Silent Night, Zombie Night
by Jason Coffman
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With a title like Silent Night, Zombie Night, one would be forgiven for expecting a zombie comedy set at Christmas time. The opening credits sequence— in which a used car salesman is attacked and zombified— would seem to reinforce this impression. Unfortunately, after the splatstick opening, Silent Night, Zombie Night settles in to a fairly standard “hole up and survive” zombie siege film. Which is a shame, really, as the opening scenes point to what could have been a pretty fun horror/comedy, and the finished product is more like a soap opera with some zombies in it.
Sarah Talbot (Nadine Stenovitch) is in her car, getting ready to leave her cop husband Frank (Jack Forcinito) when the zombie apocalypse begins. Not too far away, Frank and his longtime partner and best friend Nash (Andy Hopper) are having a difficult conversation at about the same time. Nash has put in for a transfer after Frank punched him at a party the night before. This conversation is interrupted by a sudden onslaught of zombies, and the officers head to the Talbots’ apartment to make sure Sarah is OK. Along the way, Frank accidentally shoots Nash in the foot trying to prevent a zombie from eating Nash’s leg.
Once they arrive and deal with Nash’s wound, Frank confronts Sarah about why she has a suitcase packed and they hash out their relationship problems while Nash is unconscious in the next room and the streets outside are overrun with flesh-eating undead. Frank decides to run a recon mission to see if he can find any more survivors and/or supplies, and Nash wakes up alone in the house with Sarah. While Frank is forced to hole up with the sort of creepy Jeffrey (Lew Temple) in an attic, Nash and Sarah get drunk and their real feelings for each other come to the surface. Clearly, things are going to be awkward when Frank gets back.
One of the main problems with Silent Night, Zombie Night is the characterization of Frank. He is supposed to be a tough guy with a good heart, but mostly he just comes across as a hateful jackass. He has a hair-trigger temper and is verbally abusive to virtually everyone around him. His scenes with Sarah where they try to work out their relationship issues are pitched at entirely the wrong tone, stopping any comedic momentum the film may have built up with dialogue that is entirely too serious. Even worse, the film gets dragged even further into depressing territory with the tragic back story of creepy neighbor Jeffrey late in the game.
Silent Night, Zombie Night isn’t really bad, but it is very frustrating. The filmmakers seemed to be at a loss when it comes to establishing a tone for the film. It’s way too serious and dour to be a real comedy, and it’s just a little too smartass to be taken as a straight-faced horror film. There are some solid practical effects and makeup, but also some truly embarrassing CGI blood effects. Some of the acting is pretty good, and some is genuinely horrible. It seems every positive aspect of Silent Night, Zombie Night is perfectly balanced with a negative counterpoint, and the end result is a middle of the road direct-to-disc zombie flick: not horrible, not great, and certainly not too memorable.
Silent Night, Zombie Night was released on DVD on 4 October 2011 and Blu-ray 11 October 2011 by Pacific Entertainment. Special features include feature commentary, blooper reel, deleted scenes, trailers, and a hidden Easter Egg featuring Vernon Wells.
Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He writes reviews for Film Monthly and “The Crown International Files” for Criticplanet.org as well as contributing to Fine Print Magazine (www.fineprintmag.net).
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