SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT 3:
BETTER WATCH OUT
Director: Monte Hellman
Year of release: 1989
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 90 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: DVD only (hardbox most commonly)
Tagline: "When the nightmare ends, the real terror begins".
Also known as: Silent Night Deadly Night part 3
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: Picking up some time after the previous film we quickly learn that due to intervention by a meddling doctor Ricky survived being shot last time out and is now in a coma. Ricky lies comatose at the doc’s mercy with a peculiar glass fishbowl type contraption covering his head. We learn he is now the subject of an experiment involving another patient, a blind psychic girl named Laura. It seems the doctor is trying to establish a link between the two to the point where Laura will be able to see into the deranged Ricky’s mind. These efforts coupled with the appearance of a visiting Santa Claus at the hospital where Ricky is stationed result in the maniac awakening and causing mayhem before disappearing.
As a result of the experiments Ricky now has a deadly fixation on Laura and begins to make his way to the farm where she plans to spend the holidays with family and friends. Fearing for the young woman’s safety the doctor and local sheriff try and track Ricky down before he can do her any harm.
Good points: *There is continuity to some extent with the Ricky character returning once more as the central villain. This time however it isn’t the same actor fulfilling the role as we instead get Bill Mosely. So a bigger name and maybe what on paper at least looks like an upgrade but it doesn’t work out that way as Mosely is limited here by having no dialogue.
In spite of the change of actor Ricky’s return serves to turn the first three movies into a trilogy of sorts so at least it doesn’t go down the sequel in name only route. In addition there are a few things that tie this into the previous entries in that Ricky is still triggered by Santa Claus and the colour red as well as his killing spree from part 2 being briefly referenced by the sheriff.
On an unrelated but still positive note thankfully we aren’t subjected to extended flashback scenes which go on for ever and a day as was the case with large portions of part 2.
*Laura’s blindness leads for a handful of tense effective moments in particular the scenes where she stumbles upon bodies and either touches or bumps into them before realising they are there. The blind gimmick in itself is something we don’t see too often so it injects the film with a bit of freshness perhaps lacking elsewhere in the franchise. The psychic element is sadly underplayed and aside from being used to reanimate Ricky at the start doesn’t really feature from that point on. A missed opportunity you could say.
Very minor spoilers: Aside from the Laura character there are some decent touches thrown in such as when Ricky’s hands burst through a door and another part where he pulls someone underneath a bed. There is also a funny gag involving a gas attendant and his partner talking dirty on the phone.
*Though the kills are largely very disappointing there is at least an iota of effort made with splashes of blood being in evidence, a decent hand stabbing and something involving guts near the end. I’m reaching a fair bit to classify any of this as a good point but it isn’t totally devoid of gore. It could have been worse!
*Character wise there are some half way redeeming qualities in the aforementioned character of Laura who despite being a bit rude at times is mostly likeable and has a tough fiery side which is appealing. Insensitive “How long have you been handicapped” ? question aside Jerri is also pretty nice and if anything perhaps easier to warm to than Laura herself. Not only that but she also provides a bit of eye candy in the bathroom scene.
Bad Points: *Ricky unfortunately looks pretty dreadful, just more silly and comical looking than anything else with that awful fishbowl thing stuck on his head. I can’t say I was pleased with his appearance in the second film with no costume to speak of there but here it’s even worse. In his favour he does now possess something of a more slow deliberate walk which lends him a zombie aspect. Presumably this is as a result of his recent brush with death and time in a coma and it does to some extent lend him a creepy edge but it’s nowhere near enough to make up for his other shortcomings.
Fun fact: Before watching the film I made the mistake of thinking the person on the cover art was actually Ricky so I was expecting him to have long hair this time. Maybe sort of an emo look or something. Needless to say I was disappointed indeed when I discovered what he actually looked like!. I guess it’s supposed to be Laura on the cover. Not too sure why I assumed it was Ricky but it certainly set me up for a fall.
*There are a couple of really silly lines within the script which I don’t think should have made it into the finished product. Firstly from the doctor’s assistant/nurse near the beginning who utters the line: “If Laura is seeing what Ricky sees, maybe he can see what she sees”? That wouldn’t do him much good would it seeing that she’s blind! Maybe they meant he would have access to Laura’s thoughts but they should have worded it better.
Later on when pursuing Ricky the sheriff receives word that the orange farm which they believe to be his destination is just a few miles up the road. Jumping into the car with the doctor he says something like “Prey we aren’t too late”. Despite the urgency of the situation the sheriff in his next scene while still on route to the farm then pulls over at the side of the road so that he can get out and urinate! Just as long as you’ve relieved yourself sheriff, never mind the murders.
*Though as I touched on in the positives it isn’t a complete washout in the blood and gore area most of the kills are disappointing. Nearly everything is off camera or of the cut away at the critical moment variety.
*There are some flashbacks (mercifully brief this time) which focus on the circumstances surrounding the death of Ricky’s parents. These didn’t make sense though as they are supposed to be Ricky’s memories of that time but he would have been too young to have taken anything in back then so wouldn’t have any such memories. There was a similar issue in number 2 which I probably mentioned in my previous review but there it wasn’t as jarring as you could argue that he was just picturing in his head how the scene could have played out from what his brother told him. The same could be said here but it doesn’t hold up as much as when Laura psychically witnesses these scenes she is supposed to be sharing Ricky’s actual memories (at least I think she is) but he wouldn’t have any proper memories of that night for her to see.
*I’m going to finish up by highlighting a couple of very minor nitpicky type issues. Firstly it isn’t clear what the doctor is trying to achieve with Ricky at the beginning and why he wants to keep him alive. Later on in the car he may have gabbled something to the sheriff about using him to kill other killers. Well it was something like that though I forget exactly what he said. In any event it was muddled and not properly explained.
Near the start after Laura has her session with the doctor she leaves with her brother and then has another appointment with a psychiatrist shortly after. This appears to take place in the same building though where she started (where Ricky is). Maybe the appointments were supposed to be some hours apart but the film made no effort to show the passage of time so it came across as weird looking.
Verdict: A massive departure from the impressive original this is poor fare indeed and even worse than the second entry which although very flawed in its own right was at least fun to watch at times. It’s difficult to say anything positive about this really with the highlight probably being the Laura character and her blindness. The biggest problem for me was definitely Ricky who isn’t as memorable as he was last time here showing no personality in his post coma condition. This would be forgivable if he instead looked the part and was suitably attired but he looks atrocious. One best avoided I’d say and for completionist’s only.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1)Hospital Santa: killed off camera. Can’t remember any more details.
2)Receptionist: Killed with a scalpel type blade. It’s off camera again with us just seeing the blood splatters.
3)Motorist: Body found on the side of the road. We don’t see what happened to him though Ricky stole his clothes and vehicle.
4)Garage worker: Decapitated with us seeing his head placed by the phone later on.
5)Granny: Killed off camera with her body later found in the basement.
6)Dr Newbury: Stabbed in the chest.
7)Jerri: Pulled under bed. Corpse later discovered covered in blood.
8)Chris: Wounded in earlier scuffle with Ricky and later choked to death with a shotgun in the basement.