Happy #NationalGarbageDay, friends.
In the annals of bad horror sequels, none are more infamous than Silent Night, Deadly Night 2. Released in 1987, three years after the first film came out, the Lee Harry-directed sequel was, in hindsight, tailor made for internet obsession. Driven by an insanely over the top performance from Eric Freeman, SNDN 2 was recently embraced as an unintentionally hilarious gem by a new generation of fans, becoming internet famous decades after its initial release. The hunt for Freeman, who seemed to be hiding due to embarrassment, became the stuff of internet legend.
How did Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 become the movie it ended up being? And why is so much of the runtime devoted to recapping footage from its predecessor? It’s a fascinating story.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Lee Harry for a Silent Night, Deadly Night retrospective I wrote back in 2014, and Harry explained to me that he got the gig because of his editing skills. At the time, Harry had never directed a film, but he was hired by the producers because the original plan was to not actually make a new film at all. Rather, they wanted to re-edit the original Silent Night, Deadly Night and turn it into a “new” movie they could repackage as a sequel. SNDN was a huge hit at the box office, and they wanted to cash in without spending any money.
But Harry and partner Joseph H. Earle dreamed a little bigger, convincing the studio to give them $250,000 and 10 days to film some new footage that they could cut together with scenes from the controversial 1984 hit. Their story was that Ricky, the younger brother of the original film’s killer, follows in Billy’s footsteps and goes on a holiday killing spree of his own. And it was the lead casting of Eric Freeman, a novice actor with only a few small roles under his belt, that would ensure (unbeknownst to anyone at the time) Silent Night, Deadly Night 2‘s cult status.
Freeman’s gleefully over the top performance as the demented Ricky is of course the standout highlight of the film – the meme-worthy line “garbage day!!” is known even to those who have no idea what movie it came from. In preparation for the aforementioned retrospective I wrote back in 2014, I had a 2-hour phone chat with Freeman, who was still very much “in hiding” at the time. Freeman made no excuses for his performance, but noted that Harry offered him very little in the form of direction. Freeman’s performance, he told me, was mostly fueled by co-writer Joseph Earle, who would scream words like “MORE!” and “CRAZIER!” from the sidelines. Under those conditions, it’s not hard to see why the young Freeman’s acting was so, well, batshit insane.
He even explained to me that he originally delivered the “garbage day!” line in a monotone, Clint Eastwood-style way. Earle, however, insisted he go over the top. And thank god for that.
“There are not many performances as awful as that,” Freeman admitted to me.
Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 was released in April of 1987, and it failed to generate the money or interest the first one did. It wasn’t until many years later that the internet made it legend.
Happy 30th to one of the best worst horror movies of them all!