If Silent Night, Deadly Night is something of a Grindhouse cult classic, its sequel inexplicably became a belated meme classic. What you may not know is that the sequels kept coming. Like other B-level horror franchises, Silent Night, Deadly Night lived on with a handful of straight-to-video sequels. Bill Moseley (The Devil’s Rejects) turned up with a fish bowl on his head for the first of these sequels. At least this sequel remembered the premise from the first two movies. By 1990, the franchise took a weird turn away from its ‘Killer Santa’ concept to explore covens and … bugs. More chintzy than sleazy, Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation failed to make much of an impression on fans or critics.
Stuck running the classified ads for a Los Angeles newspaper, Kim Leviit dreams of being an investigative journalist. But she faces constant sexism from a boss who favours the ‘old boys’ network in the office. When a woman falls to her death, half her body burning in a bizarre instance of spontaneous combustion, Kim secretly chases down the story. Her investigation uncovers a coven of witches who worship Lilith … and who may be looking for a new victim to initiate in a ritualistic sacrifice.
Silent Night Deadly Night 4: Initiation Defines Early 90s Straight-To-Video Horror
None of the Silent Night, Deadly Night movies are going to fool anyone into believing that they are good movies. And it’s not so much that each sequel is incrementally worse than the previous entry. Rather each move in the series seems to find its own way to be uniquely bad. Case in point, Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation takes itself more seriously than the notoriously bad Part 2. And director Brian Yuzna (Society, Return of the Living Dead 3) actually delivers a fairly interesting opening scene minus some miscasting (more on that below). From that point onward, however, Initiation looks and feels like an early 90s straight-to-video horror effort. By the way, that’s not a compliment. Everything looks and feels flat in this sequel – from the color palette to the score.
This style shift means Initiation can’t cash in on some inventive Yule-inspired kills, thus making its connection to the franchise even more tenuous.
Despite its official sequel status, Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation bares no resemblance to the earlier franchise movies. This is a sequel in title only with screenwriter Woody Keith barely even working Christmas into the story. Aside from its lack of narrative connection to the other movies, Initiation also abandons the slasher format entirely in favor of a pseudo-supernatural tale. This style shift means Initiation can’t cash in on some inventive Yule-inspired kills, thus making its connection to the franchise even more tenuous. Moreover, it leaves the sequel to lean on a convoluted take on covens and mythology around Lilith … and bugs.
Silent Night Deadly Night 4: Initiation Weird, But Not Weird Enough for Cult Status
Prior to Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation, Yuzna cut his teeth on the bizzarro satirical horror movie, Society. Later Yuzna would add a belated sequel to another horror franchise – Return of the Living Dead 3. These movies, and Initiation, include bits of surrealist and body horror to varying degrees. Neither as ‘cultish’ as Society nor as strangely compelling as Return of the Living Dead 3, Initiation mostly feels flat even when it’s odd. Yes, there’s some gross out body horror courtesy of giant cockroaches and an oozing larva that’s vomited out at one point. How are these bits connected to the overall story? That proves difficulty to pinpoint. So while there’s some weirdness in this sequel, it feels random and not nearly strange enough to elevate this to cult status.
Yes, there’s some gross out body horror courtesy of giant cockroaches and an oozing larva that’s vomited out at one point.
Though horror veterans Reggie Bannister (Phantasm) and Clint Howard (Evilspeak) turn up in supporting roles their impact on the final product is mixed. On one hand, Bannister barely registers in what’s little more than a cameo. And Howard feels miscast in a role that might work better if played by someone just a tad more menacing. As it stands, Howard seems to get that the whole sequel is ridiculous and plays it that way. But Yuzna plays the tone rather straight-faced, which makes Howard’s performance feeling even more incongruent. Classic Bond girl Maud Adams fails to add much as the Lilith-worshiping villain. And the less said about lead actress Neith Hunter’s performance, the better.
Straight-To-Video Sequel Bares Little Resemblance to its B-Franchise Inspiration
In addition to ditching both the ‘Killer Santa’ concept and slasher format, Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation eschews logic. It also discards with scares, decent pacing, and compelling performances among other things. In fact, the Christmas backdrop feels forced to allow the sequel to just tag along with the series. Though Yuzna had a knack for offbeat horror movies, Initiation is weird but seldomly interesting. There’s some gross out moments but Yuzna opts to play it straight rather than embrace the sequel’s silliness. As a result, this straight-to-video sequel is the kind of forgettable 90s schlock that only the most nostalgic fans will embrace.