A timeless holiday classic if there ever was one!
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
Directed By: Charles E. Sellier Jr. (The Annihilators)
By the 1980’s horror movies where not up to today’s gruesome standards yet, but they were getting there. So what was a for sure way to get a fuss kicked up about a horror movie? Have your killer wear a Santa Suit while he does it.
While not the first Christmas themed slasher movie (those being “Black Christmas” and “Christmas Evil” both of which we may cover before month’s end) “Silent Night, Deadly Night” sure found a way to get a nice shit storm kicked up over it’s release. The idea of Santa hacking people up with an axe was enough to cause such an out cry from pissed off parents that the movie was pulled from theaters and forced to live a life on VHS.
But the hate didn’t just stop there, legendary film critics Siskel and Ebert went as far as to condemn the film on their show, reading off names of people who were involved in the making of it and saying “shame, shame” after each name. Leonard Maltin went as far as to also condemn the film, giving it zero stars and asking the question “What’s next, the Easter Bunny as a child molester?”
Keep in mind it wasn’t the movie’s content it’s self that brought this on. Just the simple fact that it was a man dressed as Santa doing the killing that got everyone so uptight. I myself would have loved to see what would have went down had “Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter” came out around this time.
So can a movie that has so much hype come close to backing it up? Well I think it does a pretty good job. This is the 80’s so plots don’t always make a hell of a lot of sense but in this case I must send kudos to the man who wrote it because the plot isn’t too shabby at all.
We follow Billy as a child on Christmas Eve when his parents take him to the old folks home to visit his crazy Grandfather who everyone seems to think is catatonic. When Mommy and Daddy leave Billy alone for a moment Grandpappy shows that he has been playing possum all along and take this chance to tell little Billy what Santa Clause REALLY does to those who have been naughty. This just so happens to be the same night a man dressed as Santa robs and kills a clerk at a store and then jets away in his car.
As luck would have it while still on their way home later that night Billy and his family come across a man in a Santa Suit that is having car trouble, and I think you can put two and two together from there.
As we go on things happen to poor Billy and one fateful Christmas years later Billy is asked to play Santa at a toy store he is working for. The owner informs Billy (who as you’d guess is a little on the crazy side now) “To do what Santa does” and the rest is history!
Pardon me for going into detail with the plot here, I do try to go by the less is more method. However with this movie I like the idea so much I went into detail just hoping that if you haven’t before you take the time now to watch it. There is plenty of lines you’ll find yourself repeating after you’ve seen this movie because giving the surround and situation of much of the dialogue it just sticks with you.
I must also bring up the “Antler” scene that was edited heavily in the old VHS version but is now intact in the recent DVD releases. It’s a must see for all you gore hounds out there. The scene I’m speaking of also includes a topless scream queen by the name of Linnea Quigley. So ya know..it’s well worth the watch.
You know it’s a shame that the director himself doesn’t seem to really have much love for this film. In the extras on the Anchor Bay release of the movie he seems pretty ashamed of it at times. Which to me is sad because I find this to be one of the most under rated horror movies ever.
Like most films in this genre this movie did spawn sequels that were of less quality (one of which we’ll go over next week) so if you’ve seen one of those and have yet to see the original don’t let it turn you away from this one. I also hear there is plans to do a remake of this film which sends chills down my spine when recalling what a botch the remake of “Black Christmas” was. However I also hear Alexandre Aja has some connection to it so that makes me feel a little better.
Honestly if you had me make a top ten list of my personal favorites when it comes to horror this movie would be top three easily. I HIGHLY recommend that you take a chance and seek out viewing of this film. If you liked stuff like “Return of the Living Dead” and “Friday the 13th Part 6” then you should LOVE this.
The Rating (8/10)