Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation (1990)

**This review contains spoilers**

One night during the Christmas season, a woman falls from a rooftop after a struggle with an unknown attacker. The woman bursts into flames before crashing to the ground, and an eccentric vagrant named Ricky (Clint Howard) inspects the burning corpse, but he’s scared off by the police.

Kim (Neith Hunter) is an ambitious and frustrated journalist, who’s tired of being held down by the men at her job. Kim insists on doing the story for the burning woman’s death, but instead, her boss, Eli (Reggie Bannister) gives the assignment to her boyfriend/co-worker, Hank (Tommy Hinkley). Driven by anger and a determination to prove all of her male superiors wrong, Kim decides to do the story with some secret sleuthing.

At a local bookstore, Kim meets the owner, Fima (Maud Adams), who directs her to a book on spontaneous combustion. After a hostile interaction with Ricky, Fima urges Kim to study the occult, but she refuses. Soon enough, Fima invites Kim to join her and friends at a picnic in the park, and Kim agrees. Kim’s erratic behavior creates problems at work, but Kim receives support from her co-worker, neighbor, and one trustworthy friend, Janice (Allyce Beasley). At the picnic, Kim meets Katherine (Jeanne Bates) and Jane (Marjean Holden). During the picnic, Kim unknowingly drinks drugged wine.

After the picnic in the park, a series of bizarre incidents and bug infestations disrupt Kim’s life. Kim’s relationship with Hank deteriorates after a dinner with his father, Gus (Ben Slack) his mother, Ann (Laurel Lockhart), and young brother, Lonnie (Conan Yuzna). But a strained first meeting with Hank’s parents is the least of Kim’s worries. After piecing together the clues, and developing a strong hatred for all men, Kim learns a series of shocking secrets: Fima, Katherine, and Jane are actually witches, who are determined to live a life free of men. Janice is a witch, and she’s apart of Fima’s clan, and Janice helped with the planning for Kim’s initiation into Fima’s group of witches.

Ricky is a loyal servant to Fima, and Ricky is sent to help Kim in the final stage of her initiation. During a struggle, Ricky kills Hank, who was just trying to protect Kim. Distraught, and with no other options for an escape, Fima gives Kim one last order to complete the process: Kim must sneak into Lonnie’s house, kidnap him, and murder Lonnie during a ritual sacrifice on Christmas night. Kim must complete the task, or she will burn to death like Fima’s daughter, who was too “weak” to complete her mission.

Hunter is decent enough in the leading role, but her character is so stupid (more on that later). Maud Adams’ cold “you’ll be sorry, if you don’t obey me” stares are spot on, but Adams’ performance suffers, when she opens her mouth.  Ben Slack is good for a few laughs, as the sexist and racist old codger, but his screen time is limited. And Clint Howard delivers the best performance. Howard is genuinely creepy and strange, and the filthy homeless guy look really pulls everything together. The rest of the supporting cast ranges from mediocre to awful with Allyce Beasley giving the most noteworthy performance in the bunch.

Initiation is the most disgusting, violent, and obscene film in the Silent Night, Deadly Night franchise, easily. The bugs, the hanging body on meat hooks in a meat locker, burning corpses, and the nastiness coming from Kim’s transformations. This is a repulsive horror flick, that features a good amount of violence, gore, and a rape scene. Part four isn’t a brainless and cheesy slasher, and I know I say this a lot, but you should avoid this one, if you‘re the squeamish type.

Every time I decide to watch Initiation, the obvious twist and turns don’t bother me too much, but Kim’s stupidity? That’s another problem. Kim is so gullible and foolish. “Fima’s giving me a slimy bug to eat? Hmmm. I don’t know what it is, and it could kill me, but I’ll eat it anyway!” “The bug is making me sick, and Fima clearly poisoned my cup of tea right in front of me, but to hell with it, I’m going to drink it anyway!” Ugh. Fima’s “plans” are so easy to telegraph, but Kim constantly falls for her schemes every time. And of course, Kim realizes she made a mistake AFTER Ricky murders Hank, and Fima pressures her to kill Lonnie. Yeah, because clearly the woman, who drugs you, forces you to eat insects, and locks you inside a meat locker isn’t planning something diabolical.

Initiation is the Season Of The Witch for the Silent Night franchise. With the exception of  a brief clip on TV from Better Watch Out! before Hank’s murder, Initiation comeplelty ignores the storylines in Part I, II, and III. And they comeplelty drop the killer Santa Claus theme here. No Ricky, no Billy, and no other maniacs running around in Santa suits. It’s a refreshing change, because truth be told, the killer Santa stuff ran its course in the second film, and the well dried up in Part 3 by keeping Ricky alive. As far as ignoring the other storylines goes, meh. Never bothered me, when I watched this film for the first time years ago, and it still doesn’t bother me today. As I said before, the Ricky and Billy stuff ran its course in Part 3. They milked each storyline beyond a salvageable point, and it was time for something new.

The cast isn’t special, Initiation is the second straight-to-video film in the franchise, and the giant ladybug in Kim’s apartment looks like a cheap toy (gotta see it to believe it). But I still enjoy Initiation. It’s darker and more creepy than the original films, and some scenes are guaranteed to make your skin crawl. The Silent Night franchise tried to give the fans something different, and I actually appreciate the bold changes.

Final Rating: 5/10        

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