iLL WiLL's Month Of Yuletide Terror!
So here I am, December 1st, traditionally the day the Christmas decorations are put up around these parts... Bah humbug. My girlfriend decorates the apartment and I do my best to look busy doing other stuff, nothing new there really. We watch The Walking Dead mid-season finale followed by Talking Dead and other shows, she goes to bed early and I stay up because I’m an insomniac. So while I sit down late at night looking at all the shiny decorations and dozens of creepy Santas that all seem to be staring right at me I decide to go ahead with my plan of trying to watch at least one xmas related horror movie per day or night between now and Christmas Eve. I did it in October as most hard-core horror junkies do - watched shitloads of Halloween themed films for the entire month, so hey why not do it in December? Especially since December is usually crap for new horror releases anyway. Fuck it; I'll have Halloween in December! And while I’m at it I’ll try my best to give a quick review on whatever film I happen to watch. Some I may have seen before, some might be new to me. Some might be good, some might suck. Wish me luck....
To All A Goodnight (1980)
To All A Goodnight seems to have gained a bit of a cult following over the years mainly for two reasons, one being it's an 80s holiday slasher and two being it's the only film ever directed by legendary cult horror actor David Hess (Last House On The Left, House On The Edge Of The Park, Swamp Thing, Smash Cut). The film stars Jennifer Runyon (Ghostbusters, Carnosaur), West Buchanan (War Of The Planets, Battle Of The Stars, War Of The Robots), Kiva Lawrence (Swamp Country, Schizoid),porn legend Harry Reems under the pseudonym Dan Stryker (Deep Throat, Forced Entry, Whore Of The Worlds) and a group of other actors who starred in pretty much nothing else.
Calvin Finishing School for Girls, Christmas vacation 2 years ago. In an initiation prank gone wrong a gang of girls accidentally send a terrified girl off a balcony falling to her death.
Present day (1980) in the same school and most of the girls go home for the Christmas holidays while a few stay on. Those girls are planning a party while the school president is away and have invited some boys over as the only adults there are the lenient house mother Mrs. Jensen and the creepy caretaker Ralph.
The terror begins with a couple of the students being carved up by a killer in a Santa suit. some of the girls sneak out to meet the guys who arrive in a small plane which leads me to think either the school is on an island or it's in a rural area, either that or the guy's a jerk who likes to show off daddy's plane. Their crazy party kicks off with them sitting around playing guitar and singing badly while drinking beer and the killer Santa continues to lurk around the property taking out victims one by one. Creepy caretaker Ralph bumps into one of the girls in the hallway warning her that "there's evil in the house, be careful!" which most people would assume was a nod to the old man in Friday the 13th "You're all doomed!" but this film actually came out about 6 months before it so I’m sure the similarities are just coincidental.
Later that night Santa swaps his attire for a suit of armour giving one kinky couple a knight they'll never forget (sorry, I should be pun-ished for that joke) using a crossbow for a kill Daryl Dixon would be proud of, and his girlfriend - well let’s just say he 'axed' her for some good 'head'.... (Just kill me now) The following morning the rest of the group don’t seem to be too worried that half of the party didn't show up for breakfast assuming that they're either hung-over or still banging somewhere, that is until one of the girls stumbles upon a body and the cops are quickly called. Two of the cops stay overnight to keep an eye on things but the killer puts his Santa suit back on and continues the slaying (or should I say Sleighing?) until the break of dawn when there is just one couple alive to find out the identity of the killer and the reason for their massacre.
A nail biting finale and a bit of a twist finishes the movie off nicely but leads me to wonder why this isn't as well-known as classics like Silent Night, Deadly Night or Christmas Evil?
I'm ashamed to say that this was my first time ever seeing To All A Goodnight. It's not like I’d never heard of it before, probably because it's never had a proper region 2 dvd release and I’ve never heard anyone give it great enough praise to force me to seek out a foreign copy of it (which I now regret). The good news is that it recently got a Blu-ray release in the US so hopefully Ireland and the UK will see a release of it from someone like Arrow Video, 88 Films or 101 Films and will get a new cult following on this side of the pond. It is far from the bloodiest of the 80s slashers and the story isn't exactly new or original but it is thoroughly enjoyable and has some cool inventive kills. It saddens me is that this was the only film directed by David "piss ya pants" Hess, while it's no masterpiece it is really good for a first time effort and showed a lot of promise if he had stepped behind the camera again. It's clear to see he took notes while working with the likes of Wes Craven and Ruggero Deodato. Like so many other horror fans I loved his sleazy psychotic on-screen presence and was shocked by his untimely death in 2011.
Rest In Peace David A Hess