Sunday, December 21, 2014

Last Minute Holiday Horrors with TO ALL A GOODNIGHT (1980)

2014 has been an interesting year for ballyhooed video releases of less heralded slasher flicks. And while I was thrilled to see GRADUATION DAY get its due thanks to the folks at Vinegar Syndrome, I must admit to being somewhat underwhelmed by lovingly restored versions of both PROM NIGHT and CURTAINS. Unfortunately, you can add the David Hess-helmed Holiday Horror TO ALL A GOODNIGHT – out now on Blu-Ray and available from Amazon – to that list of so-so slashers.

Opening with a genre trademark pre-credit "accidental death" at a girls school, TO ALL immediately jumps ahead two years as a half-dozen or so students stay behind during Christmas vacation. One girl invites her rich boyfriend and his pals to fly up – thanks to pilot Harry Reems! – so she can spread, uh, some Christmas joy and drink some PBR while the filmmakers pad the list of victims.

From here on out it's a largely plotless endeavor as the killer knocks off students, Ralph the Red Herring Gardener, a horny cop sent to protect the girls – and by "protect" I mean "screw" – and so on until the "ah, what the hell" ending that feels more pulled from thin air than usual.

Granted, these same complaints about plotlessness (is that even a word?) and half-assed endings can be leveled at scores of mindless horror outings to which I've been much kinder. I get that. But TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT commits a far greater sin than simply being moronic (a trait I am definitely willing to overlook)... it's downright tedious.

Sure, HOSPITAL MASSACRE (aka X-RAY) may be as dumb as a post, but at least Boaz Davidson fills the hospital setting with freaks and weirdoes spouting insane dialogue while Barbi Benton runs around in her undies. In other words, I was never bored by it.

What came as the much bigger surprise was how tame TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT ended up being. While I've never been a huge fan, director Hess' filmography as an actor features sleazy turns in such flicks as Wes Craven's THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and Ruggero Deodato's trashy HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK. In his first – and only – feature behind the camera, Hess fails to deliver anything memorable from a sleaze/gore standpoint and the flick is largely remembered – aside from a killer in a Santa suit – thanks to the appearance of Jennifer Runyon as milk drinking sometimes peeper Nancy.

Runyon, who made her debut in this flick, would go on to a film and television career highlighted by a recurring role on 'Charles in Charge', stepping in as Cindy Brady on the tv movie A VERY BRADY CHRISTMAS (co-starring Jerry Houser of SLAP SHOT fame as brother-in-law Wally), and appearing in drive-in fare like UP THE CREEK and CARNOSAUR (exec produced by uncle-in-law Roger Corman).

Successful as neither a slasher nor a holiday-themed horror, TO ALL A GOODNIGHT deserves a big ol' lump of coal in its stocking. If you want holiday-themed sleaze that delivers the goods, treat yourself to the likes of SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT or DON'T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS. – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the editor of Exploitation Retrospect and the food and drink-themed zine/website The Hungover Gourmet. A contributor to such publications as Weng's Chop and Monster! (both available at Amazon) he is also the co-host of Cinesludge: A Mangled Media Podcast with David Zuzelo.

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