Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. This time around I had a chance to talk with director Steven C. Miller, who got his start on a little zombie movie called AUTOMATON TRANSFUSION, then moved on to After Dark’s SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE and the upcoming monster under the bed film UNDER THE BED. He’s been connected to the MOTEL HELL remake for quite a while and is releasing SILENT NIGHT, the remake of the classic psycho-Santa film SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT, today on DVD & BluRay! Here’s what Miller had to say about it all when I talked with him last week…
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): So Steven, it’s great to talk with you again. You’ve been a part of my horror panels at the San Diego Comic Con a couple of times a few years ago. And since then, you’ve done a lot of awesome films and it’s been great to see your career grow through the years.
STEVEN C. MILLER (SCM): Yeah! Great talking with you again, Mark!
BUG: So you have a big new movie coming out called SILENT NIGHT. I haven’t seen it yet, but plan on watching it this weekend so I can add a review to this interview, but I saw the trailer and I liked what I saw. So tell me about the film. It’s supposed to be a remake of SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT, is that correct?
SCM: Yeah, it’s a very loose remake of SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT. It definitely has some big homages to the original. As a fan of horror, I always find that I like the remake if it takes the movie in a different direction or tries to bring something very new to the mix. That’s what we tried to do with SILENT NIGHT. It’s very much its own thing, there are some nice homages, but it does take another direction. It’s really about Santa Claus and him killing a lot of people on Christmas Eve and we’ve got these small town police officers trying to catch the killer. That’s really just the basic plot. We wanted to keep things simple so audiences can basically have a really fun time.
BUG: The original film was hit with a lot of controversy when it came out. There were tons of church groups and parent groups up in arms about a killer Santa Claus. Has there been any of that with this film?
SCM: I’ve read a few people online who are not really happy that the movie is being made. I wouldn’t say it has gotten the crazy reaction that it did in the 80’s though. It’s such a different time now that I think people are immune to that kind of stuff now. So it’s not as heavy. But any time you kill a kid in a movie people are going to get upset at that. It’s definitely something I am expecting, but I just don’t know how hard the backlash is going to be.
BUG: So what are the main differences between this film and the original?
SCM: Well, when I got the script, we didn’t really have a lot of time. I didn’t really have a lot of time to do much work on it. I mean, we shot the film in 17 days. We had to move really quick and everyone had to be on their toes and we got it done.
But when I got the script I saw that it was a complete departure. So it was really important for me to go in and imbue it with a little bit of homage here and there from the original and maybe even some of the sequels. All of those old SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT films were really fun.
One of the more obvious changes we added to this movie was to give Santa a mask and make his identity a mystery. The reason for that is that I’m a huge die hard 80’s cinema fan and all of the great 80’s slasher movie villains have masks. So we felt, why not give Santa a mask. It’s something that can separate us from the original movie and it can also separate this film from all of the other Santa Claus films that has ever been made. The film has this dark humor going on but what I really wanted was for Santa to be menacing. So if I could get Santa menacing and still maintain this dark humor contrasting him, then it would work. I didn’t want to make the film totally campy. I left Santa menacing. I left the kills menacing. And I wanted those to be very visceral to combat the silly banter with the cops.
BUG: Were you one of those kids who started crying when you had to sit on Santa’s lap when you were a kid? Did Santa ever scare you?
SCM: [laughs] He did scare me. I was one of those kids who would not sit there. I had a huge issue of sitting on this big red guy’s lap. Somehow that resonated with me and I think that’s why I was drawn to the VHS Box art of the original movie. You know with the hand with the axe hanging out of the chimney. I was like, “Oh man, I’ve got to see this movie!” and it really messed me up. I had the fortune and misfortune to go in and try to recreate it.
BUG: I know you are working on a couple of other projects you have been and will be involved with. I did mention THE AGGRESSION SCALE as one of my favorite horror films of the year. I just loved that little “kid Rambo” / HOME ALONE from Hell film. You pulled no punches with that film so congratulations on that one as well.
SCM: Awesome. Thanks man. It was a one of my favorite films I’ve ever done. I love that type of film. Again, it’s kids taking on adult material and danger and scares. I find myself doing that a lot in my films. I enjoyed having a character that didn’t speak the entire movie and trying to get the audience to connect and root for him. It was a fun experience.
BUG: Then you have another film coming out called UNDER THE BED. What’s the status of that film and when can people see that one?
SCM: It just got picked up by XLRATOR and they are thinking about a release strategy now. I think they are going to team up with someone and as of now, they are looking at a summer 2013 release which should say a lot for the movie that they want to release it in the summertime. That’s so exciting about the movie that they have so much confidence in this little monster movie.
BUG: And again, you seem to be dealing with childhood fears in UNDER THE BED with a monster actually living under this kid’s bed. That seems to be an ongoing theme with you. Do you find it easy for you to write from that child-like perspective?
SCM: Yeah, I guess I never grew out of that. That’s what’s fun of being a filmmaker. I guess the reason why I resonated with that one so much is because I grew up in a big family and we would spend so much time thinking and talking about what kind of monsters were under our beds and building tents with our sheets and stuff like that. And UNDER THE BED is very much a throwback film to those old Amblin films like GOONIES. It just happens to get hyper-violent in the last hour of the movie.
BUG: Well I have to ask. I think I talk to you about this every time we talk, but what’s the status on the MOTEL HELL remake? I know you were attached to direct the film, but that’s been some time ago. Is that still happening?
SCM: You know what, Craig Perry, the producer of the MOTEL HELL remake, came to the SILENT NIGHT premiere and he is the one who actually signed me on to do the film when we were over at MGM. And I talked to him last Wednesday and asked him, “Did you enjoy this?” And he said, “Dude, I loved this!” So hopefully it’s a move in the right direction. It’s really just about their situation over there. So if we can get them excited about SILENT NIGHT, it could be great to help make MOTEL HELL happen. I love MOTEL HELL. So it would be really fun to try to move on to that.
BUG: Maybe it’s a good thing that it’s taken so long to get MOTEL HELL approved since you’ve been able to prove yourself with all of these other films.
SCM: Yeah, you’re right and I think it could mean that it’s even going to be bigger because of that. SILENT NIGHT has that same sort of dark humor going on that MOTEL HELL will definitely need.
BUG: Is there anything you want to say to those folks who might be a little leery of remakes when approaching your SILENT NIGHT film? I know some people groan at remakes, but I know when done well, as with Darren Lynn Bousman’s MOTHER’S DAY, I think it is possible to make a good remake.
SCM: I think people should just go in with an open mind. As much as it is a remake, I feel it’s more like a reimagining or a reboot. We try to take it into a new direction and keep in mind of getting new fans as well as honoring fans of the original.
BUG: Fantastic. Well, I wish you luck with this film. And Merry Christmas to you and your family!
SCM: Thanks, Mark! You as well, buddy!
BUG: SILENT NIGHT is available today on BluRay and DVD! Below is my review of the film.
New this week on DVD & BluRay!
SILENT NIGHT (2012)Directed by Steven C. Miller
Written by Jayson Rothwell, Based on SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT by Charles S. Sellier
Starring Jamie King, Malcolm McDowell, Donal Logue, Ellen Wong, Brendan Fehr, Lisa Marie, Curtis Moore, Andrew Cecon, Courtney Jane-White, Tom Anniko
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
There’s a special spot reserved in my cold black heart for slasher films. I couldn’t get enough of them in the 80’s when the slasher craze was at full force. Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Leatherface, Freddy Krueger; I had posters of all of them on my walls. Drew pictures and wrote stories about them whenever I got the chance and watched them over and over on VHS until the tape wore down. SILENT NIGHT is undeniably a slasher film of the old school variety. It’s got a silent killer making its way through a small town like a great white shark, slaughtering folks in a manner that is visually creative and uses a lot of different cutlery and other murdery weapons. Steven C. Miller has made a love letter to those old slasher films with SILENT NIGHT. Now if slasher films don’t interest you. I understand. It’s not for everyone, but if you like slasher films, you’re going to find a whole lot to like about this one.
The original SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT was not a fantastic film. Sure it’s got some gruesome deaths and a fun premise. It’s also got some very cool scenes such as the horrific opening sequence in the car, Linnea Quigley’s death by deer antlers scene, and that scene where the old man scares the kid talking about the true terrifying story of Christmas. SILENT NIGHT, on the other hand has all of what is cool with the original, but with better actors and better production value. Plus, this Santa is a whole lot scarier.
Acting wise, this film is pretty good. Jamie King is effective here as a timid cop who is trying to be a capable one. This is the one year anniversary of the death of her husband and though she has a loving family, she still is having a tough time. At work, her boss, Malcolm McDowell does much better here than in his Loomis role in the HALLOWEEN remakes. He is supportive but stern, looking out for her, yet not wanting her difficulties to endanger lives. The cast is rounded out with Donal Logue doing his best Billy Bob Bad Santa and Curtis Moore playing a lecherous priest who ranks ten point two on the creep meter. But the film is King’s and she does a good job of struggling with the anniversary of a horrific event as well as this new series of violent crimes.
The shift from following the Santa Claus killer to the police searching for him is an interesting one. In the first one, we follow the troubled child turned homicidal holiday maniac from start to finish. Here we don’t know who this killer is, so instead we along with the cops who are searching for the truth. And we don’t really get that until the very end, but I found the payoff to be a fun homage to the previous films, while keeping us guessing right up until the credits roll.
But you’re interested in this movie because it’s Santa Claus killing folks. How are the kills, you may be asking?
The kills are damn good. This Santa isn’t afraid to get his beard dirty as all sorts of axes, scythes, knives, and even a blowtorch are packed away in Santa’s knapsack. These kill scenes are nicely orchestrated with some cool use of slo mo and just enough flair of Italian Giallo to make it work. There’s an especially fantastic scene where the Achilles tendon is sliced of one victim, followed by a gory kill that fans of the original will love. But the wood chipper scene is by far the best sequence of the film which starts with a half nude woman running through a Christmas tree yard and ends with…well, a wood chipper pushed to its wood chipping limit. All of the kills felt visceral and messy and fans of some key scenes from the original SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT will be happy to know they show up here as well.
Slasher films are often panned for being simplistic in story and I can’t say that this one is complex in any way. There are a few nice twists towards the end which make for a thrilling finale, but for the most part, SILENT NIGHT is just a simplistic and down to earth film about a man dressed as Santa who goes on a killing spree on Christmas Eve for being naughty. There are some cool scenes with a naughty kid and a nice kid that will most likely cause some ire with the more sensitive types, but if you’re looking for a fun, throwback to the 80’s with some better than average acting and some red splattery kills, SILENT NIGHT will definitely get your Yule log burning.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over eleven years & AICN HORROR for two. He has written comics such as VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, & NANNY & HANK (soon to be available on iTunes and soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He has co-written FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND’s first ever comic book LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in 2013 as a 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK last year from Zenescope Entertainment & look for his exciting arc on GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-81 released August-December 2012. Mark will be writing GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES to be released in February-June 2013. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitter @Mark_L_Miller.
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