Some horror sequels move on from the main theme of the series, like Halloween 3: Season of the Witch. Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation attempts the same, with worse results.
Movie: Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation (1990)
Plot: A woman with journalism aspirations investigates a mysterious death, bringing her into the fold of a witches coven… just in time for the Christmas season!
Killer: A small coven of witches and their henchman.
Critique: When we last left the Silent Night, Deadly Night franchise, the critique about the third film was that the idea was sound, it just didn’t go anywhere. The fourth film, Initiation, has the opposite problem. The idea behind it is muddled, but the film keeps moving even if the destination doesn’t really make sense.
The general idea behind the film seems fine: an all-female witches coven is attempting to recruit another member in an attempt to empower women, leading to murder, eerie rituals, and prosthetic use that would entice any fan of David Cronenberg. Unfortunately, that theme gets muddled. Are the witches recruiting, or sacrificing?
The problem begins with the film taking place during the Christmas season. Obviously, a ritual for the Winter Solstice is what is alluded to here, but there isn’t anything specific that Silent Night, Deadly Night 4 is referencing. Even if the idea was a made-up ritualistic day where a demon is given birth to instead of Jesus, it would have worked, but that idea doesn’t seem to be at play here. It is one of many ideas about what this witches coven is trying to accomplish. It has to be one, but the film alludes to many reasons for Kim’s apparent “initiation.” Is she to give birth, become one with the coven, or is she merely a sacrifice? Maybe if I knew more about these rituals, I could figure something out, but I don’t and the film refuses to clue me in.
Besides the magic of prosthetics, Clint Howard’s awkward character is the best thing in the film. His chilled-out portrayal as the homeless Ricky (a nice nod to Ricky Caldwell, if that’s what it is) is both villainous and heroic, so you find yourself being creeped out by him one moment, and cheering him the next.
Scene of Awesomeness: Any scene where Kim’s hands and legs are twisting and melding. It may be a Cronenberg rip-off stylistically and thematically, but it’s the most awesome part of the film, being eerie and graphic at the same time.
Scene of Ridiculousness: The opening scene has a woman being consumed entirely by fire as she falls off the roof of a building, but when she hits the ground, only the bottom half of her body is burning. This opening scene sets the stage for the awkwardness of the rest of the entire film.
Body Count: 5. Witchcraft films usually go for eerie symbolism rather than a high body count.
2 by spontaneous combustion
1 vague stabbing
1 strangulation with Christmas lights (Awesomely Overkill Award, for lack of anything else. At least it’s Christmas-themed!)
1 ceremonial stabbing followed by being eaten by giant, maggot-like creatures
2 pairs of breasts
Actors/Actresses of Note: Besides the always noticeable Clint Howard, Silent Night, Deadly Night 4 also features Maude Adams from the Octopussy and The Man with the Golden Gun installments of the James Bond series, Reggie Bannister from the Phantasm series, and Jeanne Bates from David Lynch’s Eraserhead and Mulholland Dr.
Quote: “Actually, I’m not religious. It’s the time of year, really. See, all kinds of cultures have always celebrated something at this time and Hanukkah and Christmas are just different holidays that deal with it in different ways.” – Kim Levitt