‘And if I die before I wake, thank you’
Initiation: Silent Night, Deadly Night 4 is a 1990 American horror feature film directed by Brian Yuzna (Society; Return of the Living Dead III; Necronomicon; The Dentist) from a screenplay co-written with Woody Keith and Arthur Gorson. Producer Richard N. Gladstein, who co-wrote the storyline, went on to work with Quentin Tarantino. Promotional material featured the title Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation. In the UK, the video release was re-titled Bugs.
Kim Levitt (Neith Hunter) is an aspiring journalist working for the L.A. Eye as a classified ads editor. Her boss, Eli (Reggie Bannister), seems to give all of the men in her office the breaks, including her boyfriend Hank (Tommy Hinkley). When a woman is discovered dead on the sidewalk, half-burned into ashes in an apparent case of the spontaneous human combustion, Kim decides to pursue the story on her own without Eli’s approval.
While investigating, she crosses paths with Fima (Maud Adams), a used bookstore proprietor whose shop is in the building the woman jumped from. As a gift, Fima offers Kim a book on feminism and the occult…
“Despite its low budget, the movie manages to get almost The Fly levels of practical effects and the whole movie is a very visceral experience. The acting from all involved is also top notch with Neith Hunter really selling the inquisitive mind of Kim while Clint Howard is brilliantly odd as the cult’s faithful servant Ricky.” Flickering Myth
“Director Brian Yuzna, someone who creates schlock that I usually enjoy, hits a bit of a low point here […] There are some aspects to the movie that horror fans will enjoy, including one or two decent special effects from Screaming Mad George, and a cameo role for Reggie Bannister but not enough to even class it as an average time-waster.” For It Is Man’s Number
“Overall, Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation is a solid film. It has a great cast and some amazing practical effects. The film is essentially a body horror flick with small creatures but lacks any connection to the previous Silent Night, Deadly Night films. This one is well worth a shot.” Horror Society
” …the subject matter is right up Yuzna’s alley because it allows for quite a few gross-out “body horror” moments that ultimately serve as the highlight of the film, as there are several interesting sequences (like Kim apparently giving birth to a giant slug-like creature). Unfortunately, these moments are all too brief and are surrounded by a fairly trite plot that’s incomprehensible at times…” Oh, the Horror!
“Look, this isn’t Yuzna’s finest hour by any stretch, but it’s okay. It’s hard not not like, at least on some level, any movie with Clint Howard and giant maggots. But it’s a confused, jumbled mess of a film, even if it has its heart in the right place.” Trash Film Guru
“Like Society, Initiation is another Los Angeles county set tale of surrealism and paranoia. Both playing like potent blends of Un Chien Andalou and Rosemary’s Baby, both movies focus on a lone hero/lone heroine who just can’t convince those closest to them that there’s something very wrong beneath realities ‘normal’ veneer.” UK Horror Scene
“Despite the sloppy finale this isn’t a bad follow-up and is filled with plenty of bizarre rituals, some unsettling images (such as Hunter’s bug spit-up) and some decent suspense during an apartment assault by homeless man (and the Wiccan cult’s tool) Clint Howard. Watchable stuff with a script by Woody Keith that seems obsessed with bugs (mostly roaches) and has a few moments of thinly veiled feminism.” The Video Graveyard
Kim: “Yeah, the only way to get anything around here is if you have a dick!”
Kim: “Dammit Janice, we do we need men anyway?”
Kim Levitt is an aspiring journalist working for the Los Angeles Eye newspaper as a classified ads editor. Her boss, Eli, seems to give all of the men in her office the breaks, including her boyfriend Hank. When a woman is discovered dead on the sidewalk, half-burned into ashes in an apparent case of spontaneous human combustion, Kim decides to pursue the story on her own without Eli’s approval. While investigating, she crosses paths with Fima, a used bookstore proprietor whose shop is in the building the woman jumped from. As a gift, Fima offers Kim a book on feminism and the occult.
On Christmas Eve, Kim spends the evening with Hank’s family, who recurrently make snide remarks about Kim being Jewish. Later at her apartment, Kim begins reading the book Fima gave to her and finds a chapter on “The Fire of Lilith” depicting a woman engulfed in flames. The next day, Kim arrives at a picnic Fima invited her to, where she meets Katherine Harrison, a self-described old crone, and the young Jane Yanana. They tell her about Lilith, Adam’s first wife and the “spirit of all that crawls.”
At the office, Eli, instead of being angry about Kim missing work, lets her officially have the spontaneous combustion story. That afternoon, Kim decides to visit Fima’s apartment to ask her more questions. Fima serves her a cup of tea, which makes Kim nauseated. Fima tells Kim of her daughter Lilith. Fima offers her a date and demands that Kim eat it. She does, even though it looks like a roach in her hand. Soon after, Kim passes out.
She wakes up surrounded by Jane, Fima, Katherine, and Li. They perform a ritual on Kim: Ricky and Fima slice open a live rat over her and insert a giant larva into Kim’s reproductive organs. It emerges from her mouth as a full-grown, giant, multi-segmented roach; she vomits the creature out. Ricky slices the creature in half and drips its innards onto Kim’s face. Kim wakes up later fully dressed, still in Fima’s apartment. She rushes home, terrified, and finds Hank, who is able to calm her. Ricky then enters the apartment and stabs Hank to death. Kim manages to answer her ringing phone during the fight and screams for her co-worker Janice to help her. Ricky captures Kim and binds her. Janice arrives but doesn’t help Kim. Instead, she admonishes Ricky for the mess and tells him to take Kim straight to Fima.
Ricky locks Kim in the meat locker at a meat shop next-door to Fima’s bookstore where she passes out again. When she awakens, she is surrounded by the entire cult. Ricky, wearing a phallic mask, carnally assaults Kim. Kim reawakens alone in the meat locker; her fingers bind themselves together in a knot. Then she experiences incredible pain as her legs form together into an insect-like tail. Kim passes out again. She awakens in the meat locker as Jo opens the door. He frees her legs from a brittle cocoon-like substance and covers her as best as he can. Jo tells her that she has been initiated and that she should go.
Kim brings a policeman, Detective Burt, to her apartment. There, everything is spotless and there’s no trace of Hank’s body. At her office’s Christmas party, Eli claims that Hank is away on an assignment. Janice is there and welcomes her to the family. Furious and confused, Kim storms out of the office and walks down onto the sidewalk. She notices Ricky following her and ducks into a motel room. Her feet begin to get painfully hot. She jumps into the shower, but they still burst into tiny flames. Ricky enters the room and, in pain, Kim agrees to kidnap Hank’s teenaged brother Lonnie to complete the initiation. Kim lures Lonnie out of his house, and Ricky murders Hank’s parents by strangling them with Christmas lights, then setting the house on fire.
On the building roof, Kim is asked to stab Lonnie; instead, she stabs Fima. In anger, Fima pulls the knife from her stomach and stabs Ricky. A giant larva feeds on Ricky, as Kim’s legs begin to get hot. Kim’s hands knot themselves together once again, then they start to burst into flame. Kim then stabs her fused hands into Fima’s wound. This transfers the curse of Lilith to Fima, and Fima dives off the roof just as her daughter did…
Cast and characters:
Clint Howard … Ricky Caldwell
Neith Hunter … Kim Levitt
Tommy Hinkley … Hank
Reggie Bannister … Eli
Allyce Beasley … Janice
Maud Adams … Fima
Hugh Fink … Jeff
Richard N. Gladstein … Woody
Glen Chin … Jo
Jeanne Bates … Katherine
Laurel Lockhart … Ann
Ben Slack … Gus
Conan Yuzna … Lonnie
Marjean Holden … Jane
Ilsa Setzoil … Li
David Wells … Detective Burt
The 1996 UK Guild Home Video release – titled Bugs – was cut 8 seconds by the BBFC. A shot of a man hanging by his nipples was removed to save society from anarchy, chaos and lawlessness.
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (1987)
Silent Night, Deadly Night III: Better Watch Out! (1989)
Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker (1991)
Silent Night (2012)