Sick of Christmas cheer? Then how about some Christmas FEAR! Luke Owen’s look back at the killer Santa franchise continues with a review of Initiation: Silent Night, Deadly Night 4…
In a similar vein to Halloween III: The Season of the Witch, Initiation: Silent Night, Deadly Night 4 (or Bugs as it’s also known) is a departure from the previous three movies (as is the follow-up) while still retaining the franchise name and the Christmas setting. But, ignoring the fact it bears no resemblance to the previous killer Santa movies, there is something quite brilliant about Initiation: Silent Night, Deadly Night 4.
The movie follows Kim, a news reporter kept down by her male contemporaries, who goes on her own to investigate the death of a woman who jumped off a roof while on fire. During her investigation she discovers a cult of women who pray to the Egyptian god Isis and are looking for someone to be their new queen – and they have Kim in mind.
After the slightly messy second movie and the sleep-inducing third instalment of the series, Initiation: Silent Night, Deadly Night 4 is a refreshing change of pace. By ditching the ‘killer Santa’ gimmick, the movie is free to do whatever it wants. And what means is giant bugs, trippy acid like visuals, sexually explicit images and a genuine sense of fear and terror that will grip you until the final moments of the film. It challenges male/female relationships in the workplace as well as Religious views among family members and their partners. As a part of the Silent Night, Deadly Night franchise it feels out of place (hence the Season of the Witch comparison earlier), but as a stand alone movie, Initiation: Silent Night, Deadly Night 4 is a fantastic straight-to-video horror.
Despite its low budget, the movie manages to get almost The Fly levels of practical effects and the whole movie is a very visceral experience. The acting from all involved is also top notch with Neith Hunter really selling the inquisitive mind of Kim while Clint Howard is brilliantly odd as the cult’s faithful servant Ricky. All of this combined with an intriguing plot that has plenty of twists and turns certainly makes this one of the better movies of the series. Granted, like the previous two movies the Christmas setting does nothing for the story which makes it redundant, but at least the story is decent enough to not have to fall back on the Holiday period. Perhaps this lack of Christmas connection is why the movie was released here in the UK under the video title Bugs.
Now, one would assume that using the name of “Ricky” would tie Clint Howard’s character to that of the killer from the previous two movies, but there is nothing about Initiation: Silent Night, Deadly Night 4‘s Ricky that overly connects the two. This movie’s Ricky never once comes across as the mad man who killed a guy with an umbrella and then became the subject of a mad scientist experiment and is instead just a homeless stooge to the cult’s plan. Several other reviews have tried to connect the dots, but given that the next movie Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker doesn’t follow on from the ‘killer Santa’ trilogy (but does feature cameos from Hunter and Howard), one could make the assumption that this is entirely new character that just so happens share the name of Ricky. Plus, at one point in the movie, Ricky sits down and watches a portion of Silent Night, Deadly Night III: Better Watch Out!, so where does that all fit in the timeline?
Connected or not, Initiation: Silent Night, Deadly Night 4 is a damn fine movie. It would be a stretch to say that you need to rush out and see it because it’s not breaking any new grounds, but it certainly deserves a watch and is a lot better than the two movies that came before it. The acting is solid, the story is gripping, the effects are cool and its trippy atmosphere makes for a compelling watch. It might be mostly forgotten by the horror masses as it’s lost within a franchise no one really cares about, but Initiation: Silent Night, Deadly Night 4 does deserve to be seen.
Luke Owen is one of Flickering Myth’s co-editors and the host of the Flickering Myth Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @LukeWritesStuff.