Silent Night, Deadly Night III is like one of those “films of the lost actor”. It exists as something you watch later and then smack yourself in the face, when people pop up on screen.
The film is also the final production in the original cycle to focus on the character of “Santa Claus Killer” Ricky Caldwell. This time Ricky (now played by genre veteran Bill Mosley) is a comatose hospital patient who is being used in a whacked out science experiment by a nefarious Doctor (Richard Beymer) to determine if Laura–a young, blind, psychic (and Jennifer Connolly look-a-like Samantha Scully) can communicate with the killer. Unfortunately for Laura she has no idea what the Doc is up to. She also doesn’t know who Ricky is or that she’s even inside his twisted mind (which plays flashback to the first film….as if the legendary Part 2 didn’t provide enough). It isn’t too long before tweaking with Ricky’s memories causes the crazy to wake up from his 6-year coma and start slicing and dicing the hospital staff. His only goal…to find Laura–whose off to Grandmother’s house with her brother and girlfriend. And, in a Little Red Riding Hood twist, guess who gets to Grandma first?
So, like I said, this is one of those great casts that only exist in bad movies from the 1980’s. But what really sets SNDN3 apart from the rest is who’s driving the bus. Yeah, SNDN3 is directed by none other than 1970’s Grindhouse auteur Monte “Two-Lane Blacktop” Hellman. Hellman, who made a name for himself directing off-beat cult classics like the aforementioned dragster flick, must have really been scraping the bottom of the barrel. In fact, this film is so shameful a mark on the man’s career that it’s almost unfathomable to believe that just 3 years later he could have pulled himself back up by his bootstraps to produce Quentin Tarantino’s feature film debut, Reservoir Dogs. But let’s get back to the cast for a second…
In front of the camera, Hellman directs West Side Story star and later Twin Peaks character-actor Richard Beymer as the evil doctor. I’m beginning to wonder if David Lynch was a fan of this movie, because in addition to Beymer, he also grabbed SNDN3 alumni (and former Miss USA) Laura Harring, for roles in Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire. Harring whose career has taken a huge turn toward the respectable with the Lynch films also appeared in 2007’s Love in the Time of Cholera. Later, Robert Culp (The Greatest American Hero, amongst about 100 other TV shows) shows up to round out this strange cast, as the seasoned Lt. Connely (who claims to have been witness to Ricky’s supposed first death). Of course Mosley (whose only line of dialogue in the entire film is to breath “Laaaauuuurrra” ) has gone on to even more steady work in the horror genre, and hardly needs his credits listed here. But, what’s most surprising is that SNDN3 is sandwiched right smack dab in the middle of the Alpha and Omega of star Samantha Scully’s film career. That’s right, the very attractive lead in this film, made only 2 other flicks, 1987’s no budget schlockfest Bloodsuckers, directed by my favorite hack Ulli Lommel and 1989’s Eric Robert’s “Van Damme wannabe” flick Best of the Best. Sorry to see you go Samantha, but that’s quite a trilogy of crap you’ve left behind.
If I had anything interesting to say about SNDN3, I’m sure I wouldn’t have spent the last 300 words talking about what the cast and crew have been up to before and after this film. The truth is, SNDN3 is just all kinds of dull and mediocre. It’s crazy psuedo-science makes no logical sense. After 1987’s Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and 1988’s Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood , the producers must have thought psychics were big box office! The effects work is tragic. The half-fishbowl bubble replete with exposed brain and blinking lights that is screwed into the top of Ricky’s skull is laughable, even before his attempts to hide it with a stocking cap! Everyone looks like they wish they were anywhere else other than making this movie. It’s got lapses of logic that you could only write off by saying “well…the blind girl wouldn’t be able to see it”. For example, in a very Wait Until Dark moment, blind Laura busts a light bulb so she can fight off Ricky in the dark. Oops, except for those 10,000 watts of white hot beams, blasting down the stair case and lighting up the room like it was a…er…um…Christmas tree. Don’t worry sweetie, I’m sure he won’t see you now.
SNDN3 is probably about a half-star better than the notorious SNDN2, which is everyone’s favorite sequel because it’s made of about 36 minutes of footage from the first film. I know it’s not saying a lot, but I think what makes part 3 a bit more bearable isn’t the new story, it’s the IMDB loving cast, which will have you Googling for hours on end just to reminisce about that one time Robert Culp was on The Famous Teddy Z.