Friday night at the home drive-in: Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out! (1989)

I didn’t see Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out! (1989) when it first came out. In fact, I saw Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker (1991) before I ever saw this one. I think I had probably been turned off by Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (1987), which had seemed to be nothing more than an excuse to retread footage from the original Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984). Having recently re-watched Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 on Joe Bob’s Red Christmas, I have discovered a whole new appreciation for it… but that’s another story.

Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out! is a movie that could stand on it’s own. It does make use of some brief flashbacks to the first movie, but they are minimal and integrated well into this story. I could imagine that if a person had never seen the first two movies, they might believe that these flashbacks were shot for this movie. Either way, the flashbacks work well here.

Remarkably, Silent Night, Deadly Night 3 was directed by Monte Hellman, who made movies such as the Not Quite Classic Beast from Haunted Cave (1959), the westerns Ride in the Whirlwind (1966) and The Shooting (1966), and the revered Two Lane Blacktop (1971). This could explain why notable actors such as Robert Culp and Richard Beymer are among the cast of Silent Night, Deadly Night 3. Even more amazing than the fact that Hellman directed this movie, is the fact that he has apparently said that he considers it to be his “best work”, although not his best movie.

This got me to thinking, is it possible for someone to do their best work on a project that doesn’t turn out to be their best movie, or book, piece of art – whatever?

I remember John Carpenter once saying that Halloween (1978) was the easiest movie he ever made. It is certainly one of his most loved and respected films. But according to Carpenter, he planned it carefully and everything went off without a hitch. So, in a way, you could say that he didn’t have to work very hard on it. That’s not to say that the end result wasn’t due to Carpenter’s talent and skills. But perhaps Carpenter was at the top of his game, and nothing about that movie challenged him to stretch beyond his limits.

On the other hand, a person can work very hard on something, facing a series of near disasters, somehow managing to keep everything on course, but in the end, the results are merely adequate. Without all the hard work, the results might have been terrible, or perhaps even non-existent (how many projects get abandoned in disgust, due to insurmountable problems?), but nobody ever gets to see that.

I remember one of my high school science teachers saying “Work is measured by results. For example, you might ask me what I’ve done today. I may tell you that I pushed on this wall for eight hours. I expended a lot of energy, worked my muscles hard, stretched my endurance to the limit, but, at the end of the day, the wall has not moved. So, you would most likely conclude that I’ve done nothing.”

Can work be separated from results? I’m not sure. But I am sure that I enjoyed Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out! (1989), in spite of it’s low imdb score and Rotten Tomatoes rating. It may not be as notable as some other films in Monte Hellman’s oeuvre, but I think it deserves a place in the annals of #NotQuiteClassicCinema.