Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out! (1989)
WRITERS: Screenplay by Carlos Laszlo
From a story by C. Laszlo, M. Hellman, and A. H. Gorson
DIRECTOR: Monte Hellman
STARRING: Richard Beymer as Dr. Newbury
Bill Moseley as Ricky
Samantha Scully as Laura
Eric Da Re as Chris
Laura Herring as Jerri
Elizabeth Hoffman as Granny
Robert Culp as Lt. Connelly
QUICK CUT: The guy that just wouldn't die, Ricky Chapman, or Chambers, or Chuffed If I Know Anymore is still alive, somehow, but with serious brain damage from being in the first two films. He is reached by a psychic though, and wakes up to kill everyone she knows as a way of saying thanks.
Ricky Caldwell - He's back once more, and this time he is somehow less of a caricature, and also even less of a character. He's become more like Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers, in that he is a silent, stalking, unstoppable force. Which is a shame. He bears no resemblence to Ricky in the previous movies. This take on him almost makes you miss the wildly over the top, but hilariously entertaining, version in #2.
Laura - Just your everyday blind psychic girl trying to make some cash by participating in questionable studies to bring killers out of comas. She's very capable, and will do anything for her family, as long as she doesn't have to like her brother's new girlfriend.
Dr. Newbury - The doctor who saved Ricky's brain and is trying to awaken him from his coma, so they can advance the cause of science. He believes that Ricky isn't a killer, but an experiment. Yeah, let me know how that works out for ya.
Lt. Connelly - The cop trying to track down Ricky, and one of the men who put him into the hospital in the first place. He serves as much of our exposition and entertainment. He's a little off for a cop, and thus a little different from your standard guy trying to catch a killer.
THE GUTS: You can tell immediately that Better Watch Out has decided to leave the over the top camp in the grave with Mother Superior. The opening scene is super serious, deep music playing over the figure of a sleeping woman, as a wafting voice calls out her name.
Laura awakens in a white room, with no curtains, as a high pitched tone makes me scratch at my ears in pain. She gets up from where she was resting and wanders towards the camera, towards something unseen.
We finally get to see she's inside a hospital room, or at least a room with a man in a hospital bed in it, hooked up to the usual tubes and machines. Oh, and the top of his skull has been replaced with a glass dome so you can see his brain. I see we're leaving the over the top hilarity behind, and are trying for serious camp now.
Oh, but wait, he has a scalpel and threatens Laura with it. Not unexpectedly, she screams, albeit half-heartedly, and runs for the door. She finally tries door number three, and escapes, with Brainbubble Guy still chasing her. Do they really want us to take this guy seriously? You can see the stuff sloshing around inside there like he's the bastard son of the Kool-Aid Man. I'm sorry, but I'll be laughing at this for the next 90 minutes.
He slices her arm, and she runs away some more, trying more doors, finding him behind every one of them, and he's increasingly bloody. Ok, this is seeming more and more like a dream. For Kaufman's sake, I hope so. And then she spies a beckoning, evil looking Santa Claus. Ahhh, finally. Something familiar.
She follows him into another room, and manages to not find the Parker Brothers Pop-o-Matic man waiting for her, but instead there's Santa. Laura sits on his lap and tells him what she wants for Christmas. Sister, ask for a better movie career.
Santa shows her the only present he has for her though, a long, bloody knife! Aaand then she wakes up screaming, in a sleep study experiment. Gasp, surprise.
The surprising thing we DO learn though, is that Laura is blind. Well, that's something at least. She won't be able to see this turd of a movie.
Doctor Newbury asks her what she saw, and she gives vague, evasive answers like Christmas and Santa Claus, which she brushes aside as it's Christmas Eve. Fine, then explain the see through skull. True, but not the whole truth. Newbury wants to try again, and Laura is more than eager to do so, despite what she saw. It was only a dream to her, and it's the only time she can see, so I can understand that.
While she's under, we see a device monitoring her brainwaves, and someone else's, someone...oh crap, Ricky. Really? And that's him? The guy with the glass yarmulke? Really? We're going to seriously go with that, and not just as a dream? And I presume Laura knows all this, since she's got a window view of Ricky, and the monitor right next to her is labelled with her name and his.
Oh right, what's this all about? They're trying to sync up their brainwaves to get into the comatose Ricky's head. Is this the return of What Could Possibly Go Wrong?? I believe it is!
Fuck my halls. They're showing footage from the first movie again. I swear, if this movie shows the first two movies for the next thirty minutes, someone is getting a shovel in the face.
Laura goes back to sleep, dreams of Santa flagging down the Chapman's car and killing them. Sigh. We've seen this many times before. I feel like it's all I see. Fortunately, Laura wakes up as the killer draws his gun. Please oh please be all the reused footage.
They make one more try after Laura takes a pee, and unfortunately there's more footage. This is my own personal coal in the stocking, isn't it? Was I naughty? Oh right, Laura wakes up screaming some more as she relives the first movie. Yeah, I hear ya.
Did the makers of this movie not get the fact from the first two movies that Ricky was just a baby? He shouldn't have terribly clear memories of those days? It's BILLY as a kid we see in all these clips. Why am I trying to poke holes in nonexistant logic?
After she's reached her quota of screams for the night, Laura heads out, to spend Christmas with family up in Piru. As she's leaving, she also informs Newbury that she doesn't want to do this anymore. But she agrees to talk about it after Christmas. So much for comitting.
For some reason, once she's gone, Newbury tosses out the old chestnut about how Laura may be young, but she has an old soul. Well, ok, thanks for sharing, but that has what to do with ANYTHING?!
Laura heads to reception to wait for her brother to arrive, and tries to get some help from the attending nurse. Who is pretty much am unhelpful bitch to the poor, blind girl. Nice.
We then get thrilling scenes of Laura...waiting in a hospital while people answer phones! I...almost long for the flashbacks. Almost. The movie sits there for a good long while, as Laura and us get bored. There's building tension, and then there's being boring. This is the latter.
Finally, Laura gets up to ask the jerk behind the desk for some help, but now she's not even responding. Laura tries and tries, but gets nowhere, until we see the nurse has had her throat slit, and Laura smears blood everywhere.
But that was just a dream too! She gets woken up by her brother, Kenny G, and amusingly enough, the bitch at the computers actually asks if she's ok.
And cue things going wrong! Once Laura leaves, we cut to a Santa Claus sneaking around the hospital, peeking in windows, looking for people to cheer up. And he just so happens to sneak into the room of the man with the transparent skull. Yeah, this will end well.
Seeing that the patient is a vegetable, Santa sees this as a good time to take a break and have a drink. At least he offers some to Ricky. Of course, he also mocks the coma patient with bad puns.
While Ricky makes stabby on the Santa, his own holiday tradition!, Laura visits her shrink and talks about her dreams, and we learn some backstory. There was a plane crash, she sees things in her mind, blah blah blah. Ultimately unimportant to the plot. Wheel in the stuff about how all thoughts are connected, etc etc. And you thought the first two movies were packed with pop psychology?
This discussion keeps going on and on and...HOLYcrap, the Doctor became Ricky! It was a bit of an obvious reveal, but done well enough, with the doc blabbing away with his back to us, and we see Ricky's glass head as he turns back around. Not too shabby.
We see the nurse who was a jerk speaking to the camera next, it's obviously Ricky, and she acts like he *doesn't* have an exposed brain. She doesn't even act like a patient is standing there, just some guy. He sees the pointsettia on her lapel, nice and red, and that drives him insane, picking up a scalpel that JUST so happened to randomly and carlessly be lying around. Thus making Laura's vision come true.
Laura and her brother are all set to go to grandma's house, and Laura meets her brother's girlfriend, Jerri. And Laura refuses to shake her hand. I guess she learned etiquette from the dead nurse.
Ricky wanders around the parking lot looking for...ANYthing, I guess. But guess what he sees? Laura's brother's RED Jeep! If this guy ever sees my Jean Grey collection...
As they drive along, Laura has more flashbacks to the first movie, this time of the mistakenly killed Santa in front of Ricky. Sigh, I should be keeping track of the reuse AGAIN, but at least it's nowhere near as bad this time.
Somehow Ricky actually IS picked right up. What are people thinking? He looks like he escaped from a mental ward! Because he did!! Maybe if it was Halloween and not Christmas, but that's a whole 'nother franchise!
Not surprisingly, Ricky kills the good samaritan, and Laura feels it happening. And Jerri offers some booze for the pain. Ahhh, alcohol. That would dull the pain of this movie.
Being insane and not stupid, Ricky stops to get some gas. Unfortunately, the attendant IS stupid, and puts on a Santa hat. But we don't get to see anything. We just hear his girlfriend trying to talk dirty on the unattended phone.
Laura and friends stop to pick some stuff up and it *looks* like the same gas station as where Ricky stopped, but there's a normal guy behind the counter, and they head off without incident. In fact, it's mind numbingly boring, this scene.
But it then cuts back to the severed head you see up there. So I don't know what to think. It's never answered, but it appears to be two seperate stations.
We also get to meet Laura's grandmother, who also seems to be psychic, since she keeps saying the phone will ring before it does, and things like that. Eventually, the doorbell rings and...and... Oh geeze.
After I wipe away the tears of laughter, we jump back to the hospital where Newbury and his assistant are being questioned about the dead Santa and missing patient, by Lt. Robert Culp. What sort of blackmail did they have to get him in this movie?!
Lt. Culp asks about the coma patient, recognises the name, and was even there when they took Ricky down last time, seemingly to death. Newbury explains they secretly replaced his brain with Folgers Crystals and reconstructed it, but were unable to wake him up. Better science than I'd expected, honestly.
Back at grandma's place, she's giving Ricky a nice, hot meal. And he is STILL wearing that hat not quite over his brain window. And I gotta say, I like this Ricky. He doesn't talk much. And thus, doesn't overact much either.
Newbury is telling Lt.Culp all about his magical coma patient psychic contact experiments, while he watches security camera footage. They hear the recordings of Ricky murmuring Laura, and piece things together quick enough.
Ricky's still drooling over dinner, but he sees pictures of Laura, and that focuses him a little bit. Grandma talks proudly about the grandkids, and looks under the tree for a present for Ricky. As if that wasn't bad enough, she grabs the shiniest, reddest package under there. I'd be upset over him killing the kindly grandmother, but why bother?
The kids arrive, and Laura heads inside, calling out to grandma, but gets no response. I figure Ricky must be hiding, but I kinda wish they took advantage of her being blind, and had him standing RIGHT in the open, for us to see but not her. That would be terrifying.
Laura can sense something is wrong, because she's Daredevil, but Chris is too busy trying to get something out of Jerri's teeth to notice or care too much.
She has one of her visions of the not there grandma, then gets some drinks, while Jerri heads upstairs to take a bath. Finally splitting the cast up to pare it down a bit, I see.
Ok, this movie got way boring, way fast. I've sat through Chris and Jeri taking a bath together, Lt. Culp figuring out where they might be, and while Laura watches a guy get his eyes pecked out in The Birds, the couple head outside to stargaze. Get on with it, you're only 90 minutes long! And then there's more wandering around the orange fields, and the cop and doctor jabbering about car phones. No kidding, they waste time just talking about how awesome car phones are. The 80s! Grah.
Finally Laura at least remembers to ask where granny is again, so the plot might be allowed to creep forward once more. Heck, their car moved more than the plot has, since it's now missing. I wonder if Ricky drove over any jerky boyfriends with this one?
Chris finds his car turned over, not that we get to see it, and Laura comes face to face with Ricky through a window. Not that she sees it. But she screams anyway, and insists that they have to leave. No please, things might get interesting any second now.
At the gas station, Culp and Newbury find the poor sap who tried to gas up Ricky's car, and we get bluntly pointed out that red reactivates Ricky's rage. Because that hadn't been made clear in the past four hours of these movies I've lived through.
Finally, things do start to tick over, as the cops find the orange grove, Laura tells what she knows of Ricky's past, and Jerri meets Ricky face to fist.
While Ricky strangles Jeri through the door, Chris grabs a knife, and stabs it ALL THE WAY THROUGH Ricky's arm. Nice! He lets the girl go, and to get the knife out, Ricky PUNCHES HIS OTHER HAND through the door! Bwahaha. Finally, awesomeness occurs.
There are two downisdes to what Chris did. One, now Ricky's pissed off from his arm being stabbed clean through. And secondly, you've just given him a knife.
But then it's back to the guys in the car. At least they're talking about Ricky this time. I do appreciate actually making the cops part of this movie, since they were less than afterthoughts and footnotes in the other two, but I do not care about their car phones. Also, Newbury tries to sell some crap about how Ricky isn't really a killer, he's a way to stop killers by learning about how they think. Yeah, nice theory, but no. He's a killer. Just ask that gas station attendant...Oh you can't. BECAUSE RICKY KILLED HIM!
The lt. pulls over to take a whiz, I am not joking, and while he's out in the field, Newbury steals the car, because he doesn't want Ricky to be killed. Oh, you scientists. Always putting the greater good behind your own interests.
Back at the ranch, Chris was also taking a whiz, and found his grandfather's old shotgun. They don't know if it still works, but credit for arming up before stumbling around in the dark with a killer.
Of course, guns don't do you any good if you let the killer jump out of the shed and take it from you, before throwing you to the ground. So much for that plan.
Chris distracts the killer and tells the girls to run, just as he gets stabbed with the knife he gave Ricky. As Chris lay dying, Newbury arrives in his stolen car. Pssst, doc! See, he killed someone! Ergo, killer!
Ricky has very little interest in the doc, until he starts to play the recordings from Laura's astral projection sessions. As the tape plays, and Doctor Strange tries to get through to his patient, Ricky comes closer and closer.
And we have a happy ending, because Ricky hands over the knfie! Oh wait, he leaves it in the doctor's gut. Oh well. On the upside, at least he's not a killer, right Doctor Newbury? You'll be fine, right? Hello?
The girls have barricaded the smashed up door with a nearby piano, but that doesn't stop Ricky from bashing through a glass door in the other room. They run upstairs and look for grampa's army pistol. On top of all that, Laura apologises for being mean to Jerri. Awww. They're both gonna die.
Jerri doesn't find the gun in the next room, but Ricky finds her, dragging her under the bed. So now it's the blind girl versus the mental patient. Oh, the jokes...
While Ricky is standing right there, Laura goes up to him and feels his face. Now... Everyone else is dead. She's felt Jerri's bloody chest. All of this has not affected her. But when she touches the metal brim of Ricky's glass hat, she loses it and screams. That is the final straw. Ok, whatever.
Laura locks herself in the bathroom, but Ricky does what Ricky does best. At least, since he was lobotomised and can't overact; he busts through the door!
She sneaks out the other door and down the stairs while Ricky scratches his Pyrex bowl cut in befuddlement. Laura hides in the basement, but finds a rat and screams some more. Oops.
Oh for...no movie! No! No!! You have not earned the grandmother coming back like Obi Freakin' Kenobi to tell Laura she has the power to stop Ricky, she just has to use the force!! And this is not helped by seeing the grandmother holding a bowl of pea pods?! No!
Moving on...Laura smashes the light above her, telling the approaching Ricky that now they're even. Well, except for the large shaft of light coming down the stairs so WE can see everything, but yeah. That's about right for movie darkness.
She lasts all of five seconds, getting grabbed almost immediately. Right, even. My butt.
Chris, miracuously still alive, has found his way down to the struggle, with shotgun in hand. He distracts Ricky and asks him if it's live, or if it's Memorex. Now. I get the reference. I remember the commercials. I own many Memorex tapes. This reference has NO bearing or point here! What the heck?
Ricky takes a shotgun blast to the chest, flies backwards, and keeps coming. Fuck Memorex. This is Timex!
Laura finds a broken stick and calls Ricky over. When he gets close enough, she uses it to puncture him through the chest. Yeah, that's using the 'light' to stop hin all right.
The cops finally arrive, and Lt. Culp finds the body of Doctor Newbury. He says to give him a call sometime, referencing that stupid car phone bit, but really. He should have just shake his head and said, "Dumbass."
As usual, that should be the end of the movie, but Culp blathers on a bit, and Laura turns to the camera to wish us a Merry Christmas. Sigh, fine. I can understand that.
But then in fades Ricky in a tux! to wish us a Happy New Year. Just...just...this whole trilogy needs to burn.
Video: With the last three movies, the transfers shift from widescreen to full frame, and being half-assed productions, the quality shows. These don't even look direct to video quality, they look direct to tv. They're dull, cheap, and bland. The blacks are murky, the colours are grey. It's ok, but that's about it.
Audio: A bog standard stereo mix, but decent as far as that goes.
First Blood: 23 minutes into the movie, the hospital Santa goes down.
Best Corpse: Most of the deaths are unimpressive, so I give the nod to Doctor Newbury, since we see it, he deserves it so badly, and it was a decent swerve.
Sound Bite: A bit of dialogue from Lt. Connelly that still makes zero sense to me. "Do you know what they call it when you get deja vu twice? Stupid!" I still don't get it.
Blood Type - D: There's some blood, but it's all pretty standard, nothing creative. The most creative thing in the movie is Ricky's brain bowl, and that's just silly.
Sex Appeal: Zzzz.
Movie Review: Wow. Just wow. I'm not sure how to judge this one in relation to the others. It is NOwhere near as good as the first. And it is nowhere near as insane as the second. But it at least has a story, as bland as it is, and is at least coherent, if padded. Although padded in different ways than Ricky's flashbacks in #2. Also, I think the series has made a major misstep with bringing in wacky fake science with the brain dome and blind psychics to sync up brainwaves and all that crap. These are supposed to be fun, simple slashers with Santa Clauses wreaking havoc, but now we have a guy in a smock and you can see his brain? There was a sense of reality before, even with crazy overacting Ricky. Now we're just goofy. As a *movie* telling a story, it's probably better than the second movie, but that's not saying much. This is still pretty cheap, and pretty dumb. Two out of five grandpa's guns.
Entertainment Value: This is a little more clear. The last movie was such a clusterfuck of what the hell that you just could not look away. This movie's worst crime is being boring. So much blandness that goes nowhere. Everyone here is dull. The only highlight is Robert Culp, who reminds you what real acting is like. He alone is worth watching. But nothing else here is. Ricky's new look is laughable, and not in a good way, because they try to play it seriously more than laughs. There is some redemption in the cap, but that's about it. Neutering the bizarrness of Ricky's over the top machismo from the previous movie and replacing it with an over the top brain just does not work. Three out of five cell phones, and that is only because of Robert Culp and a few other gems, but otherwise, go watch #2.