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[Interview] Director Steven C. Miller On Making A New Killer Santa For ‘Silent Night’, Going ‘Under The Bed’

On November 30th, Anchor Bay Films presents Silent Night on screens in ten major U.S. metropolitan areas. That following tuesday, December 4th, the Blu-ray/DVD combo and DVD will be available to unwrap nationwide. Bonus features include “SILENT NIGHT: Behind The Scenes” featurette and Deleted Scenes. The film is directed by Steven C. Miller (Automaton Transfusion, Under the Bed, The Aggression Scale).

I recently had a chance to hop on the phone with Miller and we talked about his approach to balancing the old and the new in this loose remake of Silent Night, Deadly Night, from crafting the kills and to assembling the cast. We also talk a bit about his other new feature, Under The Bed, which is due in theaters next year.

The film’s cast includes Malcolm McDowell (Rob Zombie’s Halloween, Easy A), Jaime King (Sin City, My Bloody Valentine 3D), Donal Logue (Shark Night 3D, Blade), Lisa Marie (Sleepy Hollow), Brendan Fehr (Final Destination, X-Men First Class), and Ellen Wong (Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World).

McDowell and King star as a small-town sheriff and deputy on the hunt for a murderous Santa Claus terrorizing their community on Christmas Eve. But with the streets full of Santas for the annual Christmas parade, the killer is hiding in plain sight. He’s made his list, checked it twice, and the naughty are going to pay with their lives.

Head inside for the interview!

This is described as a “loose” remake of Silent Night, Deadly Night. When you were developing the material, which elements did you decide to keep and what new stuff did you want to introduce?

I got the script sort of late. They were ready to go do this, so there wasn’t a lot of room for a lot of tweaks. But they did allow me to figure out where the best spots were for the homages and throwbacks. It really was a very loose remake so it was important for me to kind of go in and figure out where the movie had places to throw in a homage. And I was able to get about 50% of the movie back to being a very close remake in terms of some of the iconic kills and some of the characters.

But as far as the story goes, it really is just about a killer Santa on Christmas Eve. It’s also about the police department trying to catch this guy, but the movie is really about this Santa. I thought it was way more interesting to follow him.

As far as Santa goes, how did you make this guy your own?

Well I always felt like he was a little to pretty, in the original, to be going around killing people. I never really found that aspect disturbing. So for this movie I wanted to introduce a mask. The scariest slasher movies that I grew up on in the 80’s all had masks. So I thought, what’s a way that we can create a really iconic Santa mask? And I think it’s really terrifying.

You’ve got a great cast. Malcolm McDowell, Donal Logue, Jaime King etc… Were all of these people attached when you came aboard or was there time for you to be involved in the casting?

I had 100% input. Malcolm was really my first choice and Jaime was as well. And Donal Logue was a great addition who really came in and amped things up. And, actually, it was Malcolm who said, “what do you think about Lisa Marie?” And I thought that was a great idea. It was fun, it felt like a cast that really enjoyed themselves on set which really translates to the screen. They really brought a whole new life to the characters.

Especially Malcolm, he brings an old school western vibe to this thing that really counteracts with the horror.

I imagine there’s a lot of carnage in the film. Without spoiling anything, can you talk about some of the challenges involved in constructing some of the kills?

Definitely the first thing is, “how do you amp this up from the first movie?” Or even, really, modern day movies. How can you amp up things and make them more interesting? And for me, it was taking a practical route. I felt that if I made every kill practical that the audience would appreciate it more. I thought the audience would react more. And we did that. Everything is constructed from the ground up with ropes, pulleys and mechanics.

So it was really about taking the time to get that done right. It’s always easy to say, “you know what? We’re not getting it. Let’s just move on and fix it with CG later.” But that just wasn’t an option for me. So I really made sure that our effects guys were on point.

You’re coming off of Under The Bed, which is definitely slow-burn suspense movie. How is this different?

I think Silent Night gets more visceral and is more fast-paced. Again, I love 80’s movies and slashers but one of the things I wanted to stay away from was the slow, lurching slasher. I really wanted something more visceral, I wanted Santa to be more agile. And fast – if you get in a foot chase with him you’re not going to win.

And Under The Bed will be coming out next year as well. I liked the 80’s vibe and tone, how did you go about that? Was that sort of a conscious mission statement?

You know, it was one of those things where we focussed on anamorphic lenses. Most of those 80’s films were shot anamorphic and have that sort of feel to them. So luckily we were able to get the same kind of lenses that they use on The Dark Knight and Super 8. They give the film this great cinematic look.

And I think you can tell there’s no technology in the movie. That was done on purpose as well. You want to invest in the characters and the family, so I wanted to take that out of the film and see if it makes you invest in them more and I think it worked.




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