Shaun vs. Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation (1990)

A reporter investigating the mysterious death of a woman leads her to a coven of witches who are planning to use her in a ritual on Christmas Eve.  

Judging a Book by its Cover


– Wow, Silent Night, Deadly Night 4…with a big old knife and a Christmas tree.  I suppose it does more than the last film’s cover art but it’s still bland.  Too much empty space.


– Does the lady dress up as a killer Santa?  Is she the hero?  A ghost of Christmas past?


– That tagline is pretty dark.






If I die before I wake…thank you.

Directed by Brian Yuzna

Starring Clint Howard, Neith Hunter, Maud Adams, Tommy Hinkley and Reggie Bannister

The film opens with a bum (Howard) eating a discarded burger on the ground covered in pure yuck when he sees a woman on top of a building who falls whilst bursting into flames and slams into the concrete pavement below.  Shockingly she’s pronounced dead.  The news gets out fast and Kim (Hunter), a newspaper editor, wants to do a story on the woman due to the bizarre nature of the death and their are questions that need answering, dammit, so she goes out to investigate without permission from her boss.


Deep, deep investigating.

Kim visits a nearby bookstore which is run by a woman named Fima (Adams) who lives in the building the dead woman fell from.  After discussing spontaneous combustion, they fast become friends and Fima gives Kim a spiritual book to peruse to help Kim with her investigation.  Kim’s life suddenly gets very weird after meeting Fima, however, and as she reads through the book she starts to see things that no one wants to see such as giant cockroaches.  (There are plenty of regular-sized ones too, but there are ones shown that are the size of, well, you and me.)


That’s one hole you’re not supposed to penetrate…yuuuck.

It turns out Kim has befriended a group of witches who are preparing her for an initiation into their coven and to make sure she goes through with it, they have the bum from the opening scene as their lackey.  He follows Kim everywhere and goes so far as to kill her boyfriend to push her to finish her final task which is to sacrifice a young boy or else she’ll suffer the same fate as the woman from before.  Not wanting to burn to death, Kim is forced to make a terrible decision.

For a movie that’s about witches, the movie is oddly bug-centric featuring the aforementioned huge cockroaches as well as giant worms, one of which Kim throws up during one of her initiation tests.  There are bugs everywhere as the film aims to gross you out and with special effects from Screaming Mad George, the film succeeds in doing so in spite of feeling out of place with what you would expect from an entry in a Christmas-themed horror series.  In fact, there’s nothing Christmas-y about the film at all.


Clint Howard in a freaky sex mask…what am I watching again?

This film is easily the odd duck of the Silent Night series with nary a tie-in to the other films to be found, much like Halloween III: Season of the Witch has nothing to do with the rest of that series.  There’s no “killer Santa Claus” featured as the filmmakers opted to do the witch thing to change things up which kind of makes the film feel as if it had the “Silent Night, Deadly Night” title slapped on to take advantage of the fact that movie takes place close to Christmas though that’s about it as far as having anything to do with the other films.



After a brutal third entry in the series, Initiation delivers a surprisingly decent amount of gross out shocks, bloodletting and even plenty of nudity to make the film watchable though the story is a bit of a mess (I’m not exactly sure what the witches were getting out of all this in the end) and the overall tone shift is such a departure from the rest of the series you may double-check the title to make sure you’re watching a SNDN film.


Story: 5 – An intrepid reporter investigating a mysterious death finds herself the target of a group of witches who were responsible.  A huge departure from the rest of the series, it’s not bad but doesn’t use the SNDN title in any particular way.

Blood: 5 – There is some minor bloody stabbings and a throat slit off screen, the movie tends to gravitate more towards gross out scenes involving giant bugs.

Nudity: 7 – Star Neith Hunter has several scenes in which she’s wearing next to nothing and as long as she wasn’t around any insects those scenes were nice to enjoy.

Overall: 5 – In the grand scheme of things, the movie is very average but in the Silent Night universe, it’s one of the better releases though it’s about as far away from a Silent Night film as you can get.


-Clint Howard character is named Ricky, which happens to be the name of the killer in the previous two films though this can’t be the same one since Bill Moseley played him in the last film with a fishbowl on his head.  It must be a coincidence?

-This film was originally meant to be the third film in the series but was pushed aside until later.

-Maud Adams, who played the head witch, may be more well known to James Bond fans as Octopussy.

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