Silent Night, Deadly Night

"OK"

Silent Night, Deadly Night Review


Hard as it is to believe, there have been several Christmas-themed slasher flicks. First (and best) was 1974's Black Christmas.* While it didn't feature a deranged Santa, it did set the high bar for the onslaught of Xmas slasher films littering theatres a decade later. Of course, the image of an axe-wielding Santa was simply too gleefully disturbed to ignore. Christmas Evil (1980), To All A Goodnight (1980), Don't Open 'Til Christmas (1984) and Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), took that final step into truly bad taste by actually making Santa the killer. Well, actually a killer dressed as Santa. We have yet to see the real Saint Nick chopping up co-eds (or co-elves).

Silent Night, Deadly Night (aka Slay Ride) was filmed in Utah and garnered some publicity with one of the most notorious horror ad campaigns of the '80s: an image of Santa, carrying an axe, descending into a chimney. When first released the film was picketed by angry parents, and its already limited theatrical run was curtailed. In fact, film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert were so appalled by the theme of the film that they read the credits on air, all the while saying, "shame, shame, shame." Silent Night, Deadly Night was released on video (in all it's uncut yuletide g(l)ory) and found a strong cult following.

The film opens with poor Billy Chapman watching a man dressed in a Santa suit slay his parents on Christmas Eve. It's enough to snap the kid's already fragile sanity. Sent off to an orphanage run by a particularly sadistic nun, he grows up to be a seemingly likeable -- though clearly odd -- teen. Billy gets a job in a toy store and enjoys his work stocking the shelves. Ah, but Christmas is just around the corner and it brings only bad memories for Billy. When the store's owner, Mr. Sims, has Billy don the garb of Santa for the holiday, all hell breaks loose. During a Christmas party at the store, Billy grabs an axe, screams "Punish!" and does what every celluloid maniac with an axe has done since time immemorial: He uses it. When he's done with the employees, Billy heads out to find other naughty boys and girls.

Yes, it is as wildly tasteless as it sounds. The sight of Billy, as Santa, skewering a topless girl on the antlers of a mounted antelope head is surely one for the record books. And while Silent Night, Deadly Night is relatively disgusting, it's also clever and, dare I say it, well-written compared to most films of its ilk. It's hard not to feel some sympathy for poor Billy, traumatized and abused by the system (Mother Superior at the orphanage), and screenwriter Michael Hickey does a nice job ratcheting up the tension as Billy gets crazier and crazier. That's not to say Silent Night, Deadly Night is a good film. Maybe good trash. Director Charles E. Sellier Jr. ensures the proceedings look really bland. There are no clever shots (the camera rarely moves) or production touches and the acting is on par with the material. Robert Brian Wilson does a decent job with Billy but the real standout performance is Lilyan Chauvin as Mother Superior.

Tasteless, violent and mean-spirited, Silent Night, Deadly Night is the perfect stocking stuffer for misanthropic Scrooges.

* Sure, Tales From the Crypt (1972) had Joan Collins stalked by a madman dressed as Santa but it couldn't be categorized as a slasher.



Silent Night, Deadly Night

Facts and Figures

Run time: 79 mins

In Theaters: Friday 9th November 1984

Budget: $1.1M

Distributed by: TriStar Pictures

Production compaines: TriStar Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 25%
Fresh: 3 Rotten: 9

IMDB: 5.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Charles E. Sellier Jr.

Producer: Ira Richard Barmak

Starring: Lilyan Chauvin as Mother Superior, Gilmer McCormick as Sister Margaret, Toni Nero as Pamela, Robert Brian Wilson as Billy Chapman (age 18), Britt Leach as Ira Sims, Nancy Borgenicht as Mrs. Randall, H.E.D. Redford as Captain Richards, Danny Wagner as Billy at 8, as Denise, Leo Geter as Tommy, Randy Stumpf as Andy, Will Hare as Grandpa Chapman, Tara Buckman as Ellie Chapman, Geoff Hansen as Jim Chapman, Charles Dierkop as Killer Santa, Eric Hart as Mr. Levitt (Storekeeper), Jonathan Best as Billy at 5, A. Madeline Smith as Sister Ellen, Richard C. Terry as Older Boy Sledding - Mac, Amy Styvesant as Cindy, Max Robinson as Officer Barnes, Vinc Massa as Young Boy Sledding - Doug, John Michael Alvarez as Young Boy Sledding - Jim, as Older Boy Sledding - Bob, Oscar Rowland as Dr. Conway, Richard D. Clark as Officer Miller, Tip Boxell as Officer Murphy, Angela Montoya as Little Girl on Santa's Lap, Molly Cameron as Girl's Mother, Jayne Luke as Other Mother in Store, Joan Forster as Other Mother in Store, Betsy Nagel as Other Mother in Store, Barbara Stafford as Teen Lover at Orphanage, Paul Mulder as Teen Lover at Orphanage, Spencer Ashby as Santa at Orphanage, J. Paul Broadhead as Santa in Store, Alex Burton as Brother (Ricky) at 14, Max Broadhead as Brother (Ricky) at 4, Melissa Best as Infant Ricky, Dan Rogers as Dispatcher, Aron Kincaid as Obnoxious Deejay, as Mother Superior, Don Shanks as Santa Climbing in Window

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