Silent Night, Deadly Night~ 1984, Charles A. Sellier Jr.
Deck the halls with- HUMAN INTESTINES?!?!
That’s right, folks, Christmas is supposed to be the happiest time of the year, but for many of us, it totally isn’t. What better juxtaposition, therefore, than to pair joyful, seasonally mandated goodwill for all mankind with gruesome, gore-laden campaigns of wanton terror and graphic violence? I’m glad you see things my way.
There is certainly no drought of Christmas themed horror movies out there, and while Silent Night, Deadly Night is admittedly not the best of the batch (that honor probably belongs to Black Christmas), it’s still maybe my favorite. There’s something about how openly sleazy it is, while still trying to make a head-scratchingly genuine mad dash for that special “feel-good” Christmas magic in sporadic segments. What kind of a lunatic included the cozy sounding “Warm Side of the Door” musical sequence in this controversial, violent slasher film? That shit was straight heartwarming, and therefore, its inclusion is hilarious.
THE PLOT- Billy is a kind, ordinary boy, whom fate has selected to progressively beat the shit out of in the most sadistic fashion imaginable. Because the universe despises Billy so, so much for absolutely no reason, he is, from a young age, subjected to the most traumatic, nightmarish bullshit ever. It is hilariously over-the-top. First, on Christmas eve, Billy’s supposedly catatonic grandfather chooses a moment when he and Billy are alone to snap back to his senses, just long enough to deliver the most needlessly menacing Christmas monologue ever, right into Billy’s young, horrified face.
Your damn grandfathers deranged, kid!!!
He then goes back to acting like he’s totally comatose, leaving Billy looking like an idiot for saying Grandpa talked to him. Then, mere hours later, again, on Christmas Eve, mind you, a man dressed like Santa Claus sexually assaults and murders Billy’s parents, while Billy sits and watches, utterly powerless to do anything but soak up the trauma like an sponge destined for counseling. After this, Billy and his little brother are sent off to a Catholic School for orphans, where they are abused and treated harshly. If you thought the worst was over, you were mistaken, because fate has also chosen to deal Billy some pretty shitty cards on the physical appearance front- this kid is sporting the hideous combo of bucked teeth, freckles, and a mullet. Good luck getting adopted now, asshole, you’re a bargain bin orphan at this point. You’d be lucky to be chosen for medical testing.
Is this a face you could grow to love? I jest, of course, he is clearly an abomination.
So, as an orphan, Billy doesn’t have a life so much as he has an ongoing series of altercations designed to remind him that he is alone in a world that hates him. Confused and neglected, he’s a damn time bomb waiting to go off, and there has been little to no attempt at patching up the deep seeded horror he has associated with the very idea of Santa Claus. If anything, his Catholic overlords seem to unknowingly confirm in Billy’s mind the idea that Santa Claus is more of a judge/jury/executioner style figure than anything else. Regardless, when the time comes, Billy is promptly booted out into a world which does not deserve him, and many innocents would soon pay the price. Santa should have finished him off when he had the chance.
The weird thing about this part of the movie is that by this time, Billy’s hideous, Gorgon like façade has been shed, and from it has emerged a hunkier, butterfly stage Billy; good looking, tall and well built. I want to slow you down if you think that this is a sign of things turning around, however, because the truth is that he remains largely distant from humanity, and this is really just nature’s way of outfitting him with the tools he will need to carry out an effective rampage. It’s a bad thing that he’s big, it just further illustrates how doomed he is.
For his next string of tragedies, Billy is hired on at a local toy store to preform unpleasant manual labor, because even as a hunk, he remains a second-class citizen in a society that can still somehow sense his childhood mullet and bucked teeth. Soon, Billy is hastily elected to play Santa, which, holy shit, they can’t have picked a worse candidate for this job, but before the socially dim Billy can express that Santa Claus is, to him, synonymous with the darkest, most unspeakable of horrors, he is thrown into the costume and ushered out into a space filled with innocent children. It’s a wonder he holds it together as long as he does, but it’s immediately clear to the audience that whatever still turning gears existed within the badly battered psyche of young Billy completely shattered this day, when he understood himself to be Billy no more- From that moment forward, he was Santa, a bringer of violent, bloody justice. No children are slain in this scene, but soon afterwards Billy happens upon people being “naughty”, and he brings the hammer down hard, murderer style. And that’s just the beginning; the rest of the film is really just Billy wandering around, encountering people having a good time and murdering the shit out of them. Meanwhile, cops and nuns unite, as they so often do, to crack the case of the murderous Santa Claus, and hopefully rescue Billy from his own madness. But they don’t! Yes, the world hates Billy right up until the end.
And so do I!
The movie is a fun, effective slasher, but as you may have gathered, its strongest attribute is how unreasonably merciless it is to kids. If your sense of humor has truly rounded the bend into dark territory, and you’ve reached the point where there is absolutely no distinction between tragedy and comedy, then you now know that in a fictional setting, terrible things happening to children who don’t deserve it can actually be pretty hilarious (see Butters from South Park. You know the words I speak to be true, just admit it). That is what Silent Night, Deadly Night really brings to the table. Billy gets it worse than anyone, but all the kids in this movie are subjected to irrationally, unreasonably severe instances of complete terror, none of which they are sophisticated enough to cope with. Dozens of well meaning boys and girls have the screaming shit traumatized right out of them so, so hard, and it’s not real, therefore, it’s really funny. I know you’re judging me right now, so cut it out.
Anyway, that’s not to say that there isn’t plenty of fun to be had with Silent Night, Deadly Night’s straight horror sequences, as well. Billy pulls off a fine rampage, every bit as enjoyable as those found in rival slasher films of the era, including many of the Friday the 13th movies. There are some creative kills, as well as an appearance by beloved scream queen Linnea Quigley.
Silent Night, Deadly Night is really great. As Christmas horror films go, it belongs in the top five for sure, and close to the top. It spawned a few sequels, including Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2; Youtube infamous for it’s hilarious “Garbage day!” scene. It was also remade in 2012 as Silent Night, which totally sucks. You could watch that one too, if you wanted to ruin your afternoon.