Silent Night, Deadly Night

Silent-Night-Deadly-NightSilent Night, Deadly Night (1984) TriStar Pictures/Horror RT: 85 minutes Unrated Version (language, strong graphic bloody violence, nudity, strong sexual content, disturbing images and themes) Director: Charles E. Sellier Jr. Screenplay: Paul Caimi and Michael Hickey Music: Perry Botkin Jr. Cinematography: Henning Schellerup Release date:November 9, 1984 Starring: Lilyan Chauvin, Gilmer McCormick, Robert Brian Wilson, Toni Nero, Britt Leach, Nancy Borgenicht, H.E.D. Redford, Danny Wagner, Linnea Quigley, Leo Geter, Randy Stumpf, Will Hare, Tara Buckman, Geoff Hansen, Charles Dierkop.

Rating: fullstarfullstarfullstarstar-empty

Silent Night, Deadly Night is a holiday-themed slasher flick that might have gone unnoticed had it not been for all the controversy surrounding it. The PTA (Parent-Teacher Association) was up in arms about the movie's content and fought to have it removed from theaters. Irate parents complained to the television stations that aired the commercial for this movie when young children were likely watching their shows. Newspapers pulled all advertising about six days after its release and the studio ended up pulling it from theaters shortly thereafter, despite the fact that it was doing pretty good business at the box office. The commercials and print ads for the movie featured a killer dressed up as Santa Claus and carrying around a bloody axe, this could be upsetting to young and/or impressionable children.

TriStar disowned the movie and an edited version was released on home video in spring '86 by an independent distributor. Critics condemned the movie, calling it worthless garbage and utterly reprehensible, Leonard Maltin went so far as to speculate on what horror filmmakers would do next, perhaps "....the Easter Bunny as a child molester?". Large crowds of angry people protested the theatres showing this movie. Naturally, that put this movie at the top of my must-see list! I was sixteen years old and nothing could keep me away from any theater showing a violent horror flick, that's actually still true today. Why am I telling you all this? I'm providing a frame of reference for this movie's significance in popular culture of the 80s and its current status as a cult flick. Silent Night, Deadly Night isn't a particularly outstanding movie, it's a pretty amateurish production and the acting is pretty bad. However, since this is a slasher flick, the only thing that matters is the amount of violence and gore and this one has more than its fair share. By the time the closing credits roll, the body count is 13, that's not too bad for a movie with an 85 minute running time.

silent night deadly night poster 02Silent Night, Deadly Night (originally titled Slayride) opens in 1971, it's Christmas Eve and Billy Chapman is visiting his grandfather (Hare, Enter the Ninja) at a mental institution with his parents and baby brother. They leave the four-year-old alone with the old man for a few minutes while they talk to the doctor. He comes out of his catatonic state long enough to scare Billy with the idea that Santa Claus only brings presents to good children, all the naughty ones get punished severely. On the way home, his parents pull over after spotting a guy dressed in a Santa costume who's stranded on the side of the road. He's actually a robber who's just killed a convenience store clerk and he ends up murdering Billy's parents right in front of him. A few years later, Billy is residing at St, Mary's Orphanage with his younger brother Ricky. He's still deeply traumatized by the events of that night and Christmas sends him into a downward spiral. The Mother Superior (Chauvin, Predator 2) doesn't care that it proves what Sister Margaret (McCormick, Godspell) has been saying for the past few years about the level of psychological damage to the boy. Her methods of dealing with his problems are right out of the 14th century, she beats him with a belt for disobeying her and ties him to his bed after he has a nightmare. The abuse that Billy suffers at the orphanage only exacerbates his problems and he grows into a disturbed young man. Cut to present day when Sister Margaret helps Billy (Wilson), now a strong 18-year-old man, get a job at a local toy store. All things are going well until the Christmas season rolls around and Billy starts behaving strangely. The final straw, the one that breaks the proverbial camel's back, is when his boss asks him to play Santa Claus after their regular guy calls out sick. Billy frightens a little girl who won't sit still on his lap by telling her that he'll have to punish her if she doesn't behave. It's Christmas Eve and the store employees break out the booze and celebrate the end of the busy holiday season. Billy snaps and kills a couple of fellow employees who are having sex in the stock room. After he kills the other employees who are still in the store, he grabs an axe and goes on a killing spree around town. After claiming a few more victims, he heads to St Mary's to kill the Mother Superior as revenge for abusing him. As far as slasher flicks go, this one isn't all that bad, it's got a fair amount of cool scenes and an absolutely tasteless premise that any gorehound is sure to love.

What are the high points of Silent Night, Deadly Night? A young, half naked teenage girl (horror superstar Quigley, The Return of the Living Dead) is impaled on a pair of reindeer antlers and her boyfriend is thrown through a window. A bully gets decapitated as he rides a stolen sled down a hill. Billy hangs a guy with a string of Christmas lights and stabs a female co-worker to death with a box cutter. His boss gets it with a hammer claw to the head and another female co-worker is shot with an arrow. A local cop gets an axe to the gut. The aforementioned convenience store clerk gets shot three times. Billy's father is also shot and his mother gets her throat slit after the bad Santa tries to rape her. The unrated version restores all the gory moments as well as the close-up scenes showing Billy in his Santa Claus suit and carrying weapons. Some of the dialogue is absolutely priceless, I like what Billy's boss tells him as he pours the guy an alcoholic drink at the store party, "Stick with me, kid. By the time this party is over, you'll think you ARE Santa Claus." Can you say "poor choice of words"? Billy is fond of saying things like "Punish!" and "Naughty!" before dispatching a victim. When a couple of dim-witted cops receive instructions from their captain, one of them says "Can you believe this? It's Christmas Eve and we got orders to bring in Santa Claus." Billy's grandfather says, "You see Santa Claus tonight, you better run, boy. You better run for ya (sic) life!" Like I said, the acting is pretty bad in this movie, but it's not the kind of movie that's going to attract big name stars. Thankfully, the gory effects are quite good, I love the decapitation scene! The original poster art is pretty cool, it features Santa's arm sticking out a chimney holding an axe. The taglines read "You've made it through Halloween, now try and survive Christmas." and "He knows when you've been naughty." On the DVD box, the taglines read "Hordes of angry mothers couldn't keep it away!" and "Slashing through the snow......looking for his prey!" Silent Night, Deadly Night is a demented Christmas movie and it's a fun movie to watch each year. Director Charles E. Sellier Jr. was primarily known as a successful producer of independent films in the 70s and early 80s- among his credits are The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams (1974), In Search of Noah's Ark (1976), Beyond and Back (1978), The Bermuda Triangle and In Search of Historic Jesus (both 1979), Hangar 18 (1980), Earthbound and The Boogens (both 1981). He also directed the low budget 1985 vigilante actioner The Annihilators (one of my personal favorites!). However, I think that this will be the movie he's remembered for, the slasher movie that pissed off parents and critics en masse. It's not such a bad thing though, right?

 

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