Ho Ho Holy $&%# is that BAD!
Sometimes I try and explain why I willingly watch a movie (more than once or twice) that’s bad. I know it’s bad and yet I keep returning to it with regular intervals. It’s a special kind of experience once you get to the point of really enjoying something that is bad for some reason. It can be bad acting. Bad special effects. Bad script or just plain stupid storytelling. Badly directed. Badly edited. Horrendous music score. Or best of all; All of the above! No matter how articulately I try and explain this tendency of mine I just come out looking like an idiot among the people who just don’t have any love for bad cinema.
A few movies spring to mind; Bob Clark´s “Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things” (1972), Juan Piquer Simon’s “Supersonic Man” (1979) and “Pieces (1983), Luigi Cozzi’s “Starcrash” (1978), George Bowers’s “Private Resort” (1985, the Johnny Depp flick) and of course the king og kings; Ed Woods’ “Plan 9 From Outer Space” (1959) to name a few. These get regular spins and I always have a whale of a time with them.
Now I have a killer Santa slasher on the list with “To All a Goodnight” (1980); a truly bad little horror film that I simply find truly enjoyable. It fits well within the genre I’ve been covering for the past two weeks of Cult-Christmas classics.
To All a Goodnight
Give a film credit where credit’s due. First of all this is the first film depicting a killer Santa at Christmas (the “Tales From the Crypt” segment titled “And All Through the House” (1972) with Joan Collins is just that, a segment). The flick is only a few months behind “Friday the 13th” with the undying formula of disposable people hacked to death at a secluded location. It boasts a truly minuscule budget and a 10 day shooting schedule which definitely called for fast thinking and fast shooting (and a lot of painfully obvious day-for-night scenes). The fact that director David Hess (Krug from Wes Craven’s “The Last House on the Left”) and co. managed to churn out a semi coherent slasher must be considered quite the accomplishment in itself.
After years of languishing in obscurity; “To All a Goodnight” actually got a semi-deluxe treatment on Blu-ray in 2014 from boutique label Kino Lorber (never mind the fact that Oscar winners like “Ordinary People” (1980) and action classics like “True Lies” (1994) are still MIA on the format) and now cult lovers can re-evaluate David Hess’s only directorial effort which was made while mindless slashers were at their creative peak.
And how does it stack up against the good slashers? It’s absolutely delightful in all the wrong ways. In fact; here’s a film I can honestly say is “So BAD that it’s actually good”!
Go in thinking you’re about to watch a competent horror film and you’ll be scratching your head. Go in thinking it’s got some suspense, tension or even a couple of decent set pieces and you’ll be disappointed. Go in thinking you’re about to see incompetent filmmaking, dreadful acting, zero plot, idiotic character development and motivations, awful make-up effects and lighting schemes and the like…and you’ll have a blast!
That’s my take on “To All a Goodnight”; a truly bad slasher in every possible way but made with such earnestness for the genre and genuinely aiming to please that the film ends up disarming many horror/slasher enthusiasts and they’ll find themselves actually enjoying it. At first viewing I was actually waiting for the movie to come to life in some way and display some level of talent or ingenuity but this complete mess left me in such a frustrating mood I vowed never to look at it again. But I don’t just chuck away expensive Blu-rays for no reason and this November I took it off the shelf and popped it in. Glad I did since I had a fantastic time. Know what you’re in for and the flick will not disappoint.
It starts off with a girl accidentally plummeting to her death following a hazing ritual at a finishing school for girls. Seasoned viewers will know that the following deaths in the movie will be a form of vengeance because of this act. A few students are staying behind while most will be away for Christmas holidays and, naturally, the girls get a visit from some boys. The other people there are the housemother and a, mentally challenged it seems, handyman who constantly looks suspicious and keeps telling the girls they’re in grave danger (sort of like Crazy Ralph in “Friday the 13th”). In only the first night a few of the young people get killed by a maniac dressed as Santa Claus and hence disappear. But that never raises more than an eyebrow as their friends constantly say stuff like “well they must be around here somewhere” and such. The screenplay here is a sort of Holy Bible of idiotic quotes and character motivations. And after two nights of secretly dispatching of the residents one by one a delicious twist appears to explain who the killer is. Has to be seen to be believed. It doesn’t better the film but it’s a point in the film’s favour as many slashers had at least one incomprehensible twist in store at the very end.
The kills are clumsy, the gore scenes would pack a punch if they were in any way made believable, any attempt to create suspense falls flat and even the promising surroundings aren’t used in creative way mostly thanks to some awful camera work that routinely frames people in weird ways and goes in and out of focus at some moments. Most likely a hectic shooting schedule attributed to this but the film just looks bad. The day for night scenes are just so obvious and badly executed; you actually see the handyman flashing a torch in nearly complete daylight. It’s also a shame that there’s no Christmas atmosphere here to speak of. There’s no music, no snow or anything “christmassy” to speak of. Just a few sparkling lights and of course the killer in a Santa suit.
Mini starlet Jennifer Runyon (“Ghostbusters”) is surrounded by a game cast that aim to please but lack any kind of direction from Hess, intelligible dialog or believable motivations. Whoever cast this thing should also be awarded a special kind of applause for putting one Dan Stryker (who’s actually porn megastar Harry Reems) in a bit part since that fact alone prompted quite a few theaters to pull the movie.
But all of this gigantic mess resulted in one hell of a Cult-movie that can be enjoyed for years and years to come for lovers of bad cinema. In glorious HD as well! With some enjoyable bonus features too!
Put this in someone’s stocking come Christmas. They’ll thank you for it…some day.