Somehow, during my days of serially devouring mindless horror movies, I missed the whole "Silent Night, Deadly Night" series, though it had a certain amount of notoriety back in the '80s for its killer Santa Claus angle. Somebody else will have to tell you how it compares with the other movies in the series; me, I just wanted to see it 'cause Monte Hellman directed.You've heard of Monte Hellman. In the '70s he and Warren Oates were to the drive-in circuit what Scorsese and De Niro were to...well, every other circuit. The Shooting, Two-Lane Blacktop, Cockfighter--quirky, existential pieces; wonderful stuff. Hellman's career naturally didn't survive the mega-commericalization of Hollywood that began in the late '70s, and today's audiences know him as the Executive Producer of Reservoir Dogs. Or maybe for directing this baby. So it goes.
We've got a vaguely Cronenbergian plot about a blind psychic girl (Samantha Scully) who attempts, under laboratory conditions, to establish a "link" with a comatose maniac--our killer Santa Claus, whose brain is now encased in a glass dome. The proverbial hell breaks loose when Santa awakens and tries to find our psychic wondergirl.
The rest is fairly routine, with much of the action taking place in an isolated cabin whose phone lines are (of course) dead. Hellman pulls off a few neat set pieces, though, most notably the lengthy dream sequence that begins the movie. But he's just too good for this kind of material; you sense his heart really isn't in it. His direction recalls the considered pace of his earlier cult films, which was fine then but here gives the film a static feel. Nor does he generate much in the way of suspense. Similarily, and to his benefit, he mostly avoids the unnecessarily sadistic violence that tends to mar films of this type.
The cast is generally undistinguished, and the presence of veteran Robert Culp (terribly underutilized here) only shows up the mediocrity of the other actors.As I write this, Hellman hasn't directed a film since. That he's been relegated to helming hackjobs like this says all that needs saying about the state of Hollywood today.