To All a Good Night Movie Review
Written by ZigZag
An Intercontinental Releasing Corporation (IRC) Production
Directed by David Hess
Written by Alex Rebar
1980, 84 minutes, Rated R
Premiered on January 30th, 1980
Starring:Jennifer Runyon as Nancy
Forrest Swanson as Alex
Linda Gentile as Melody
Judith Bridges as Leia
Katherine Herrington as Mrs. Jensen
Sam Shamshak as Polansky
Two years ago, the Calvin Finishing School for Girls was the site of a tragic accident that resulted in the death of one of the students. A bizarre Christmas hazing involving teens and a bad Santa ended with the target going over the balcony and falling to her death. Jumping ahead to this year’s holiday season, a few of the girls have opted to stay at school over the break to throw their own party. Anticipating the arrival of their guests, the ladies drug the housemother’s milk and send her off to bed.
At midnight, the naughty nymphos hike out to the adjacent landing strip (?!) and greet their boyfriends’ plane. Soon the group is having a wild party that includes listening to a tone-deaf guy playing guitar in front of the fireplace while he serenades them with a crappy original song. The fun is interrupted by two uninvited guests: the first is Ralph the ‘Prophet of Doom’ (pronounced: crazy handyman), who carries garden shears wherever he goes. He warns of evil and urges the girls to take care, especially the virginal Nancy (Jennifer Runyon).
Santa Claus is also running around the grounds with a slew of weaponry that he gladly uses on as many partygoers as possible. The party ends and the next day Ralph’s body is discovered buried in the garden. The kids are more inconvenienced than panicked, and when pressed about where their missing friends are, they casually reply “Who cares?” The police are of little service and the killings resume the next night.
The pattern of stalk-and-slash continues to whittle down the expendable cast until the final reel, where a twist shakes things up fairly well. Due to the poor lighting that leaves many sequences in total darkness, it is late in the film before it is even clear that Santa is wearing an actual mask to conceal the killer’s identity, which suddenly switches the focus to more of a traditional whodunit motive.
To All A Good Night is the result of two actors getting behind the camera and trying to make a horror film. David Hess (The Last House on the Left) directs this early slasher flick from a script by Alex Rebar (The Incredible Melting Man) equipped with a solid premise and many elements that would become routine in the coming decade.
The biggest obstacle audiences will endure when attempting this movie is the shoddy video transfer. Taking what was already a lacking lighting design and saddling it with a murky VHS dub that prevails on available DVDs, this film is not going to be easy to recommend. The image is so dark by design (either filming in a darkened room or utilizing a day-for-night filter for exterior scenes) that confusion is the name of the game.
Hidden within the darkness are some pretty nifty moments of gore, created by a young Mark Shostrum (Evil Dead 2, Phanstasm II). The killer uses a variety of hardware to dispense with the ugly bastards who are celebrating the birth of Christ in a less than noble manner. Victims are strangled, stabbed, decapitated or bludgeoned until Santa can convey the true meaning of Christmas to these thankless spoiled toads.
David Hess never directed another feature, and most of the cast did not pursue acting careers. Alex Rebar wrote only one other feature (Nowhere to Hide), but he and Hess continue to act today. The film they created is filled with clichés that appear amateur to contemporary audiences, yet had there been more talent on either side of the camera this could have been a classic film that would have gotten a legitimate video release years ago.
To All a Good Night is neither a scary movie nor is it truly satisfying either. It is an elusive title that comes with a reputation for establishing the rules of the sub-genre. It is true that Hess and company have lucked into leading the pack of slashers that followed for the next couple of decades. Unfortunately many of these successors handled the material more competently and have left this film behind for many a clear reason.
Day two of "ZigZag's 12 Days of Christmas".
Day 2: To All a Good Night
Day 4: Jaws: The Revenge
Day 5: Christmas Evil
Day 7: Santa Claws
Day 9: Elves
Day 10: Dead End
Day 11: Santa's Slay
Day 12: Black Christmas (1974)
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