Holiday Retro Review: ‘Silent Night, Deadly Night’
It has become a tradition for the makers of slasher flicks to base their movies around major landmark days. Whether they be prom night, April Fools Day, summer camp, or Halloween. A few filmmakers have even had their killer deck the halls with mayhem at Christmas. Bob Clark did this the best with his cult classic Black Christmas, but the film today had a lot more fun with it, Silent Night, Deadly Night. In Reagan’s wholesome America the idea of a killer dressed as Santa Claus drew huge controversy and parents staged a massive movement against this flick. Their overreaction to this movie is why is largely enjoys the cult status it has today.
As a boy, Billy is traumatized when he witnesses a degenerate dressed as Santa Claus, violently murder his family on the side of the road one Christmas Eve night. He is raised in a Catholic home by a strict Mother Superior who has no problem laying down severe punishments on the troubled child. Luckily one nun who takes pity on him, helps him find a job at a toy store when he becomes old enough. With the best of intentions, his boss assigns the troubled young man to play Santa for his customers. A combination of the rigid rules he was raised on and donning the suit worn by the killer of his family pushes him over the edge on Christmas Eve. Armed with an axe, Billy sets out to spread holiday cheer, and by spread holiday cheer I mean slaughtering sexually active teens.
Director Charles E. Sellier Jr. and cinematographer Henning Schellerup managed to create a strong visual language throughout the movie which elevates it above a lot of the other slasher films of this era. There is a lot of nice striking images throughout, which will stay with viewers. But of course in this genre, expert cinematography is nice and all but what people want to see are some great kills. Do not worry Silent Night, Deadly Night has some true blood soaked gems. The two which stand out are the impalement of a girl on the antlers of a stuffed deer; and the beheading of a kid sledding downhill and right into the edge of Billy’s axe. The violence is made much more enjoyable by the over-the-top acting from the cast. It is annoying that the Mother Superior, the one character truly deserving of Billy’s wrath survives the entire movie, despite his best efforts.
As previously mentioned this movie’s claim to fame is drawn from the conservative backlash it received upon its initial release. Given the quality of the film, if these protests never occurred it would have just gone into obscurity like many other slasher flicks of the era. I give the film props for trying to delve into the psychology of a killer who dresses like Saint Nick, but in the end of the day it does not work. For fans of cheesy horror, Silent Night, Deadly Night is a must watch, especially at this time of year as it is the perfect counter-movie to the groan inducing holiday cheer of Hallmark flicks your elderly relatives may subject you to.