Horror fans know Silent Night, Deadly Night. And even non-horror fans would recognize its laughably bad sequel courtesy of the ‘Garbage Day‘ meme. Then there’s older diehard horror fans who may recognize the early pseudo-slasher, Christmas Evil. But even hardcore horror fans may not be familiar with To All A Good Night. This Killer Santa slasher comes courtesy of David Hess – the sleazeball villain of The Last House on the Left – making his directorial debut. Released early in the 80s slasher cycle a few months ahead of Friday the 13th, To All A Good Night is pretty obscure.
Two years ago a prank at the Calvin Finishing School For Girls resulted in one of the students falling to her dead. Now it’s the Friday before Christmas and a handful of the students have decided to stay behind and party with their boyfriends. But someone hasn’t forgotten the school’s tragic past. When a homicidal maniac turns up dressed as Santa Claus, the girls’ party gets cut short.
To All A Good Night …
If there’s anything surprising about To All A Good Night, it’s certainly not the story. Screenwriter Alex Rebar was best known for his role in B-movie The Incredible Melting Man. No, To All A Good Night surprises with just how many slasher tropes turn up. Keep in mind, this Killer Santa flick released a few months ahead of Friday the 13th. Halloween – and to a lesser extent, Black Christmas – previously introduced much of the slasher narrative. Still it’s kind of impressive how formulaic this obscure slasher is considering the formula was still developing. And this is a very derivative little horror movie.
In addition to the fledgling tropes, To All A Good Night is illogically plotted, often making little sense.
There’s the awkwardly staged tragic past accident that feels like it influenced the much better slasher, Prom Night. Flash forward two years and we’re introduced to the young college coeds breaking rules and not heeding the warnings from either their den mother or the school’s groundskeeper. Characters have sex and subsequently die horrible deaths. When the police turn up, they’re all but useless. Throw in a Final Girl who doesn’t have sex and knows something is wrong alongside a nonsensical twist and you have a proto-slasher. In addition to the fledgling tropes, To All A Good Night is illogically plotted, often making little sense. In particular, the two twists the define the third act make absolutely no sense.
To All A Good Night Fails to Deliver the Requisite Scares and Kills
Formulaic storytelling and head-scratching twists are by no means a death knell for a slasher. As long as you bring the jumps and creative kills, a middling slasher can still be a decent way to pass the time for horror fans. In spite of his background playing despicable villains in front of the camera, first-time director David Hess struggles on the other side of the lens. A host of problems quickly pile up over the movie’s 83 minutes. From sluggish pacing to choppy editing, Hess makes most of the kills look awkward and leaves out suspense and shocks. One scene involving a suit of armor offers a decent job. However, long gaps of nothing kill any chance at momentum.
A host of problems quickly pile up over the movie’s 83 minutes. From sluggish pacing to choppy editing, Hess makes most of the kills look awkward and leaves out suspense and shocks.
As To All A Good Night hits its climax, Hess flirts a bit with some surrealist atmosphere. And it’s too bad he didn’t double down on it because it nearly pushes this slasher into cult territory. Instead, the final moments just feel weird – and it’s not an earned oddness. Rounding things out are some wooden performances from a mostly unknown cast. Cinephiles with a love for the 80s may recognize the ‘Final Girl’, Jennifer Runyon. In addition to her lead role in To All A Good Night, Runyon popped up in Up the Creek, Ghostbusters, and Charles in Charge. While she’s not ‘good’, Runyon stands out from her castmates. Arguably, the biggest crime here is just how dull the ‘Santa Claus’ killer comes across.
To All A Good Night Stuck in Obscurity For a Reason
Even at just 83 minutes in length, To All A Good Night is a bit of a slog to watch. While a couple of kills rise above the limited budget to shock, they’re fleeting moments. By and large, Hess struggles to convincingly stage his scares. Everything about this slasher feels clumsy and awkward. Formulaic storytelling, massive lapses in logic, and wooden performances don’t help. Near the end, Hess lets things almost drift into surreal horror, but it’s too little, too late. Only slasher completists will want to seek this one out.