Sunday, January 20, 2013
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
On Christmas Eve in 1971, a young Billy Chapman visits his demented grandfather in a mental hospital. After the doctor insists on having a word in private with Billy’s parents, his mother, father, and infant brother Ricky leave him alone. Suddenly, Grandpa Chapman (Will Hare) delivers an ominous warning about Santa Claus’ methods of punishment for naughty children.
Frightened, Billy leaves with his family, but the Chapman’s receive an unexpected surprise during the nighttime ride home. A man dressed in a Santa Claus’ suit is standing in front of a red car with the hood up, as he signals the Chapman’s for help. But “Santa” is carrying a gun, and as Billy’s father tries to drive away, Santa shoots him in the head, killing him. Billy’s mother tries to escape, but Santa catches her. After an attempted rape, Santa slits Mrs. Chapman’s throat, killing her. Billy hides in the nearby woods, as his baby brother continues to scream and cry.
In 1974, Billy and Ricky are still trying to adjust to life at St. Mary’s Orphanage. But Billy is haunted by flashbacks of his parent’s death, and he slowly develops a deep, seething hatred for Christmas and Santa Claus. Sister Margaret (Gilmer McCormik) tries to provide comfort for Billy, but the strict and domineering Mother Superior (Lilyan Chauvin) won’t tolerate any disobedience or unruly behavior. Billy is constantly beaten and tormented by Mother Superior, and after attacking the orphanage's Santa Claus on Christmas Day, Billy receives another savage beating from Mother Superior.
As an eighteen year-old man in 1984, Billy (Robert Brian Wilson) receives a stocking job at Ira’s Toys (a local toy store) with help of Mother Superior and Sister Margaret. Ricky is still under the care of the other nuns and Mother Superior at the orphanage, and with the exception of his pushy superior Andy, Billy doesn’t encounter any major problems.
But when the store Santa Claus is forced to call in sick, Billy steps into the role of Jolly Old St. Nick. Billy experiences more flashbacks of his parent’s murders, and things get out of control during the store’s annual Christmas party. Drunk, angry, and confused, Billy accidentally witnesses his only crush and co-worker, Pamela with Andy in the stockroom. With Billy’s help, Pamela narrowly escapes Andy’s attack, but witnessing another attempted rape triggers Billy’s flashbacks. Billy kills Andy and Pamela, murders the store manager, and as she tries to call 911, Billy murders the assistant store manager.
Armed with an axe, and a bloody taste for revenge, Billy (or Santa) sets out on a killing spree to punish the naughty people on Christmas Eve, and his mission isn‘t over until he achieves one final goal on Christmas Day: Billy is determined to return to the orphanage, and murder Mother Superior.
The two kids, who portray Billy as a kid are solid, but I'd give the edge to Danny Wagner (8 year-old Billy) for the better performance. Robert Brian Wilson’s hammy performance as the murderous Santa is entertaining. Wilson is over the top during his killing spree, and his evil grin is just perfect. You’ll only see him in the beginning, but Will Hare’s kooky “Santa’s gonna get you!“ act is good for a few cheap laughs. Lilyan Chauvin really nails the ice-cold bitch persona, and McCormik is believable as the caring and understanding nun. And for the most part, the women in this film are just eye candy.
And speaking of eye candy, the lovely scream queen of the 80’s, Linnea Quigley takes the cake here. For me, Quigley is an easy pick for the front and center spot for Silent Night, Deadly Night’s most grisly image. She’s the half naked woman, who suffers the brutal death of being shoved through the antlers of a deer head mount. And speaking of Quigley, the Denise (Quigley) character’s nonsensical actions in this film really irritate me. First, for some asinine reason, Denise feels the need to let the family cat inside the house in the middle of the night. She has the wherewithal to put on jean shorts, but at the same time, she goes outside into the freezing cold night topless? Then, after the cat runs inside the house, she leaves the door open, Billy shows up, and murders her? Sorry, but for YEARS this has been my one big pet peeve for Silent Night, Deadly Night, and everything surrounding Denise’s death just annoys the shit out of me.
Too much controversy surrounded this film in 1984, and after all the protests, and condemning reviews from critics, Silent Night, Deadly Night was pulled from theaters. It outdrew the original Nightmare On Elm Street film at the box office during the opening weekend, but Santa killing people on Christmas crossed too many lines in 1984, and Silent Night, Deadly Night wouldn’t see theaters again until a few years later, after the uproar settled down of course. The new distributor (Aquarius Films) wanted to capitalize on the controversy, but they re-released a watered-down and heavily edited version of the film to fans of the original.
The uncut DVD version (not sure if they have a Blu-Ray or not) features more blood and gore. But the re-editing causes poor picture quality for some scenes. It’s not a big problem, but it’s noticeable. Anyway, the unrated versions (one released as a singles DVD years ago, one released with the second film as a two-pack, and to help push the remake, the two-pack with the unrated original and the second film was re-released in December under Anchor Bay, I think). Anyway, you can see the differences between the edited versions and the unrated version, but PLEASE don’t buy into the promise of “gratuitous nudity and sex” on the box covers. Trust me, it’s nothing outrageous or shocking. Hell, if anything, the sex and nudity in the unrated version is pretty tamed.
Silent Night, Deadly Night is a cheesy and over the top 80’s slasher. It’s mindless fun, and it’s one of my favorite Christmas horror films. Although, WITHOUT the Christmas theme, Silent Night, Deadly Night would just be another ordinary 80’s slasher. And more importantly, Silent Night, Deadly Night is remembered for sparking controversy, because the special effects are sub-par, the directing is okay at best, and this film is good for some cheap laughs, but at the same time, the writing is very pedestrian and corny. Silent Night, Deadly Night is a good guilty pleasure, but a good amount of Silent Night fans praise this film as a horror masterpiece, and it’s kind of annoying.
Final Rating: 6/10