SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT (1984)
Directed by Charles E. Sellier, Jr.
Written by Michael Hickey, Paul Ciami (story)
Starring Robert Brian Wilson, Lilyan Chauvin, Gilmer McCormick, Toni Nero, Linnea Quigley, Britt Leach, and Leo Geter
Though it raised quite a stink when it was released in 1984 from house fraus disgusted by the perversion of a beloved children’s fable, there’s no way SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT would have achieved cult status if the powers that be would have just let this film fade into obscurity. As is, it’s not a very good film in terms of scares or acting, but SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT does have some quality kills and the focus of Billy’s psychosis is surprisingly deeper than one would think.
The first fifteen minutes of this film are what most people talk about. In those first scenes, we see a typical American family going to see their grandpa in a nursing home. Thought to be catatonic in his chair, the grandpa mystically comes to life as soon as little Billy’s parents leave to room in time to warn Billy that Christmas is the scariest time of the year and that he’d better watch out for Santa because he punishes naughty boys. Scared shitless and scarred already by grandpa’s words of wisdom, little Billy and his infant brother Ricky become the sole survivors of a carjacking gone wrong when a robber dressed as Santa shoots his father and then attempts to rape and then kills his mother as he hides in the bushes on the side of the road and witnesses the whole demented scene.
Had SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT maintained that level of intensity; I’d understand why folks got so uppity about the film. Instead we are treated to a by-the-numbers killing spree as a grown-up Billy is forced to wear a Santa suit at the toy store he works at and has a nervous break when he sees a man and woman wrestling in the backroom at a Christmas party, reminding him of his mom and Santy Claus all those years ago. Up to the toy store section of this film, things are still pretty interesting, though cliché as the Mother Superior at the orphanage Billy ends up in beats the message of good vs. naughty into Billy at every chance she can get, resulting in a pretty fucked up kid. Still, all of this set up doesn’t pay off as Billy becomes a robot shouting “PUNISH” or “NAUGHTY” whenever he sees pretty much anyone in his path, naughty or not, for the rest of the movie.
At least the kills are kind of goofy fun. The most memorable being Linnea Quigley’s death by deer antler scene and a headless sled ride taking a quick second place. But the shift in tone from the downright disturbing opening scenes to the goofy killing spree is pretty abrupt, making this almost two different movies at once—one you can take seriously depicting how a childhood trauma can seriously fuck up a person, the other becomes the most unscary serial rampage put to film. I kind of wish things would have stayed as disturbing, because SNDN was on the right track there for about half of the film.
This film and its special needs stepchild of a sequel (which I won’t even get into as it doesn’t really deserve a spot on this list) are filled with stupidly fun kills that make you forgive the tone which is all over the place and the acting which ranges from cardboard to cadaver. The filmmakers may have realized they were delving into some pretty dark material in the first half and tried to make up for it by filling the second half with goofy kills. Nevertheless, these kills are goofy as hell, sure to cause much eggnog nose-squirting if watched at a horror holiday party with the sound off in the background.
Special features on this BluRay Special Edition include; A new featurette “Slay Bells Ring: The Story Of Silent Night, Deadly Night” featuring interviews with writer Michael Hickey, co-executive producers Scott J. Schneid and Dennis Whitehead, editor/second unit director Michael Spence, composer Perry Botkin, and actor Robert Brian Wilson, new featurette “Oh Deer!” an interview with Linnea Quigley, new featurette “Christmas In July – Silent Night, Deadly Night Locations – Then And Now,” new audio commentary with actor Robert Brian Wilson and co-executive producer Scott J. Schneid, audio commentary with Michael Hickey, Perry Boykin, Scott J. Schneid, and Michael Spence, audio interview with director Charles E. Sellier, Jr. from Deadpit Radio, featurette “Santa’s Stocking Of Outrage,” poster and still gallery, and TV and radio spots. All of that plus Shout Factory is offering up a Deluxe Edition that includes an awesome Billy figure in full Santa garb and axe! All in all, a pretty amazing presentation of a memorable holiday horror!
If you like what I have to say about this, help me out and pick it up on Amazon here