09th Oct2013

‘Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Adrienne King, Sabrina Dickens, Sule Rimi, Lee Bane, Richard Goss, Kathy Saxondale, Philip Harvey | Written by Andrew Jones, James Plumb | Directed by James Plumb

SNBN-TH-killer

Welsh filmmakers Andrew Jones and James Plumb re-team once more following Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection, for yet another film that shares it moniker with a previous film – this time the 1972 film starring John Carradine and Mary Woronov, Silent Night Bloody Night. And as they did with their previous horror flick Jones and Plumb take the basic premise of the ’72 movie and craft a new film around it. So as with NOTLD: Resurrection, Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming is essentially a remake of the original film – taking in a number of the same characters, the same abandoned “mansion” and yet another escaped psycho from the local looney bin, yet giving it a British Welsh spin and adding a few new scenes and characters into the mix…

The abandoned home of Wilfred Butler, a wealthy but troubled man who committed suicide in 1987, has been willed to his grandson, Jeffrey. The house has sat in disarray since Wilfred’s death, standing in the way of developers who want to turn the property into residential homes. Just before Christmas 2012, many years after Wilfred’s death, Jeffrey and his lawyer appear in town to negotiate the sale of the property. But an axe wielding maniac has set up residence in the house, and he doesn’t take kindly to strangers.

Shot on a low-budget on location in Wales (Brigend, Carmarthen and Swansea in particular), Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming follows the same slasher traditions as its predecessor – the black-gloved killer stalking and killing various locals many of whom, in stereotypical slasher-movie fashion, have just had sex; and the weirdly-voiced phone calls to all those concerned with the Butler house and it’s future. And there are some nice nods to the original film, including its more mystery-movie style red-herrings and the fact the Butler house is/was a mental asylum, plus there’s a fab little throwaway line “Things haven’t changed much round here since 1972…” that will give hardcore Silent Night Bloody Night reason to smile.

What’s good to see is the progression James Plumb has made as a director, here he relies less on cliched storytelling tricks and focuses more on actually making a good film; and Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming is a good movie. For the most part. But like NOTLD: Resurrection there are some casting issues – undoubtedly due to budgetary limitations and the use of what I presume are “amateur” local performers which will stretch the patience of some viewers. But my biggest issue is with Philip Harvey’s voiceover, which is key to the films plotting in the final third of the film yet which comes across as completely emotionless and sounds more like someone reading directly from a script, when it should be an emotion-filled piece as the character reveals the inner-most secrets of his life and family. It detracts from what little atmosphere Plumb has already built up and almost ruined the movie for me.

Not as gothic or Grand Guignol-esque as the original, Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming is at least a commendable updating of Theodore Gershuny’s film, complete with incredibly gory SFX – some of which, fact-fans, are actual practical effects – including a disembowelling, plenty of axe-murders and a death by Christmas decorations! The story isn’t as far-removed from the original this time out (NOTLD: Resurrection was much more so), so those fans of the ’72 movie may find proceedings a little familiar but for everyone else this is an “interesting” British take on an American Seventies proto-slasher. I will say kudos to Plumb and Jones for getting Friday the 13th actress Adrienne King to do a voiceover!

Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming is released on DVD on October 21st courtesy of 101 Films.

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