One zombie outbreak. Two cops, two love affairs, but only one woman. As the few survivors attempt to band together and survive with limited resources, their internal strife may be their undoing. The synopsis sounds golden, right? It makes the movie sound like there's going to be a ton of tension and awkward interaction between the holed up love triangle, all the while the entire world is falling apart around them.
Well... potential, promising premises or interesting ideas are great on paper, but for 83 minutes, 'Silent Night, Zombie Night' doesn't quite piece the puzzle together convincingly. What we have instead is a slightly uneven, somewhat wooden or stilted zombie affair that lacks in consistency, but has a few fun moments. This is not a film that recognizes its shortcomings and plays off them for effect. Rather, this is a film where bad performances are almost rewarded by continued screen time. By the time the film ended, after the slow crawl that is the entire feature, I was a bit exhausted. I've seen more than a few independent, low budget zombie features in my time, and this isn't writer/director Sean Cain's first rodeo... so I really can't cut him that much slack, even if his filmography includes acting credits in some of the most insanely titled films ever. 'Incest Death Squad?' 'Vaginal Holocaust?' Dude...
The opening to 'Silent Night, Zombie Night' has potential. We see a woman talking to Sarah Talbot (Nadine Stenovitch), and after some of the worst line readings ever captured on film, a zombie attacks the living shit out of one of the offenders. Apparently he had enough of that shit. The film has hit a high note, before the two main characters of the film are even introduced. There will be no more mercy killings, no more horrid actors killed the minute they offend the audience with their inability to sound like they are capable of having an actual conversation with a real human being. Instead, we're going to have to learn the characters names. I was hoping for random ass kills for the entire film, honestly, after such a promising opening so full of cinematic karma...
The cast of this film... well, they probably are giving performances about equal to their pay scale for the film. The funny thing is, there are flashes of talent, potential, and humor mixed about in this film, as well as some interesting ideas floating around with the ones that can be best described as painful failures. After Frank Talbot (Jack Forcinito) blows his partner Nash (Andy Hopper)'s toe off in their first encounter with a zombie, we're treated to a scene quite reminiscent of the dialogue around Mister Orange's painful musings in 'Reservoir Dogs,' in a moment that can't be a coincidence.
Alas, though, the failed elements of this film overpower the fun moments, the giddy moments where shitty actors meet their bloody demises. First, the inconsistencies. This film operates under the notion that there are two types of zombies (and let's ignore the stupid explanation), some aggressive, some barely moving. This isn't a bad thing, as even the comic book version of 'The Walking Dead' has a similar motif. Now, the running versus shambling aspect in tandem? That makes no sense to me. I can get a zombie not having the energy to move around fast, rigor mortis setting in, but with some moving like crazed cannibals, and others barely moving at all, it doesn't make for a good combination. Bites and blood splatters are a mix of practical and computer effects, with little rhyme or reason, aside from the possibility that the budget ran out. Guns seem to never run out of ammo, until it's convenient for a scene ("a" as in one, not multiple), when multiple guns will run out at exactly the same time. Yeah, that doesn't seem forced one bit...
Then there are the facepalm moments. In the middle of a zombie outbreak, what would you do? If your answer was hang out in someone's back yard, sitting around in lawn chairs, barely even talking, before getting torn to shreds, congratulations, you're a fucking idiot! Seriously, after the radio, television, and surely internet coverage of the outbreak, on top of the bloody screams, sirens, and, you know, fucking zombies, you'd think people would stay indoors, not risking it. So why would entire groups hang out, at night, chilling like nothing is going on? Why do the three main characters constantly make stupid decisions for reasons outside of their own selfishness? Why in the hell do zombies start moaning or crying over the loss of limbs, distracting them from dinner? Isn't that contrary to the idea of a creature acting on its base instincts, oblivious to the wounds it receives as it marches towards its feast?
'Silent Night, Zombie Night' wants to be a moody, ironic little film, set during Christmas week, but really, all it manages to achieve is a level of unabashed ineptitude, with some random Christmas-y music and a couple decorations thrown in the mix. There are too many moments in this flick where the formula could have been improved, where the film could be made more competent and even. Zombie survival films seem to write themselves, when you think of logical progression, but here, that's exactly what's missing: logic. Instead, this film detours on odd tangents, including a group of assholes with assault weapons looking for survivors to save, who roam around in a Hummer with no room for extra passengers. Somehow I don't think they thought their cunning plan all the way through...
The Disc: Vital Stats
'Silent Night, Zombie Night' is one of Pacific Entertainments first forays into the Blu-ray disc market, debuting day and date with the DVD release on a BD25 disc with no Region markings. The disc has a few company credits before the menu screen, and I do have to say menu somewhat sarcastically here, as there is a static frame, no audio, and only one option: play.
The press releases for this title online inferred that a commentary, deleted scenes, outtakes, a trailer and easter eggs would be included, but that is apparently not the case here. The packaging does not hint about or refer to any supplemental package on this title, while Pacific's other Blu-ray release does have a supplement list. So, barebones!
'Silent Night, Zombie Night' is presented in 1080p using the AVC MPEG-4 encoding tool at 1.78:1, and the end result is a bit gritty, at times a little frustrating, but considering this film's aesthetic, I couldn't imagine what the DVD would look like.
This is not a pretty film. Lighting affects skin tones constantly, as it casts flesh in pale, orangish, blue, and ashen tints and shades far more often than it does a natural pinkish. Diagonal lines can get massively jagged, while hair strands can clump and lose clarity and distinction. Edges can be exaggerated, blacks can crush something fierce, and artifacting pops up on a few occasions, outside of the film's occasional strong grit that makes objects look a bit messy and troublesome. There are some random bits of softness, as well. All that said, black levels are very, very dark, and the shots that are spot on have some very strong detail levels. Colors aren't weak, in the least bit, even if they're occasionally affected just like skin tones. Picture depth is above average, with a few very deep shots thrown in the mix in daytime exterior shots.
After reading the trivia section for this film on IMDb, and all the filming mishaps, it's pretty obvious this was a low budget affair (some of the acting and disparity in effects also give this away), so it's hard to be too judgmental on this disc. I can imagine the majority of the issues are inherent in the film itself. This Blu-ray isn't a bad viewing experience by any means, but viewers need to not expect a glossy, super sharp picture here. This is a moody disc for a pretty moody film.
The only audio option on 'Silent Night, Zombie Night' is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. It's not horrible, nor is it a winner. Rear usage is beyond inconsistent, seemingly sprinkled in for random effect. Sure, some gunshots localize, which is nice, and late in the film some slightly militaristic music straight out of hell (it's bad...) finds all the channels, but for long periods, the rears kind of disappear. There's a little bit of bass sprinkled in, but only a few really small accents, and I mean a few, as in like two or three. Dynamics are questionable at times, probably due to the way that dialogue was recorded for the film. There's a lot of ambiance, but it's only in the front channels, so that really is a waste.
Considering we're talking about a film that has metal screen door banging that sounds like light gentle taps, rather than the full on clanging awfulness we all know the hardware is known to produce, that disappears into thin air, expecting a lot is just opening the door for disaster.
I'm as big a zombie fan as there is out there. I'm constantly thinking about films, shows, novels, and comics in the genre. I respect the indy filmmakers who attempt to get their names out there and put it all on the line, but 'Silent Night, Zombie Night' is one of the most ill thought out, poorly executed zombie films I've seen, and this is coming from someone who used to buy any Anchor Bay direct-to-DVD zombie feature, and there were more than a few stinkers there! As one of Pacific Entertainment's debut Blu-rays, this disc isn't horrible by any means, but due to the limitations of the film, there's only so much that can be done. Zombie fanatics, you know you're going to get this anyways.