Written and Directed by: Sean Cain
Starring: Jack Forcinito, Andy Hopper and Nadine Stenovitch
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
This Christmas, you are the holiday feast!
Like so many independent horror productions, Silent Night, Zombie Night seems to be the result of someone trying to figure out what hasnít been done yet. In this case, someone was dreaming of an undead Christmas, so weíve got a Yuletide zombie film now. That much I can say with great certainty. I can also say that it boasts the likes of Vernon Wells (better known as Bennett from Commando), Felissa Rose (better known as the chick with a dick from Sleepaway Camp), and Lew Temple (better known asÖthe diner manager from Waitress, if Wikipedia is any indication). Anyway, those are the three headlining names on the DVD cover, though itís disconcerting that none of their faces actually show up there; usually that indicates that their presence in the film is merely glorified cameos to help secure distribution.
Indeed, those three arenít the main characters; instead, weíre stuck with Frank (Jack Forcinito) and Nash (Andy Hopper), a couple of LA cops that find themselves caught up in a zombie apocalypse just before Christmas. Their relationship has become strained since Nash started to have an affair with Frankís wife (Nadine Stenovitch), so things get just a little awkward when the three have to hole up together and ride the whole thing out. In typical zombie movie fashion, they might tear each other apart due to their jealousy before the ravenous flesh-eaters even get to them.
Iíve probably run out of all the clever ways to describe how the zombie genre is just shuffling around like the creatures itself, but Iíll break out that comparison again. Silent Night, Zombie Night is especially rote, playing out like just about any other undead movie youíve seen. I guess this one takes place at Christmas, but I really question the logic of setting it in Los Angeles, where the winters seem to look balmy at the worst. Besides a few things that read like a checklist of touchstones, such as a zombiefied Santa Claus, the seasonal setting doesnít really do much. Occasionally some Christmas songs are sprinkled in, and Temple (who eventually shows up as a fellow survivor) makes this surprisingly effective speech about how he should be opening presents with his family instead of fending off the undead.
Likewise, I could have been doing something more productive than watching this movie, which isnít very good on the whole. Listlessly bogged down in soap opera dramatics, the narrative just doesnít have anywhere to go. In fact, one of the characters only gets put into a perilous situation because he seemingly gets bored and goes outside to kill some zombies. Eventually, the usual dramatic zombie movie beats occur (distrust, paranoia, and more general unpleasantness among the cast members) after the characters have some drunken confessions and work out their love triangle. The action doesnít really get moving until Wells and Rose show up as a couple of survivalists with riot gear to help out. If youíre a fan of seeing semi-recognizable faces, youíll be happy to know that these two (and Temple) actually are in the film for a substantial amount of time. I mean, they donít anything of note, but at least theyíre actually there, I guess. More fanboy pandering exists in the names of most of the characters, which are inspired by some classic horror figures.
I suppose writer/director Sean Cain also knows that anyone watching Silent Night, Zombie Night wants to see gore doled out like presents under the tree, and he delivers. While the film really lacks in many departments, impressive, gruesome effects isn't one. A lot of them look to be an array of practical zombie dispatches, albeit with some CGI touchups here and there. Cain also manages to direct some swift, crisp action scenes, keeping with the filmís already breezy pace. In addition to the nice splatter, thereís an interesting mish-mash of zombie types, as Silent Night, Zombie Night has both the shambling undead and the fast-moving hordes, and even bothers to provide an explanation for each. Well, sort of; Wells eventually ends up comparing them to Almond Joys and Mounds (one has nuts, the other doesnít) in what might sadly be the only inspired, funny bit of dialogue in the whole thing.
Fans expecting a new Christmas classic are likely to be disappointed by this one. Not only is the season poorly represented, but the film itself hardly offers anything new to the genre. Itís not a particularly bad film, merely one thatís been done much better dozens of times before. Since I couldnít resist giving a shot, I know another curious soul out there will be happy to know that the DVD is at least pretty good; Pacific Entertainment did the honors and gave the film a nice presentation--the anamorphic transfer is pristine, and thereís both stereo and 5.1 soundtracks. In addition to a commentary with Cain, producer Wes Laurie, and DP Jim Wright, youíll find a blooper reel, trailers, and an Easter egg (involving Wells) as supplements. Pacific also trotted out a Blu-ray if you absolutely must see this in the highest possible quality. Unfortunately, going that route wonít result in a better movie, so just throw this one on during a cold winterís night after youíve trimmed the tree, hung the stockings, and done anything else more worthwhile. Rent it!
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