The town wants nothing to do with the place and thinks that it’s cursed. All they want to do is destroy it and make sure no one else lives there.
At the same time a man escapes from mental institution and is heading toward the town. We’re not sure what they want, but they end up taking refuge in the Butler house. The lawyer to the grandson and his mistress come to the town on Christmas Eve to collect the money from the mayor and other town folk. They are warned not to spend the night in the house, but do anyway. That night, the maniac inside the house murders the two.
Later on in the movie we find out more about the Butler family and their house. Sometime in the 1940’s it became a mental hospital and Butler committed his own daughter. He brought in doctors to try and help her but they ended up just locking all the patients up in a barn and ignored them. There’s even a question that Wilfred Butler never died in a fire and that he was locked up and still alive.
This film has some good points, but could have been a lot better. Most of the movie drags and is very boring. It has a good start but just falls short in the middle and never recovers. Things I do like about the film are the dark atmosphere of it. It’s very eerie throughout and the house is creepy. They’re also some cool flashbacks of the mental hospital and the patients. The whole flashback is in sepia tone and looks very distorted.
Another thing that I didn’t like was that the scenes were too dark and I couldn’t see anything. It might be the copy I have, but I figure most public domain films are taken from VHS transfers and never given a proper clean up when being transferred to DVD. Also, during the film John Carradine’s character can’t talk, so all he does is ring a bell when he needs something. There is one part where he says something in a distorted voice, but it’s hard to make out.
SPOILER ALERT: The film has a great plot and twist on paper, which is Butler gets fed up with the doctors and releases all the patients from the hospital including his daughter. They then kill all the doctors and accidentally kill the daughter in the chaos. Butler is taken off to another hospital and the patients, who are now free, settle in the town and become normal citizens. Turns out the people, like the mayor, who are trying to buy the house are the old patients from there many years ago. It sounds like a cool twist, but it is not executed well in the film and is rushed. At the end the grandson finds out all this, and also finds out that his grandfather raped his own daughter and they fathered a child, which turns out to be him, so that’s a little strange. He confronts the mayor at the end and both of them shoot each other. The escaped mental patient turns out to be Wilfred Butler and he goes after the mayor’s daughter (played by Woronov), but she ends up shooting him to death.
So, not the greatest film, but I seen much worse, but have also seen much better. Not too much of a Christmas vibe either, except for the snow on the ground and the occasional Christmas song on the radio. Silent Night, Bloody Night is worth a look at least once just for its creepy atmosphere, other than that I would pass on it.