1980 – R – 87 Minutes – Scorpion Releasing
Starring Jennifer Runyon, Forrest Swanson, Linda Gentile – Directed by David Hess

You mean to tell me that there’s a Christmas slasher flick written by The Incredible Melting Man himself, Alex Rebar and directed by David Hess, the sadistic Krug from The Last House on the Left? Well, sign me up! This sounds like a jolly-good show! You would think so, right? David Hess was a talented actor, but as a director, there’s nothing that really sticks out about To All A Goodnight. It’s a bland looking movie, not even using the Christmas element or lighting to make it stick out on a visual level. I wouldn’t say that it’s poorly directed, but it’s not exactly a masterpiece in cinematography. The writing is about as stock as a slasher can get, like made-from-the-can kind of slasher. Just pop that open, dump all the contents into a bowl and microwave it for five minutes. Sure, it may smell like a slasher film, but it sure doesn’t taste the same.

It’s hard to tell whether or not the writer and director duo wanted to capture the same spirit as Friday the 13th or if they were just hired guns, although I think it may be the latter considering the two are actually quite talented people. The film does reek of producers stepping in and taking control. After all, producers always know what’s best and have never screwed up a film. Ahem.  Again, that’s speculation on my half, but either way the end product isn’t really all that impressive, but I do have to admit there is a certain kind of sleaze to it that makes it watchable.

The story starts off in the past during Christmas vacation at the Calvin Finishing School For Girls where a prank goes horribly wrong, as they usually do in a horror film, and a girl falls off a balcony to her death, kinda reminding me of Prom Night, which came out the same year. So, there’s your slasher’s motive. If it feels like you’ve seen this done a hundred times before, it’s probably because you have. Fast forward two years later and the five girls responsible, Nancy, Melody, Leia, Trisha and Sam, have whatever reason to stay at school for Christmas break once again, which is quite a convenient coincidence for our killer. There is another girl, Cynthia, but she’s dispatched of by the killer only moments after being on screen that it’s hardly worth mentioning. Each girl takes on a cliched trope, but all seem to share the personality of spoiled, selfish teenage girl, making all but the lead, Nancy, unlikable. But hey, if there is anything that modern slashers have taught me, it’s who needs likable characters in a slasher?

All girls just wanna have fun, but how can a group of girls do that if their bothersome house mother, Mrs. Jensen, is there to babysit them? Why, by drugging her of course. Something about this feels very wrong, as the girls slip some sleeping pills into her milk and off to bed she goes. Now the girls can invite their rich, alcoholic boyfriends in their private jet, drink and get laid, basically every girl’s Christmas dream. Hell, porn legend Henry Reems (under the name Dan Stryker, a name better suited for a terrible ’70s cop show) pilots the spoiled, young men to the party. Now that there is a whole slew of victims, it’s pretty much paint by numbers here. Eventually one or two wonder off to do their own thing, usually sex, and get killed. That’s not necessarily a bad thing in a slasher, heck, it’s encouraged, but the kills are so dull and virtually bloodless that it hardly qualifies as entertaining. The only thing that really sticks out in my mind at the moment (which keep in mind it’s only been a few moments since I’ve seen it) is a Mario Bava-esque inspired killing when one couple is going about the horizontal rumba, the guy on top is shot in the back with an arrow, pinning down his lady lover and she is promptly decapitated. Oh, did I mention that the killer is hiding in a suit of knight armor when this happens? What I’m more interested in is how he found the time and snuck into knight’s armor all quiet and patiently waited in there until a couple decided to have sex right in that room in that exact spot placed in front of them. It’s actually pretty clever… or poorly thought out screenwriting.

Why, there’s even a Crazy Ralph knock-off named… Ralph. What the hell, why not? The film has absolutely no shame in ripping off Friday the 13th‘s fan favorite prophet of doom. He’s not only an obvious red herring (even by 1980 standards, near the beginning of the slasher genre), but he’s literally a red herring, dressed in red onesie and carrying around gardening sheers, spouting out nonsense about evil and protecting the girls and blah, blah, blah. I don’t know at what point slasher flicks decided that it would be implied that this particular type of character would be a simpleton, but even for the lowest common denominator of slashers, this feels pretty weak. Like, a copy of a copy of a copy. The man is essentially a giant toddler in his red underoos and his seemingly childish behavior and babbling.

At this point, the film is going to be taking the have-sex-and-get-killed rule a little too serious since just about every character is having sex or attempting to have sex and immediately murdered for it. I can picture in my head an overweight, balding producer demanding more sex and nudity and trying to justify it by murdering the teenagers for it. Of course, the final girl, Nancy, no longer feels like part of an ensemble, but sticks out like a sore thumb. Like, putting an Amish girl in a crowded punk rock show. While the others are drinking and having intercourse, she’s walking around fully clothed in what looks like a 1920’s nightgown and drinking a glass of milk. You know, just in case you couldn’t tell she’s the innocent one. So, one by one, or two by two actually, their numbers dwindle until it’s Nancy and some geeky guy who only got a handjob, so I guess that doesn’t count as intercourse, so he gets to survive. Now, I wouldn’t want to steal the excitement of revealing who the killer is from you, but if you really want to know, just think about who’s left alive. Yeah, it’s pretty underwhelming. I will tell you that it very much echos Friday the 13th, wherein a mother is seeking revenge for the death of her child. It’s pretty predictable in that sense, plus you know, Friday the 13th did it, so every cheap slasher film had to also.

If you thought that To All A Goodnight was a quick, cheap cash in on the then new slasher boom, you’d be correct. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, even for 1980, that I’ve mentioned was basically the start of the slasher boom, this one feels like a really, really bad cash-in. It’s like it took a look at Friday the 13th and Halloween and basically just said, “yeah, do that, but we don’t want to spend a whole lot of money and it has to be done next week.” This was the only film David Hess directed and to his credit, it’s not the direction that’s terrible… it’s everything else. To be fair, Alex Rebar would go on to write Demented and that was a pretty decent film. However, there is a sleazy vibe present throughout the movie and perhaps that’s because of the low budget nature of it, but it could also be porn star Harry Reems presence in the film.

I do have to ask, where were all the protesters and whiners when this movie came out? Silent Night, Deadly Night was targeted, picketed and pulled from theaters, but you never saw one person complain about a killer Santa in To All a Goodnight after their children saw an ad for it. Well, there’s your answer right there; it’s all in the marketing. I couldn’t find any information about the film’s budget or even so much a TV promo or radio spot. Plus, this movie is pretty awful and nobody cares if you protest a bad movie.


As time has been proof of, To All A Goodnight isn’t regarded as a great holiday classic or even a good slasher flick. It’s there and it exists and I’d recommend checking it out at least once, but I get the feeling it’s not going to be something you’ll get a hankering to watch every so often. Not even at Christmas.

Check out the whole dang movie.