Silent Night, Deadly Night III: Better Watch Out (1989) Review

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SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT III: BETTER WATCH OUT

** ½ Out of 5

Release Date- November 17th, 1989

Running Time- 90-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Carlos Lazlo

Director- Monte Hellman

Starring- Samantha Scully, Richard Beymer, Eric Da Re, Laura Herring, Bill Moseley, Elizabeth Hoffman and Robert Culp as Lt. Connely

For some reason somebody thought it would be a good idea to make another Silent Night, Deadly Night movie and after the 2nd part one has to wonder why anyone would wanna do that. The original is actually a fairly good slasher flick that attempts at being more than a simple stalk and slash movie, but the 2nd one was downright pathetic, but with that said the movie is sort of entertaining due to how bad it was and I enjoyed it for the turkey it was. Silent Night, Deadly Night III while maybe the better made movie compared to the 2nd isn’t really as enjoyable.

Though I wonder if the makers of this saw the previous 2 since it seems they are mistaken Ricky for Billy; Billy of course was the killer in the first part and his brother Ricky was the killer in the 2nd and 3rd, but I think they got confused on the two since clips are shown only from the first movie. And in one scene when Ricky’s crimes are brought up its mentioned how he killed people with an axe in a Santa suit, but that would be Billy actually; the final act of the part 2 does have Ricky with an axe in a Santa suit, but when you think of the look and the weapon it’s Billy in the original; so as you can see we’re already off to a good start (yes sarcasm).

Besides a couple of clips of the original and besides a couple of times using the score from the original in certain spots, Silent Night, Deadly Night III: You Better Watch Out has no real connection to the first 2 movies despite having Ricky as the killer. The Christmas setting is simply used for obvious reasons, but the movie doesn’t even have a Christmas feel, which lacked in the 2nd part, but was very much there in the original. When one thinks of Christmas you think of cold and possibly snow, which was present in the first film since it was shot and took place in Utah, but the 2nd was shot and set in California just like part 3 and you never really get that Christmas feel and when having your movie set on a Holliday you need to capture that atmosphere. I totally get Christmas on the West Coast is different, but I’d prefer a colder setting. Every so often you might see some Christmas decorations, but other than that this movie could have been set on any day and it was only Christmas because it was a sequel to Silent Night, Deadly Night.

The screenplay was written by Carlos Lazlo, but apparently his script was thrown out and re-written by Monte Hellman and Arthur Gorson, but since only Lazlo is credited I’ll only mention him. The script was rather terrible, but did have a few decent ideas, but it’s so poorly written with lame explanations these ideas are pretty much pointless and sloppy; Ricky (Moseley) is in a coma and Dr. Newbury (Beymer) uses Laura (Scully) who is blind and has psychic abilities reach out to Ricky in their dreams; I don’t think it’s ever made clear why the Dr. was doing this and if it was I guess I missed the explanation.

As poor as the screenplay turned out there were some decent ideas presented and the character development, while by no means good is better than one might expect from a movie like this. The lead character Laura isn’t the typical final girl as she does have a bit of an attitude at times, but it’s more of anger due to her tough life. But it was a nice change rather than the nice good girl. However at the same time Laura isn’t very likable or very sympathetic. But besides a few decent ideas the script is so sloppy any good idea is lost.

Director Monte Hellman fails at delivering much suspense or tension; the pacing is sloppy and often a little slow and almost always falls flat. While attempts at creating suspense are made it’s so poorly done and we just go from one poor scene to another. I suppose not every problem can be placed on the direction since even the most talented of filmmakers wouldn’t be able to keep the pace up based off the script, but in the scenes that rely on suspense that is all on Hellman and it never works despite some decent attempts. Ricky moves at a snails pace and it gets quite frustrating seeing him move so slow. Despite reputation slasher flicks have with the slow moving killer they still move at a decent pace, but it would take Ricky an hour to move 5 steps! Having the killer move that slow doesn’t add any suspense its just annoying.

I think the biggest problem with the flick is Monte Hellman tells the story too straight forward; while there are comedic elements shots of Ricky hitchhiking while wearing his Hospital gown is quite silly and when the guy picks him up nothing is said about how Ricky looks. Forget the hospital gown, but how about Ricky’s brain showing with a dome over it that looks like a fish bowl. If Hellman would have aimed at more of a campy flick it would have worked a lot better.

I’ve pretty much trashed the movie, but not all is lost actually; despite how poor the movie was I was never really bored. Now that doesn’t mean I was ever entertained, but it’s such a hack job that it does have some entertainment value. The best part is how Ricky wears a dome over his head to cover his brain and the brain and the dome look like it cost a total of two dollars. Yeah I know this was a low budget production, but that isn’t a valid excuse since many low budget horror flicks have had great F/X and good production values.

The violence is quite tame with most of the death scenes off camera and the ones are shown look rather terrible and off camera may have been the better option; the best we get is a little blood splatter and if really lucky a shot of a decapitated head.

The casting is fairly decent believe it or not with Robert Culp as Lt. Coneley; I guess this was the best he could get at the time. The sexy Laura Herring has a supporting role and Bill Moseley plays Ricky and sadly he’s given little to do besides walk very slowly. Samantha Scully as the lead Laura wasn’t very likeable for the most part, which makes it tougher to sympathize for her, but all the actors are surprisingly decent.

Silent Night, Deadly Night III is nowhere near as good as the original, but better made than part 2 even if not as entertaining. There are some pacing problems and the movie is mostly a bore, but it does work on some level, but my advice is skip it and watch the original again.

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2 Responses to “Silent Night, Deadly Night III: Better Watch Out (1989) Review”

  1. kidmiracleshitter Says:

    Solid article, anything with Bill Moseley and Monte Hellman will get my attention. Hellman’s Two Lane Blacktop and Cockfighter are both pretty good.

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