As we talked about here on HL back in October, the original plan for the Halloween franchise was that unconnected sequel Halloween 3: Season of the Witch would take the series down an entirely different path, kick-starting an anthology of sequels connected only by the holiday. Of course, audiences didn’t take too kindly to the idea of Michael Myers being removed from HIS franchise, and those plans were scrapped.
Though it’s hard to imagine Myers being written out of the series, it’s also hard NOT to imagine what kinds of wacky sequels we could’ve gotten had audiences been more receptive to the idea – and if you’re asking me, the concept of killing off Myers back in 1981 would’ve likely done more good than harm. But we’ll simply never know what could have been, as money largely dictated the trajectory of the franchise.
While the series was unable to continue without its main villain front and center, it would be a decade after the relative failure of the third installment that another horror franchise adopted the anthology format and ran with it. Birthed into a sea of controversy in 1984, the Silent Night, Deadly Night franchise took an unexpected turn just six years later, accomplishing what Halloween simply wasn’t allowed to.
The original Silent Night, Deadly Night centered on Billy Chapman, whose mind was fractured as a child when a man dressed as Santa Claus slaughtered his parents right in front of him. Fully grown, Billy is convinced to dress up as Santa to greet children at the toy store he works at, ultimately leading him on a bloody rampage through town. It’s one of the most unique slashers, digging deep into the killer’s mind.
Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 followed in 1987, with Billy’s little brother Ricky taking over and going on his own murder spree. The terrible sequel is notable for being almost 50% comprised of flashbacks from the first film, and it’s become somewhat of a cult classic thanks to a gleefully over the top lead performance from Eric Freeman – weaving the term “Garbage Day” into the fabric of popular culture.
In 1989, respected director Monte Hellman came on board for Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out!, which continued the story of Ricky. The second sequel picks up some years after the first, with Ricky – now played by Bill Moseley – rendered comatose after being shot at the end of Part 2. The film is tenuously connected to the other two films, but is nevertheless set within the same continuity.
As if the third film wasn’t strange enough, things got even more interesting in 1990, when Brian Yuzna was hired to direct the fourth installment. The original plan was to continue Ricky’s story, and a script had been written, but Yuzna agreed to make the movie only if he could re-tool the script and excise any and all connections to the franchise. And thus, Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation came into being.
The story of a reporter who uncovers a strange cult dedicated to resurrecting the Egyptian goddess known as Isis, Initiation was as far removed from the pre-existing franchise as you could get, telling a completely standalone story that happened to take place around Christmastime. In so many words, it was the Halloween 3 of the franchise, but unlike Halloween 3, it paved the way for more seasonal insanity.
Yuzna returned the following year to produce Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker, and this time he fully embraced the Christmas theme for a tale about an evil toy maker who uses his creations to do his dirty deeds. Starring Mickey Rooney, who had years before rallied against Silent Night, Deadly Night, it’s a wonderfully weird film, capped off by one of the most deranged franchise finales in horror history.
Unfortunately, the franchise wasn’t heard from again until the original film was remade in 2012, but it left behind a string of early-90s strangeness that is to be admired. With not nearly as much money or credibility on the line, the series was able to head down paths the Halloween franchise only dreamed of exploring, untethered by an overarching storyline and allowing the filmmakers to run wild with their own ideas.
As it crossed over into the ’90s, Silent Night, Deadly Night became an anthology series dedicated to telling standalone tales of holiday horrors, which is something that no other major horror franchise can claim. Even the remake in many ways continued down the path set forth by Brian Yuzna, as its connection to the original film borders on nonexistent. And who knows, maybe subsequent sequels will also dare to be different.
Whereas Halloween 3 has become a cult classic in recent years, respected by the very same fans who once wished to banish it from existence, the similarly strange fourth and fifth installments of the Silent Night, Deadly Night franchise haven’t yet caught on in the same way. But if you’re asking me it’s only a matter of time, because they each offer up oddball delights that make for truly entertaining holiday viewing.
So if you love Halloween 3, give them a watch this holiday season. They deserve the same respect.
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