Click to go home
TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT (1980) (dir. David Hess) ***
I could start my review with a cliched line of text that usually accompanies any review for a slasher film made in the 1980's: one that explains what started the slasher trend and why they were so popular.  However, I'm not going to go there because I know it's something you've all heard before.  David "Krug" Hess's 1980 Santa-slicer TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT predated SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT about four years, yet the latter film always gets the most attention - presumably because of the infamous parent petitions to get the film banned.  But which is really the superior film here?  Personally, I'd go with SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT.  It's obvious, though, that TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT had more of an influence on the genre, even if most people don't notice it or haven't heard of the film. 
Ho! Ho! Ho!
The plot is standard slasher fare:  some sorority girls decide to stay behind during Christmas break instead of visiting their families, which was a device first noticeable in 1972's BLACK CHRISTMAS and is usually a big no-no in these types of films.  Another huge mistake they make is drugging the den mother in order to sneak in their boyfriends, and as they soon find out, the guestlist starts to... err, decline quite rapidly.  Rather than spoil the film for you, I'll just leave it at that.  I mean, what else can you expect for a movie with a crazed killer dressed as Santa Claus?  But as you watch the movie, ask yourself, 'Is everything really all that it seems?'  Once the movie's over, you might find yourself truly surprised at the outcome (either that, or you'll have the killer guessed in the first half of the film), which is either intentionally or unintentionally paid subtle homage to in Wes Craven's SCREAM.  Either way, it's undeniable that this is an entertaining movie and I highly doubt Mr. Hess wanted it to be any different from the horror films coming out around that time.  He didn't want to make the next "thinking man's" picture, because he knew that it was just a cheap horror film that would be popular with the kids and nothing more.  What he didn't realize, however, is how successful it would come to be:  the original Media VHS (the film didn't have a theatrical release) sold ten million copies.  If that's true, then why is it that most people have not seen this film?  It could be because it's been overshadowed by the more successful slashers that followed - the FRIDAY THE 13TH and HALLOWEEN sequels, not to mention countless others, were all financially prosperous at the box office.  In fact, TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT seems to have been all but forgotten in recent years, largely due to its absence on the DVD format (which is usually how more obscure films gain exposure to the general public).   
He knows when you've been bad or good...
I'm not saying that TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT is a particularly great film (even if it is capably directed by first-timer Hess), but it has more spirit and is more interesting than a lot of horror films that have come since.  The original VHS release, now quite rare, is a solid find should you happen to come across it.  To be sure, a DVD release would be a revelation to anyone who has had to put up with a horribly dark and muddy transfer all these years, but will any studio finally find these little oddity hiding in the vaults and dare to release it?  I suppose we will see... if equally-rare films like HE KNOWS YOU'RE ALONE and THE PIT can get DVD releases, why not this film?  Also noteworthy is that it was made the same year as another similar - though lesser - film, YOU BETTER WATCH OUT (aka Christmas Evil and Terror in Toyland).  But TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT is an above-average entry to the infrequently explored Santa-slayer genre.
Don't barf on me, buddy!
- Ryan Clark
All reviews copyright Xploitation Update, 2004