SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT-United States-79 Mins. 1984
Lilyan Chauvin as Mother Superior in Silent Night, Deadly Night
Gilmer McCormick as Sister Margaret in Silent Night, Deadly Night
Toni Nero as Pamela in Silent Night, Deadly Night
Robert Brian Wilson as Billy in Silent Night, Deadly Night
Directed by Charles E. Sellier, Jr.
Written by Paul Caimi and Michael Hickey
I was 22 years old in 1984; that was the year that the original A Nightmare on Elm Street debuted. It was also the year that another slasher film was released and I remember the controversy quite well. The film, Silent Night, Deadly Night, was the morbid tale of a killer Santa Claus and for the first week or so of its release it managed to out-gross the aforementioned and simultaneously released “Nightmare” at the box office. That is until those concerned parents that are the bane of the existence of every self-respecting young horror movie fan caught wind of it. There was no way that they were going to allow a movie about an ax wielding, murderous Santa Claus corrupt the minds of theirs or any other child for that matter. To make a long story short I finally saw Silent Night, Deadly Night for the first time and I can with all honesty say to these parents that if they had kept their mouths shut the film would have eventually faded into oblivion and been merely a footnote in the history of the slasher film.
It’s Christmas Eve and after a visit to a grandfather that warns him of severe punishment from Santa if he is the least bit naughty, little Billy witnesses the murder of his parents at the hands of-you guessed it, kids- Santa Claus. Billy and his infant brother escape and we cut to three years later and Billy and little brother are residents at an orphanage run by Mother Superior and a handful of nuns. Mother Superior is firm and her discipline strict and she is of the mind that Billy should face his fear of Santa Claus head on by-you kids are too good-sitting on his lap. This of course snaps one more synapse in Billy’s warped little brain and sets in motion the murderous path that he will take as a young adult. We know that this is what has happened because the film turns grainy and ominously freezes on young Billy’s face. The film then cuts to an 18 year-old Billy who now has a job in a toy store where, after an employee breaks a leg, he is forced to don the gay apparel of-okay, now I know that you kids saw this movie already-Old Saint Nick. Snap, crackle and pop go the last rubber bands in Billy’s brain and before you know it Santa Claus is on the prowl with his trusty fire-ax doling out punishment to naughty boys and girls as he makes his way back to the orphanage and Mother Superior.
If there was ever a movie that relied on the strength of its controversy then Silent Night, Deadly Night is indeed that movie. Simply put the film is not good enough to have survived thirty years without it. Despite an abundance of young, bare breasts that are the staple of any slasher film the kills are cheap and sloppy and the film is greatly overacted for a film of this genre, even. There is one scene where Billy is watching as one young man is screaming like a little girl after witnessing his best friends head roll down a snowy hill and even he has a look of “Really? Overact much?”.
There have been films made before (Tales from the Crypt, Christmas Evil) that featured a killer Claus as its main character; although the Santa in “Tales” was from the first segment of an anthology. I don’t understand why parents picked this particular film to protest. It doesn’t matter; they’ve done their damage and each year during the holidays Silent Night, Deadly Night will rear its ugly head. Ho freaking ho ho.
To protest the film, critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel read the credits out loud on their television show saying, “shame, shame, shame” after each name.
The toyshop where Billy gets his first job is called “IRA’S TOYS”, Ira is the first name of one of the film’s producers.
Many of the kill scenes were directed by editor Michael Spence, due to director Charles E. Sellier Jr. being uncomfortable with handling the gore-heavy parts of the film.
Lilyan Chauvin also appears in Catch Me If You Can and The Man Who Wasn’t There.
Gilmer McCormick also appears in Slaughterhouse-Five and Starting Over.
Toni Nero also appears in No Dead Heroes and Commando Squad.
Robert Brian Wilson’s sole motion picture credit was Silent Night, Deadly Night.