Silent Night, Deadly Night
Director: Charles E. Sellier Jr.
Stars: Lilyan Chauvin, Gilmer McCormick, Robert Brian Wilson
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons
Here it is, just in time for Christmas, the movie that angered thousands of far-too-uptight moms and made professional film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert cry. No, it wasn’t the first horror movie set on Christmas, nor the first slasher flick to do that, not even the first one where some psycho dressed as Santa was doing the killing, but somehow this silly movie was evil with a capital E. It was going to corrupt the youth of 1984, and bring about the end of Western Civilization as we know it. Well the bad, bad people at Scream Factory have just brought out a Collector’s Edition Blu-ray, with an unrated cut no less. I know, I know, they are sure to be damned to Hell for that, but is this two-disc package any good? Well, grab your boots, mittens, and axe and let’s find out.
Billy is a young kid who’s having a bad night that just so happens to be the night before Christmas. His crazy grandfather traumatizes him with a Christmas-themed horror story, and then to top it off, mom and dad get killed by a bad man dressed as Santa and Billy sees it all. Jump forward a few years and Billy and his little brother go to the orphanage where Billy, who understandably has a fear of Santa, is further abused by a Nazi of a nun, especially at Christmas time. Jump forward a few more years and Billy is a big, strapping young man with a good heart who gets a job at a local toy store. Everything is all rosy until Christmas comes and Billy is forced to play Santa at the toy store and that’s the straw that breaks sanity’s back. Santa Billy kills everyone at the store and then starts running around town punishing people with an axe for being “naughty.” Or in one memorable scene with a mounted deer head.
At its heart Silent Night, Deadly Night is basic slasher fare, but it is smarter than some people give it credit. There is a real attempt to explore Billy as a character and garner some, if not sympathy then at least understanding. It’s more than just psycho killer for the sake of having a psycho killer. For the slasher fans out there, this flick has some good kills and some good gore and some gratuitous nudity which always raises the bar in a slasher film for me. Don’t bother with any of the sequels of this, but if you haven’t caught this one yet, do so.
On Dasher, on Dancer, on Prancer and Vixen, and let’s go on to those extras that Scream Factory scared up for this new Blu-ray. For the theatrical version there’s a trailer, TV spots, a VHS trailer, and a radio spot. That’s nice but it’s the unrated edition that has all the good stuff, and I’m not just talking about the extra gore and nudity. Okay, I am, but there’s some good features to go along with the movie, too. The uncut extras include an audio commentary with actor Robert Brian Wilson, who played the demented killer, and executive producer Scott J. Schneid. There is a second commentary track with screenwriter Michael Hickey, Perry Botkin Jr. who did the music, once again producer Scott J. Schneid, and film editor Michael Spence. There is a 46-minute retrospective featurette about the movie, an interview with the lovely Queen of the Scream Queens, Linnea Quigley, that runs for 22 minutes, and an audio interview with director Charles E. Sellier Jr. before he passed away on January 31, 2011, and this is nearly an hour long. There is a 10-minute look at the Utah locations where the movie was shot, and an awesome collection of the outrage and bad reviews that this little movie garnered back in the day. Lastly there is a poster and still gallery, so all together that’s a bunch of stocking stuffers for this infamous holiday movie.
I love Silent Night, Deadly Night, maybe because of all the over-hyped controversy and outrage about it from back in the day. That kind of mouth-breathing stupidity cracks me up. But it’s also better made than most slasher flicks from 1984 had any right to be. And here’s a bit of trivia for you: both SN,DN and A Nightmare on Elm Street (the original) were released on the same day (damn the 80s were a great time for horror), and before theaters chickened out and caved in to pressure, Billy the Killer Santa was beating Freddy the Dream Demon at the box office. That doesn’t mean one movie is better than the other, I just always thought that was neat, and I always thought Silent Night, Deadly Night was neat and this is the best version of that film to be released yet. So this is a very easy and high recommendation from me. This season enjoy some classic and fun ho-ho-horror and pick this up, either as a present for you, or a gift for someone you want to profoundly traumatize.