Sunday, December 26, 2010

To All A Goonight (1980)

It's technically still the holiday season, so here's another Xmas-themed review. There are probably two main draws with To All A Goodnight - it's one of the first, if not the first murderer-in-a-Santa-outfit movie (predating Silent Night Deadly Night by four years) and it was directed by David Hess, of Last House On The Left fame.

Like Don't Open Till Christmas, which I reviewed yesterday, this was a first viewing for me, but unlike DOTC, I don't think there is any chance of me ever watching To All A Goodnight again. It's movies like this that sometimes cause me to question my predilection for tracking down obscure horror. Right from the first scene, I knew I was in for something "special", but I had no idea things would be this bad. I'm not even sure where to start, but here goes.

This is one of the most formulaic slasher films I've seen, Christmas themed or otherwise. I know certain allowances can be made seeing as it's an early period slasher, but even for 1980 it's real textbook stuff. Every character is annoying, and the acting is just mind-bendingly awful. The girl with the fake English accent is top of the shitlist, but the other girls aren't far behind, with the exception of lead virgin Nancy, who has at least some modicum of charm. Obviously there's a bunch of meaty guys and a nerd that talks about x-rays and brain surgery for no particular reason - until he gets laid, and starts talking about sports and beer for no particular reason instead. The girls are all promiscuous and say things like "stop messing around and seduce me like a real man" to the guys, and there's an old caretaker that rambles on about Jesus filling the "blatant red herring" spot. It's not even a case that you want to see these characters die because you hate them so much, because they have nothing interesting about them all.

In my review of Don't Open Till Christmas, I mentioned how poorly lit that film is. If I'd seen To All A Goodnight before DOTC, I would never have mentioned it, because this is possibly the worst example of poor lighting I've ever seen. There are so many scenes where you can see almost nothing; basically any scene that's filmed at night or indoors is like watching your TV with the contrast and brightness at zero. Here's an example from the beginning of the movie:

In case you're confused, you should be seeing four characters onscreen here. I'm not exaggerating when I say that a huge amount of the movie looks like this, and it really grates after a while. Most of the death scenes are filmed in this kind of light, so you don't even have the pay-off of some interesting death scenes because you can't see shit - which basically removes 95% of the enjoyment of watching a slasher film. Even though there are a couple of deaths filmed in "normal" light, the film is virtually gore-free anyway.

Outside of the acting and lighting, this movie fails on every other count too. There is no suspense or build-up to the killings whatsoever, they just begin out of nowhere and are intermittently dropped in amongst scenes of ugly people having sex and some guy in a Santa costume digging graves in, you guessed it, total darkness. I'm not really sure how David Hess landed this directing job, but presumably the producers felt it would be something they could slap on the poster in order to trick a few poor schmoes into paying for the movie. Even though I hardly had high hopes for Hess as a director, it's really amazing that he could turn out something this bad, having worked with some great directors as an actor before pinching out this turd.

I often wonder about movies like To All A Goodnight, and how much business something this bad could have done. From what I can gather this movie did indeed have a limited theatrical run - if I'd paid to see this on the big screen, I'd have burned the cinema to the ground. I have a high threshold for awfulness when it comes to horror, and it takes a lot for me to reach for the fast-forward button, but I was itching to to skim through this one from the first minute.

Don't believe those reviews that say "Not as bad as people think!", because this is pretty much as bad as it gets. Neeeeeext!

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