Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation (1990)
WRITERS: Story by S.J. Smith, Arthur H. Gorson, and Brian Yuzna
Screenplay by Woody Keith
DIRECTOR: Brian Yuzna
STARRING: Maud Adams as Fima
Tommy Hinkley as Hank
Allyce Beasley as Janice
Clint Howard as Ricky
Neith Hunter as Kim
Marjean Holden as Jane
Jeanne Bates as Katherine
Laurel Lockhart as Ann
Ben Slack as Gus
Conan Yuzna as Lonnie
QUICK CUT: Forget everything you ever knew about the Silent Night, Deadly Night series, folks! Because this movies starts fresh! So fresh it has nothing to do with Christmas! Or Santas! But it has plenty of a vindictive coven setting people on fire, and infecting people with worms! Wait, what?!
Kim - Kim is a plucky, young, Lois Lane wannabe at a local tv station. She's struggling to climb the news anchor ladder, and not getting much traction in the male dominated society. She's persistent, smart, and doesn't take crap, unless you're a little insane, or possibly a little wiccan.
Hank - Kim's boyfriend, and another reporter at the same station. In some ways, he's the only thing standing between Kim and a chance at the spotlight, but at the same time he's also helping her get there.
Fima - A local bookstore owner who lives in the building where a woman jumps off the roof while screaming on fire. Oh, she's also in a coven. There is no connection there, really!
Ricky - Don't let that name fool you! This guy has nothing to do with our previous Rickys. Even taking into account that all those Rickys before had very little to do with each other. This guy is a homeless guy doing the bidding of a coven of witches.
THE GUTS: With the Chapmans left behind once and for all, this movie starts fresh, with perenial character actor Clint Howard down on his luck after last role he took to pay the bills. Which explains how he ended up in this turkey. He finds a half eaten burger, and finishes the job, just in time to see a woman burst into flames and fall off the roof of a building, landing right in front of him. On the upside, we are not wasting any time, are we?
He rushes over to the still burning body, touches her, and pulls his hand away like, well, like he just touched fire! Yes, things on fire are hot!
Police sirens finally can be heard in the distance, and he makes way to hide in a nearby alley, because, well...homeless people and dead bodies are never a good combination.
Huh. I rarely talk credits other than to note their passing, but these are...actually really nice, really stylized. The title of the movie is played out in three parts, to the point I can't get the full title at once. But then the actual credits slide away like opening doors, or spin and blur, and do really arty things. I'm actually put off guard by how creative these are.
After that, we dive right into watching a news report on a tv, but all we hear is grunting, eventually pulling back to reveal a naked couple in the throes of passion. Just diving right into the naked, I see.
Kim sees they're talking about the woman who burned out and fell like a fiery rock to the sidewalk, and the guy changes the channel to...well, it's almost an imperceptable change from what they're doing. Nice to see they sprung for the adult channels in their hourly rate motel room.
We jump right to the same couple heading to work, and we learn they're reporters. Kim is new, and she's interested in doing a report on the Jean Doe to push her career forward. Although, since everyone and their dog is already reporting on it, it isn't like there's a major scoop here. Generally speaking, if you get your big story idea by watching the news, you're a little late to the table.
The program director...hey! It's Reggie from the Phantasm movies! Don't worry, I'll get to you later, Reggie. Anyways, he gives the story to Hank, and sends Kim off to make some coffee. Yeah, she's sleeping with the wrong guy at the office, I guess.
Kim sees where the body was found, and decides to take the initiative and investigate on her own. I like you kid, you got moxie! Now, tell me what moxie is, and we'll see about getting you printed, front page! And don't forget to get me some pictures of that webbed menace while you're out there!
After hitting a roadblock with a local butcher, Kim heads into a nearby bookstore to poke around. She runs into Clint, being as creepy as...well, Clint Howard, really. He keeps lurking around her, bumping into her, and pokes her in the back where he touched the crispy critter earlier. All that does is make her yell at the bum to get away.
The store manager, or whatever, shoos Ricky away and...WHAT? Ricky?? Unless I am given further evidence, I am going to assume that is a coincidence inside the movie, and a nod outside it by the screenwriters, because I refuse to believe this guy is any relation to the past three Rickys. Especially since I can't see his brain.
Kim rings up some books on human combustion, and Fima gives her another one called Initiation of the Virgin Goddess, thinking it might be useful. I smell a plot point. She's reluctant to accept the free book, but the owner inivites her to a picnic, and gives her the book as the invitation. An invitation in the Initiation!
Fima escorts Kim to the roof access, and then leaves her all alone in the empty building. Kim looks around the roof, and sees nothing interesting, not even the painted skull on the door right next to her. Granted, grafitti is probably something she sees every day, but when you're investigating weird...
She climbs onto the ledge and looks down to the charred smudge far below her, wobbling in her heels. Vertigo overcomes Kim, and she stumbles back onto solid roof, before she adds another stain to the sidewalk. Meanwhile, Ricky (Really??) digs around a roof pipe for another burger.
Instead, he pulls out...oh, fuck if I know what the hell it is. It looks like some sort of fleshy centipede he shoves into Kim's face, understandably making her run far, far away.
Kim returns home, where the cockroaches are waiting for her to clean the place up a bit. She flips through the Initiation script, and finds a page showing a symbol of Womanly Power, that looks exactly like her plate of spaghetti. And then she sees the arrangement of the crap on her table looks like a face. Lady, when the stuff in your apartment starts talking to you, it is time to clean, or get out more.
A roach crawls over to see what she's reading, and in the ensuing attempts to crush it dead, she ruins her dinner. Good thing Hank has been repeatedly calling to drag her out to dinner with his folks, so she can get something to eat.
You can tell just how much Kim is thrilled to be there, as she moves away from Hank every time he comes near. But she puts up with the bad jokes, and overly polite parents, and spends most of her time entertaining herself and talking to Hank's brother, Lonnie. We are clearly in the deep, boring part of the movie, folks.
Things at least get interesting when we find out Kim's Jewish, and she tries to explain the similarities to Lonnie, and defend her choice to just celebrate the time of the year, than any particular holiday. Hank's dad calls bullshit on this, literally, and an early battle in the War on Christmas is fought. As if that wasn't enough proof what a piece of work this guy is, he next lets us know his opinion on a woman's place in the workforce. IE, there isn't one. Can we get back to the killings now?
Outside, the couple try to work out their differences, and Hank invites Kim back to his place. On the upside, no roaches. But he's impatient and starts groping her right there on the residential street. Any kid looking for Santa is going to get a whole other kind of show!
Rather than be fondled, Kim heads back to her own apartment, angry at Hank's advances and everything else he's done up to this point, and cleans up after her roach fight earlier. She returns to the Initiation book, and finds a page about Lilith Fair, woohoo! No wait, the Fire of Lilith. Which has an image of a woman whose lower half is engulfed in flames. That looks familiar.
The roaches make an awful lot of noise, so much so that they actually get Kim's attention, and she sees her spilled plate of spaghetti landed in the shape of a hand, and is pointing at the world's largest pest problem.
That thing isn't a roach, that's a pet. Or it could eat one. She chases the giant insect around her apartment with a broom, throwing chairs around, and it throws chairs BACK AT HER. That? That right there? That is when it is time to call an exterminator.
On top of all that, the spaghetti hand is squirming on its own. Maggots, Kim. Your eating maggots. And that is what pushes her over the edge to go throw up. I dunno, I can handle the wriggling food more than the roach that could hump my leg.
After regurgiatating the finger food from Hank's, Kim falls over onto the floor, and the giant roach's antennae wriggle through the crack under the door, reaching for her face. And that alone is possibly the single most terrifying thing this film has had.
The next day, Kim's friend and coworker shows up to see what's wrong since she didn't answer the phone. She discovers a messed up Kim, and a messed up apartment. Kim then heads off to the pagan ritual pigout.
At the park, Fima introduces Kim to the other two in their group, Katherine their den mother and old crone (Hey she says it not me!) and Jane, a dance teacher. Honestly, they're pretty unimportant to the plot, other than filling out the circle. This ain't The Craft.
Those two head off for a walk they're so unimportant, and Kim decides to stay behind, saying she's had too much to drink. That, and a bad night of sleeping on the bathroom floor, I'm sure.
Kim sees more faces in the trees, and is just about to kiss the sky when Hank shows up to drag her back to work before she gets fired. Who will come up with all his best story ideas?
In a surprising turn of events, when Eli tries to chew Kim out for shirking her job, Hank defends her, saying she's already done her work for the week, and he even supported her in getting her to help on the human combustion story. Huh, there's hope for Hank yet.
Kim and Hank head back to the roof of doom, and still don't find anything, except for what is probably where Ricky sleeps at night, completely missing symbols clearly drawn on the roof. Particular the womanly power sigil. I can see Kim missing them, either because she's new or not wanting to point them out for personal reasons, but Hank should be all over this like a roach on a wall. She doesn't even seem to notice it until she stands right in the center of it.
As they stand in the middle of the spiral, Hank finally apologises, Kim thanks him for helping with Eli, and everyone is happy. Can something happen now?? This is a horror movie! NO ONE SHOULD BE HAPPY!
Hank decides to leave, and Kim sticks around to not do much of anything but look around at nothing some more, I guess.
Kim wanders the halls of the building and goes straight fo Fima's apartment, who was just waiting for her to stop by. She gives the neophyte reporter some tea, and adds a little something extra to it that Kim is unfamiliar with. Immediately she feels nauseous and sees nothing suspicious there.
We then get Fima telling an overwrought story about how she was unable to help the Katrina victims in a timely fashion...er, wait, wrong FEMA. Fima actually tells Kim about her husband and daughter, and how her daughter ran off with some guy, and it was somehow her husband's fault. Blah blah, men suck, blah blah blah. We know the crazy wiccan female empowerment thing by now.
Kim spills her tea, and Fima orders her about like a child to clean it up. Oh, the irony of Kim and Fima being worn down by men and their bossy, overpowering ways, and now Fima is acting just like one with Kim. Anyways, Kim flops on the couch, barely able to move, and Fima feeds her either some sort of fruit, or a bug. Kim sees a bug and it crunches, so I'm going with that, despite what she had in the bowl.
And what would a Silent Night, Deadly Night movie be without flashbacks? At least they're contained to this movie, as Kim has a bad trip from whatever she drank.
The rest of the women show up to help Kim undress, and doodle on her body. At least they're women, and probably won't draw permanent marker penises on her face. Ricky is there too and has his squirmy friend from earlier with him, placing it on the naked Kim.
Next, they sacrifice a rat over the worm, and it works its way inside Kim. Worst pregnancy ever. They tell Kim to spit out her fear, and she hacks up the most disgusting thing to pass by my eyes in some time; a creature that I can only describe as half centipede like worm, and half cockroach. Yeah, I'd be afraid of that fucker too!!
Ricky, which I still can't believe is named that, slices the cockworm in half, and pours the innards over Kim's face, in a scene I can only describe as...well, I called the thing a cockworm. I didn't realise that would be so appropriate. And while Kim gets her facial, the ceiling gets weird and looks like someone drew an alien grey on it.
She awakes with a start, alone, cleaned up, and clothed, like nothing at all happened. Kim grabs her stuff and is abut to beat feet when all the women reappear to beg her to stay. Sorry, but one deworming is my quota for the night.
The group tries to convince Kim she just fell asleep, but when she asks what they want, Fima just says she wants her daughter back. Kim bolts for the door, and the coven call Ricky the hunter to go after her.
She runs back home where Hank is waiting in bed, and wakes him up, then suddenly freaks out to take her key back. Kim, you do not feel sick to your stomach because Hank is a bad boyfriend. You feel sick to your stomach because a foot long cockroach centipede climbed up your throat.
After a good cry, it's like someone flipped a switch in Kim's head and she has no idea where she is, and is acting confused and sultry, in turns. Whatever they gave her, I think it's reacting badly and she is having one bad trip.
She settles on sultry and practically forces herself on Hank, taking full control of the situation and telling him to just lie there and not do anything. Uhh, girl power? *slowly raises a fist in the air*
And that's when Ricky walks in to watch...not them, but tv. And not just any television, ohhh no. This is a Silent Night, Deadly Night film, after all. That's right. Ricky watches Deadly Night 3. I swear, any intermovie continuity for this series is a giant clusterfuck. And it all makes my head hurt.
Hank finally notices the unwanted visitor sitting on his bed, and tells him to get out. He asks who Ricky is, and Ricky just looks at the tv and blurts out, "Santa Claus Killer!" He's just referring to the movie like a brain damaged bum, right? He's not actually admitting to being THE Ricky in these movies...right? Because seriously? If he is, I don't think I could handle that. I just...gnngh. No, movie! Bad!
Ricky tries to get Kim to come with him, but she's supposed to come with Hank...er, sorry. But she's too scared now that she's snapped back to a semi-normal personality. Hank beats the home intruder with a broom handle, until Ricky takes a bite out of Hank.
He beats on Hank for a bit until he's subservient, and then finds a knife. Ricky stabs at the bathroom door where Kim is hiding, but it just doesn't work as well as the usual axe. So, he decides to stab at Kim's toes underneath the door. I am staying away from door cracks for a long time after watching this.
But then it's back to impotently stabbing at the door. Until Hank gets up, and needs to be dealt with some more. Ricky stabs at him with the knife, and the thing is so small and so toothless, it's like mosquito bites, making Hank barely whiimper for all it hurts.
In the middle of all this crazy, the phone rings and its Janice. Kim actually manages to reach the phone before she hangs up, but only because Ricky trips over his own feet and the knife goes flying.
Ricky tapes up Kim as Hank crawls across the floor to them, grabbing the knife. Kim gets dropped to the ground while the men fight over who gets to make stabby. We watch this all from Kim's point of view, and don't see anything, but we hear plenty. Eventually Hank's dead, bloody body falls to the ground in front of his girlfriend.
Janice finally arrives and disarms Ricky. Because gasp surprise, she's part of the coven! And Ricky knows her! She tells Kim to head back with Ricky, so they can finish up whatever the hell this movie is about.
He drags Kim back and stashes her in the meat freezer of the butcher...wait, is he in on this too, or are they just illegally using his place? Well, if worse comes to worse, she'll be saved when Rocky comes by to work out.
Kim mercifully passes out but she doesn't escape the movie for long, as she wakes right back up in a missing scene from Eyes Wide Shut.
Ricky, in his cocknose mask...I got nothin'. I am staring at the screen dumbfounded. Must soldier on. Uhh. He wants to know why they have to do it in the freezer, and I guess the cold is making it hard to get his nose hard.
Fima is holding down Kim as the...the ritual continues, and they're not showing much, which I am thankful for, but I have zero clue what's going on. Aside from Clint Howard forcing himself upon a screaming woman while wearing a hilariously inappropriate mask, and possibly somehow having someone be reborn. Maybe Fima's daughter, maybe Kim. Maybe the briquette from the start of the movie.
Which makes me wonder what this has to do with Christmas? Or anything in the series to date? Fuck all, that's what.
So yeah, that happened... Kim wakes up all alone, again, but they left her naked this time, and it's probably a good thing because she starts to give birth.
*tilts his head to the side* To a giant worm? A tongue? What in Craven's name am I watching?! I think it's another cockworm. What did I do to deserve this?
Sigh. Kim crawls after her child, through blood, afterbirth, and who knows what else accumulates in a meat locker, and oh look, there's Hank dangling from some hooks. So much for him.
We then jump ahead to the butcher arriving to find the naked girl in his freezer, and he seems oddly ok with this. He tells Kim she has been initiated, thank you, come again. I am not exagerating much, here.
Kim returns to the bookstore, gods know why! And Fima tells her that the woman who jumped on fire was Lilly, her daughter, too weak for the initiation, and Kim has come to take her place.
The book club of evil tells Kim she's free from men now, one of their group, and now she has to go bring them Hank's brother. Because he's an evil, evil man, at twelve years old. Oh, and if she doesn't, she'll be consumed by fire. Nice of them to tell her this before they asked her to join. Oh wait. They didn't tell her anything. OR ask her.
Kim goes to the cops to try and convince them of any of this, but the detective looks around her apartment and finds no signs of foul play. The coven cleaned the place up good. Quick, someone call CSI. They'll get this case solved.
Kim runs off to somewhere, and gets followed by Ricky, who isn't done with this movie until he gets his paycheck. She ducks inside a motel room to hide, and the tv changes over to the Fima channel, begging Kim to bring them the boy.
Like Fima threatened, the power inside Kim is consuming her, or some crap, so Kim jumps into the shower to try and keep the fires from devouring her like they did Lilly. Considering this is magic fire that doesn't follow how fire really works, I'm surprised water stops it.
Ricky climbs into the bathroom through an open window, as Kim is catching on fire. He says to do what Fima says, and it will stop. Well, if she's catching fire now, how the heck will she find Hank's brother before she goes up in smoke? Uhh...because the moment she says she'll do what the coven wants, the flames stop. So, just keep saying you'll do it, if that's all it takes to stop from immolating!
Kim arrives to see Lonnie, the kid expecting his brother to show up, and the mother just sighs and says she doesn't think he'll be showing up at all this year. Why would she say that? Why is she so calm and resigned? Is she in on it too?? Is every woman in this movie a witch? Are ALL women witches?! What the what??
Well THAT was easy. Kim tells Lonnie that Hank is in the car, let's go talk to him! And thus we have the simplest kidnapping ever.
Ricky jumps into the house, gags the mother (So much for her being in on it? I don't know anymore, I just don't...) pounces on Hank's dad, and strangles him with Christmas lights.
The kid tries to escape when he sees his home starting to burn down, but Kim drives away. Ricky almost gets left behind, but Lonnie handily opens the door for him to jump into a moving vehicle.
Poor Lonnie gets taken to the roof of doom and tied down, and drawn on, and that damned pipe spits out fear worms like a rotten piece of meat.
Naturally, Kim doesn't want to kill the kid, and I have to wonder the same thing. Why not the father? He was a dick, he's a man, he's actually an arrogant male authority figure. This boy is little more than a woman himself in the eyes of some men. But I guess targetting the kid makes it more of a moral choice for Kim.
Fima and the rest try and make Kim do their dirty work, and Fima mistakes her for Lilly again, wondering why she's always so defiant. And like any good, rebellious kid, Kim stabs Fima in the gut instead of Lonnie. Er, I think my analogy fell apart somewhere.
She pulls the knife out and goes after Kim, but Ricky gets in the way, not wanting her to be hurt. Fima doesn't see this as a problem and stabs Ricky instead, and lets the worm...things finish him off. I dunno, Rickys are notoriously hard to kill in these things.
Kim feels the fires growing within her again, yelling at Fima and stuff, and weird shit happens with her fingers again. This movie sure does love its phallic imagery.
As Kim's hands and arms entwine together into one long snakelike thing and start to burn, she declares she isn't like Fima and the rest, and jabs the burning appendage into the head witch. She burst into flames, and when Kim pulls her hands back, she's perfectly normal again? And not on fire? How the hell does THAT work? Sigh.
So, Fima meets the same fate as her daughter, burning up and jumping off the roof to the pavement below. The rest of the coven just stare at Kim dumbfoundedly, when you would think they might do SOMEthing to her. There's more of them than there are of Kim, and all that. What's to stop them from getting revenge? Instead, they just watch Fima burn. They pretty much just shrug and move on.
And thus ends a fourth installment of stupid.
Video: Acceptable. Maybe a little overly bright, but the colours are good. About what you'd expect from a cheap direct to video movie.
Audio: Another standard stereo mix. Clear dialogue and sounds, at least.
First Blood: We pretty much start out with a dead body bursting into flames right in front of us as Lilly jumps to her doom.
Best Corpse: Not a whole lot to choose from. The stuntmen on fire for Lilly and Fima are well done though.
Sound Bite: "It's not easy to give birth to yourself." Uhh, no, I'd imagine not, Fima.
Blood Type - C: Not so much for the blood, but major points for effects. The worms are icky, the roaches are huge, the...whatever with Kim's legs and hands. Good gooey stuff.
Sex Appeal: Kim gets topless here and there.
Movie Review: I almost hate to say it, but this is not a terrible movie. The plot makes passable sense, if it isn't a little deep. It's not the most ambitiously directed piece. But it's done well enough. Thoroughly competent. There's still a fair share of plot holes, and maybe things get a little too weird for coherency's sake, but all in all, it tells a decent story. And unlike Deadly Night 3, it's not punctuated with long stretches of nothingness. Fima has some motivation behind her, and isn't a wordless cipher like Ricky. But while it's better than the last outing, it's a bit of a mess. It's biggest crime is having nothing to do with Silent Night Deadly Nights past, or even with Christmas. Why is a movie about a crazy coven of witches - WITCHES!! Halloween creatures!! - trying to increase their fold and strike at men in a series of Christmas slashers? Take out the two or three shots of Christmas decorations in the background, and Hank's dad being strangled by Christmas lights, and you wouldn't even notice. I give it three out of five roachworms for being a passable story that has nothing to do with anything else.
Entertainment Value: How bad must your sequel must be to be released in some markets under its own name, Bugs? If I was reviewing this as Bugs, things might be a different matter. On its own merits, SNDN 4 is an ok little diversion, but trying to shoehorn it into a Christmas franchise, while being about witches, really harms it. But that said, it is a decent story, and quite entertaining in its way. There is some amazingly icky imagery, some silly performances, but we veer even more into more normal horror territory with this movie, and less of a unique voice. Although it reclaims some uniqueness with those worms, and being a pretty out there plot. But the main villain makes things almost too grounded, and has no real presence. Thoroughly middle of the road, then, with its share of ups and downs for watchability, sticking it squarely at three out of five spaghetti hands.
One more to go ho ho!