Silent Night, Deadly Night
The infamous slasher film that actually got pulled from theatres thanks to hysterical parents protesting the film‘s marketing campaign and the depiction of an axe wielding Santa Claus punishing the naughty in grisly ways. In actuality this is a very tame effort, especially in it‘s theatrical edition and nowhere near as gruesome as it‘s reputation has suggested.
Young Billy gets a surprise warning from his catatonic grandpa that he should run far away if Santa Claus is anywhere near. On the ride back from grandpa Billy, along with his parents and younger brother, fall victim to a maniac dressed as Santa and he kills Billy‘s mom and Dad in a fit of rage. Billy spends his tender years in an orphanage under the supervision of a cruel Mother Superior who pretty much ruins all his chances of turning out normal.
Fast forward ´till Billy‘s 18 years old and he‘s got a job at a toy store. At Christmas time he‘s asked to fill in as Santa and dear old Billy flips and goes on a murderous rampage. Having dispatched of a few naughty ones he heads back to the orphanage for a rendevouz with Mother Superior.
„Silent Night, Deadly Night“ is alomst universally condemned as a below-par slasher and it‘s only lasting legacy is the moral outrage it caused when initially released. It‘s really funny, after the fact, to consider that the outraged parents are the sole reason why many couldn‘t wait to see the flick in the first place and it was a huge hit when it hit the video stores back in the day.
The fact that‘s it‘s nothing special doesn‘t ruin it‘s classic status and many cult enhusiasts think fondly of the film. That being said; there are a few noteworthy elements in the film. It starts out with a very surreal scene where Billy visits his grandpa who hasn‘t spoken a word for a long time. When he‘s left alone with gramps the old man suddenly looks up and gives Billy this sinister warning about Christmas being a time of terror and Santa Claus a person to be feared. It‘s pretty creepy and completely foreshadows the events awaiting Billy and his family. The scenes in the orphanage are also well played out where Billy is targeted by a very rigid Mother Superior who adamantly believes in her strict teachings and firm discipline tactics. A young Danny Wagner (his only screen credit) plays Billy at age 8 and he‘s very convincing and so is Lilyan Chauvin as Mother Superior. This part plays it straight and is somewhat dramatic and lays well the furtile ground that Billy will evolve into a ticking time bomb whenever Christmas and Santa Claus are near.
After that we‘ve basically entered an 80‘s cheese-fest complete with synth heavy Chrismas melodies accompanied by the gratuitous kill scenes the genre requires. That, in itself, is anything but bad but the kills are awkwardly executed with little to no tension or suspense. Robert Brian Wilson is pretty ineffective as older Billy and elicits more laughs than screams. The standout kill scene involves bare breasted (what else!) Linnea Quigley being impaled on a reindeer mantle but that scene can only be appreciated in full with the uncut release which has below-par video quality for the juicy bits.
Despite it‘s faults; „Silent Night, Deadly Night“ gets a spin every year thanks to a rock solid opening act which leaves the viewer emotionally drained witnessing the harsh youth of young Billy and the sight of an axe wielding Santa yelling „Naughty!!!“ before each kill is something else!