They finally got a real actor to play Ricky, but did it in the worst sequel.

John Carpenter's plan for the Halloween series was to present an anthology series of unrelated entries that revolved around the holiday, but the response of the first/last attempt to break away from Michael Myers, 1982's Halloween III, was not particularly enticing for producers, and so Myers was revived and the anthology format was never utilized again for the franchise. However, the Silent Night Deadly Night series kind of picked up where they left off, as parts 4 and 5 are unrelated to the first three (and, for the most part, each other), and the 2012 remake was so unrelated that it could have simply been a sixth installment. I don't know what prompted the producers to abandon the Ricky Caldwell saga after 1989's Silent Night Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out!, but perhaps it was the opposite of Halloween's situation: whereas those guys felt they couldn't go on without Myers, the Silent Night team possibly realized that there was nowhere left to go with the killer Santa concept.

What I'm trying to say is the 3rd film in the series is, for my money, its low point. It's basically a Halloween ripoff with an escaped mental patient (that would be Ricky) forming a connection with a girl and following her on the namesake holiday, with his doctor (Richard Beymer) and a cop (Robert Culp!) trying to stop him before he kills again. Except it's not suspenseful or scary thanks to its maddeningly slow pace, to the point where someone picking up a telephone looks like an action scene. Establishing shots run long enough for a viewer to look away and still see the same shot when they come back, most of the kills are off-screen, and worst of all, it doesn't live up to the batshit standards set by the other films. It also curiously retcons the original killer, Billy, out of existence, presenting the older brother's memories of his parents' murder as Ricky's (editing baby Ricky out of the scenes entirely) and not mentioning him when Ricky's history is explained. If you hadn't seen the other films, you'd be left to assume they were both about this guy, and then you'd also be less confused as to why Ricky - who was repeatedly shot in the chest at the end of the second film - sports a massive head trauma when his fully intact head was smiling at us the last time we saw him. 

Basically, if there's any entry to totally skip it'd be this one, but if you're a completist/sadist there is a silver lining: Bill Moseley as Ricky. He's actually the sixth actor to portray the character (seventh if you count the original baby, which was a girl) thanks to the twenty year timespan of the first two films, but it was the first time he was played by someone you might recognize. It's an unusual casting decision, since this version of Ricky can barely speak (his only line is a groaned "Laura", the girl he is chasing throughout the film) and one of the things that makes Moseley such a draw is his memorable voice and off-kilter deliveries, which have made characters like Chop-Top and Otis Firefly so iconic for horror fans. But even when robbed of one of his key assets, he still makes an impression, lumbering like Frankenstein's monster and striking an imposing presence during the few attack scenes. And he also manages to make the character sympathetic in a few scenes, something his ridiculous predecessor (Eric "Garbage Day!" Freeman) never even came close to managing. Not that I want to see this serial killer redeemed, but Ricky had a pretty traumatic childhood - his parents were murdered, the blood of an innocent Santa was splattered all over his face, he watched his brother get gunned down, and worst of all he was raised by Catholic nuns. I don't know if that would automatically turn someone into a murderer, but either way it's the first time that history of pain was on display, and it's hard not to feel a little sorry for this guy who never had a chance.

And Moseley pulls off that bit of pathos with a salad bowl on his head! The brain apparatus is a ridiculous sight, especially when you see blood kind of swishing around the bowl when he moves fast, but Moseley's so good you can almost kind of forget about it on occasion (he also thankfully covers it with a hat for long stretches). I have no idea if this was based on some actual medical procedure or if it was just this series' usual opposition to human behavior and logic on display, but either way I'm pretty sure this is the only movie that dares apply something so silly to their villain. That Moseley can still manage to seem like a threat in the scenes where the bowl is on full display is a testament to his skills as an actor. The production was reportedly very rushed (they shot it in April and had it in festivals in July, according to director Monte Hellman) which is probably the reason for its lax editing and stiff action scenes (the non-reaction from the heroine when Moseley bursts through the door is a howler), and I can't help but think if it had gotten a little more time and planning it could have been a brighter spot in the series. Moseley - and SNDN fans - deserved a better movie around it.