To All a Goodnight (1980)
TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT
WRITER: Alex Rebar
DIRECTOR: David Hess
STARRING: Jennifer Runyon as Nancy
Forrest Swanson as Alex
Linda Gentile as Melody
William Lauer as T.J.
QUICK CUT: A group of girls at a finishing school spend their Christmas break in the dorm, and get a surprise visit from Santa Claus!
Nancy - The new girl in school, an innocent, who has even less of a clue as to what's going on than anyone else, and even they're pretty in the dark. She just kinda goes along with things, and is the gopher, being the low winterbeast on the totem pole.
Alex - One of the guys that comes to the dorm for the holidays. He's a bit nerdy, loves rambling about science, and until the middle of the movie, a virgin. He gets along well with Nancy, since they're both on the innocent side of things, and just have no idea what's going on.
TJ - The main guy, a bit of your typical jock, and also a bit jerk, since he makes one guy he doesn't particularly like spend the entire time they're out at the school, sleeping on the dirt by the plane they flew in on.
Mrs. Jensen - The housemom of the girls' dorm. She's kind, and gentle, and more than a bit of a pushover, as the girls get her out of the way to bring over boys, and she doesn't care.
THE GUTS: Merry Triskmas, everyone! Or more accurately, happy Boxing Day, since this is being posted on the 26th. This year's lump of coal Ricky left in my stocking is the 1980 Christmas slasher, To All a Goodnight.
Good Golly wastes no time in getting things going, as we start off at a girl's school two years ago, and a girl is hazed and killed pretty much immediately. I barely even have time to register the movie has started before it happens. We then jump to the present day of 1980, and get the actual plot going.
The flashback is done wonderfully with this faded vignette look around the edges, and it gives you at once this 'looking into the past' feel, along with an old photographic look, as well as almost looking through the killer's mask, which actually isn't what's going on. But it does remain very evocative of Halloween, without being the same.
Anyways, in the present, most of the girls are leaving for Christmas break, and the remaining girls are gonna invite boys over to party. Oh, if only this wasn't in California, and there was snow, and they could get snowed in, and play with isolation. But nope. Warm, sunny, palm trees...totally non-threatening and unscary.
While the girls and housemom Mrs. Jensen sit down to dinner, we watch as an unseen figure gets some gloves on, grabs a knife, and goes over their Christmas list. Normally, a killer with a list just goes on through and checks off one by one, but not here! This killer, who is clearly out for revenge for the girl's death two years ago, just says NOPE they all dead, and crosses off the entire list at once. I respect efficiency.
The girls conspire to get Mrs. Jensen out of the way and off to bed early, so they can have their secret party. Because boys are not allowed, and I'm sure all the ruckus won't wake her up one bit.
One of the girls, Cynthia, is looking to get things started early, and is already sneaking outside with her boyfriend. And like any good slasher, bad behaviour is punished, when the pair of them get killed off before we can even care about who they are. ...Were.
We also get introduced to Ralph, the weird, creepy, live-in handyman for the dorm. He's one part red herring and one part Harbinger.
They clearly want you to think he's a suspect since he's always walking around with stabby garden tools, and just plain weird and religious. But in reality, he's there to fulfill the Harbinger role with proclamations of death and doom.
Can you just imagine living with a Harbinger full time? "Ralph, could you pass me the meatloaf?" "There is death awaiting all of you." "...Okay fine, I'll just have a salad."
Finally Jensen is put to bed, and the boys fly in, literally. One of them has a small plane and ships the gang in like a bunch of drug runners with illicit cargo in the dark. One of the guys gets left behind at the plane, and oh what a fun job. "Here, it's the middle of winter, spend your night sleeping in a piper cub."
One of the girls heads to the kitchen, and Santa shows up to kill her. Which is fortunate, because while things seem to be moving at a decent pace, every scene with the kids is just talk talk talk so far. It is at once doing a lot, and spinning its wheels. I mean, we're at four deaths already. But they're all so quick, and then back to talking about MRIs.
As everyone pairs off for sexytimes, one of the guys goes looking for the missing Patricia. The good news is, he finds her. The bad news is, Santa Killer finds him, and bashes his face in.
Santa is a very considerate killer, I must say. He does not screw around, kills people pretty quick, and even buries the bodies out back! And let's just take a moment to appreciate the time that must take, to dig, dump a body, and fill the holes.
We've had so many people disappear and get killed that someone is already asking, "Hey...where is everybody?!" barely more than 20 minutes in. We're not quite at peak corpse though, since no one has realised there's killing going on, just people wandering off.
Since the plot is kinda dragging on, two of the girls go to the kitchen to kill more time, but at least find the bloodstain from Patricia's murder. But you know what they do? They just shrug it off. "Well, I guess Ralph cut himself on some shears!"
That...THAT IS NOT THE RIGHT REACTION TO A PUDDLE OF BLOOD!
But fortunately, enough time has passed, and while another couple is having sex, Santa shows up with another box of double homicide for them. He kills the guy with a crossbow through the back of the head, and then was hiding in a suit of armour in the house, and uses the axe to behead the girl. Okay cool.
The next day dawns, and it turns out the plane needs some repairs, so the guys are there for a bit longer than planned. And Mrs. Jensen seems weirdly okay with it, despite the rules. But more importantly, is the poor guy STILL just 'staying with the plane'?
Meanwhile, some of the couples are enjoying the day, spending time in the sun, having nice romantic picnics in the grass. Sigh. Christmas horror movies should be banned from being set in California. There is no sense of dread, urgency, or anything when the winter scenes could just as easily be summer.
Nancy is scampering through the woods, trips and finds Ralph's dead body, so we have achieved a form of peak corpse. Although they still think it was just an accident, and everyone else has just wandered off, even though cops get called in.
A couple cops get left behind to guard the house, and they try reassuring the kids by telling them that there's probably nothing to worry about. Whomever killed Ralph is miles away by now! Yeah, not with 35 minutes left to go they ain't.
Night falls, and as I struggle not to doze off with half the cast, there's a lot more talking until finally one of the couples wanders off to explore.
But before anything can happen to them, Santa finds one of the cops and buries an axe in his face. Well, so much for their protection.
Alex and Nancy go and explore an upstairs area she's never been in. Because that's always what you wanna do when there's maybe a killer on the loose.
Meanwhile, TJ and Melody are wandering outside, as the other two wander inside. Lots of wandering, with Santa wandering around them. Get on with it!
And then Nancy makes the best comment on the movie so far, "It sure doesn't feel much like Christmas." NO NO IT DOES NOT. Okay, sure, she means because of the deaths and mood, but I'm still not going to let all that greenery go.
Oh, there's also the redhead who finished banging the second not-dead cop in her bed, and then Santa finally shows up for the final act beginning.
As she's getting in the shower, she pulls back the curtain and finds one of the previous victims' severed head has been crammed over the shower.
Oh right, and also, the cop she shagged stumbles in with a knife in his back. At least, I'm pretty sure that's who it is.
Also, Santa shows up and Red screams her head off, not alerting a single person in the entire house. It's a big house, but it's not THAT big!
Before we can be bored to tears by Nancy and Alex dancing to kill time, Santa shows up to hang TJ and Melody runs for help. This is, I would say, officially reaching peak corpse. And it only took seeing Santa actually kill someone to tip them off.
She screams about TJ being dead, and it goes back and forth until I'm dryly proclaiming, "Everybody is dead, Dave." They then run around to try and find others, and well...they DO, just not in any sort of living state.
They do find Leah still alive though, who has kinda snapped after having her shower ruined by the Darth Vader shower head wannabe. The girls try and escape, but Santa shows up.
But then Santa unmasks while Mel makes a run for the plane. And dun dun DUNNN, it's Mrs. Jensen! See, it turns out the dead girl from two years ago was her daughter, and now she's getting revenge on all those who killed her. Oh, and also Nancy, who is a freshman, but Jensen isn't exactly sane anymore.
She just keeps repeating, "You killed my baby!" and Nancy replies over and over, "I wasn't even here then!" I'm not even supposed to be here today!!
And because we need to drag this out a wee bit longer, we of course get into a chase sequence through the house.
Melody reaches the plane and wakes the pilot up, making his sleeping bag disappear in editing. She tries to explain that people are dead, and he tries to get the plane fixed.
Oh, but no one notices Santa sitting in the co-pilot's seat, until he turns on the plane and slices up the poor pilot. Probably Melody too.
Back at the house, the chase continues between Santa Mom and Nancy, until she mirrors her own daughter's death and plummets off the landing to the ground below.
Nancy runs off to have a good cry, but that's when Santa carries in Mrs. Jensen's body, and sets it out under the tree.
Wait. I'm seeing double. Four Santas!? Who could the second one be??
..Which, okay, at this point is a bit disingenuous, I've seen the movie a few times, but the first time through...What a twist. I wish they'd done more with the two Santas, and you kinda knew something was wrong, but because it's not a greatly made movie, you'd think it was just bad editing, or typical "Well, the killer moves fast!" logic, until they reveal no, TWO killers.
Finally Santa #2 starts talking, and it's Jensen's husband, but oh, the twist does not end there, Triskelions. He removes his mask, revealing the cop from earlier! Before he can end Nancy though, Alex arrives in the Saint Nick of time with a crossbow, and kills Santa Cop.
So Nancy and Alex run off into the sunrise, completely leaving Leah behind to dance her sanity away with all the dead bodies. Nancy TRIES to go back for her, but Alex is a nervous wad of NOPE and just keeps running. What a wanker.
Video: Well, it's not great, but it's solid enough for this no budgeter.
Audio: I've heard worse, I've heard better. Averageness abounds!
Sound Bite: "You're faking it!" "That's what my high school coach used to tell me." Uh. Does that sound REALLY REALLY skeevy to anyone else, or is it just me?!
Body Count: A very nice pile of bodies, but the pacing spreads them out terribly.
1 - Not even 40 seconds in, when a mannequin falls to her doom.
2 - Cynthia's boyfriend gets stabbied.
3 - And Cynthia soon follows.
4 - Patricia gets her throat slit by Santa.
5 - A guy gets killed by Santa and a giant rock.
6 - Ralph gets his head bashed in off screen.
7 - One of the cops gets axed in the head by Santa.
8 - Santa marks the other cop with a knife.
9 - Santa hangs the TJ from the trees with care.
10 - The pilot gets hacked up by his own plane.
11 - Santa Mom dies when she mirrors her daughter's death.
12 - Santa Dad gets a crossbow bolt to the back.
Best Corpse: I am definitely partial to the poor bastard getting hacked up by propellers.
Peak Corpse: A glancing blow at 43 minutes when there's one dead body, but it takes longer for the kids to believe. 1:10 finally hits it when they see Santa actually killing people.
Blood Type - C+: A very respectable effort, but nothing terribly stand out in the effects department.
Sex Appeal: It's an all girl's school, so of course there's plenty of naked shower time.
Drink Up! Every time Ralph proclaims doom, or time for prayer.
Video Nasties: Gotta love that double murder, so enjoy!
Movie Review: This is okay. It's well made enough, although the plot doesn't make a lot of sense. Why wait two years for revenge? Why dress up as Santa? What does a Santa costume even have to do with it? Aside from a REALLY catchy name, there's absolutely zero reason this movie had to be set at Christmas. Especially since there's nothing even remotely wintery about it. The acting is average. The story is okay. It's pretty much a very okay movie. Two out of five Santas.
Entertainment Value: I did have quite a bit of fun with this. It's campy as hell, and really silly. The plot is just absurd, Santa's got no business being there, except for the barest of excuses. I love Ralph. He's a highlight. Just having that Harbinger archetype right there, bothering people all the time. The kills are really creative at times, and that twist at the end...comes out of nowhere in the best and worst way those sorts of things can be done. Three out of five big heavy rocks.