Director Steven C. Miller, whose filmography includes “The Aggression Scale,” recently spoke with Phoenix Movie Examiner about his latest motion picture project “Silent Night.”
In “Silent Night,” which opens Friday, Nov. 30 exclusively at AMC Arizona Center 24, Malcolm McDowell and Jaime King play a small-town sheriff and deputy, respectively, on the hunt for a murderous Santa Claus terrorizing their community on Christmas Eve.
Question: Holiday horror flicks are a personal favorite of mine. What do you think is so appealing about scary Christmas-themed movies?
Answer: I just love the idea of taking something wholesome and destroying it. There is something fun about that concept and I think that as a horror filmmaker you are always trying to take what is safe, sort of twist it around and make it scary for the audience. Christmas is the ultimate playground. It is a really fun atmosphere and it gives you a lot of room to play with in terms of colors and lights. That is something that really drew me in right away. And it has always drew me in since I was a kid. I was a huge fan of these kind of movies, having watched them since I was 9 or 10 years old. Watching these crazy movies is something that really resonated with me so it is a really huge honor for me to be able to make something like this.
Q: Do you have any specific memories of watching “Silent Night, Deadly Night?”
A: It was a ritual for my brothers and I to watch “Silent Night, Deadly Night” during the holidays. We would go and hang out with our older cousins, who had introduced us to this movie. I probably had my first drink of liquor with eggnog while watching it. The opening scene in particular was always something that resonated pretty heavily with me. The old man giving this speech about Christmas and then the mom getting raped. That was something that was really crazy for a 9- or 10-year-old kid to see for the first time. Those were really fun memories. Odd memories but I remember them vividly. I went on to see the second movie and garbage day was a big thing for me. I would run around on Christmas yelling, “Garbage Day!” After that I kind of lost touch with them so it was fun to revisit them when I got this project.
Q: So, I guess the obvious question is… why remake the movie?
A: The movies had kind of gone off into a very ridiculous direction. So when they brought this to me, I saw it as a chance to reboot the franchise and do something different for the modern audience yet still have some fun with it. When you take it too seriously, you lose the audience. After all, it is Santa with a mask killing people. I do not know how serious you can go with it. I tried to stay true to what I thought slasher films were – making the killer cool and scary looking and using the actual characters as part of the humor instead of the killer.
Q: And how did you accomplish that? Making the killer cool and scary looking, I mean?
A: I wanted to do something that was a little more dirty a little more punk rock. I am a huge fan of 80’s slasher films so I thought that this was a good opportunity to introduce a new masked killer on a holiday. I do not think that we have seen Santa in a mask before. I have always loved those Santas in store windows that look really creepy so our Santa had that same sort of look – that plastic face.
Q: How many Santas did you have on set at one time?
A: At one point, we had 150 Santas that were all dressed up doing the parade. That was really fun to see and be a part of. It was a great spectacle – especially because we did not shoot the movie at Christmastime. To recreate Christmas in a small little town that was getting ready for summer was a fun experience for everyone.
Q: That sounds challenging. Was it?
A: We shot the movie in 17 days so I had literally only one night to shoot that entire Santa parade sequence. To say that it was a challenge is an understatement. I had to get everything that I could possibly get on that street in one night so it was a very difficult challenge. But I think that at the end of the day it came out really fun.”
Q: “Silent Night, Deadly Night” spawned four sequels. Would you want to make another one of these movies?
A: If we were able to do a sequel, I would want to be able to do it bigger and have more time so I could really focus on some more exciting kills. I think that the kills we have in this are great and I think the only reason to do a sequel would be to take it up a notch. That would be the ideal thing to do. I love Christmas, I love Christmas movies and I love horror movies. So it would be great to have the chance to make another one.