A very enjoyable Christmas themed slasher from 1984 where a psychologically disturbed Santa attired killer stalks a small town punishing the 'naughty' and generally dispatching anyone else who gets in his way.
The film begins in 1971 and charts the disturbing events which ultimately explain the rationale behind the killer Claus. After a creepy encounter with his grandfather in a psychiatric asylum and after witnessing the barbaric massacre of his parents on the way home perpetrated by a Father Xmas donned criminal, the traumatised young boy is placed in a Catholic orphanage presided over by a tyrannical nun. The nun reinforces his fear/hatred of wrongdoers through the physical and mental abuse he experiences combined with the reinforcing of Santa as arbiter of punishing the 'wicked' Cue a number of slayings years later one Christmas Eve beginning in the toy shop where he works after being coerced into masquerading as the store Santa. Allied with his prior conditioning and trauma this sets him over the edge.
It is a very good 80's slasher in the vein of 'Friday 13th' 'Happy Birthday to me' etc. It is done on a budget so obviously the special effects reflect this. There is a 30 min approx audio interview with the director and an interesting booklet providing hysterical quotes from advocates of banning this film upon its cinematic release in the States as well as a written question and answer interview with the director and a good bio of Linnea Quigley, a soft porn 'scream queen' who appeared in this as well as other similar films.
Only whilst watching this did I realise I'd seen it before but for some reason had forgotten it or maybe didn't like it at the time. Perhaps some lovers of the more modern type horrors may not appreciate the quite basic make-up and effects on show and slightly dated feel to it but I would certainly recommend this as a great alternative to some of the saccharine filled Xmas offerings available. As well as its important place historically within the horror annals, it is a little cracker on its own terms.
A special note of appreciation to the regular contributors of the Amazon horror forum who raised this one and on which basis I purchased it. I would certainly recommend any horror fans to check out these pages as they are as good a source as any I've ever seen for quality recommendations.
on 24 December 2014
REVIEWED VERSION: 2009 Arrow Video UK DVD (Unrated version)
Director: Charles E. Sellier Jr.
Cast: Robert Wilson, Lilyan Chauvin, Gilmer McCormick, Toni Nero, Linnea Quigley
Production: US 1984
Billy (Danny Wagner) has to watch his parents being murdered by a thief in a Santa Claus costume, deeply traumatizing him. He spends ten years in an orphanage lead by Mother Superior (Lilyan Chauvin).
At age 18 he is "released: and gets a job at a local toy store. When he is forced to dress up in a Santa outfit, he snaps and starts going on a murderous rampage.
THE PROS & CONS
SILENT NIGHT, DEALY NIGHT is a good slasher film, and one of the most controversial films of the 80s. What sets it apart from other films in the genre - and caused an uproar by the easily offended - is the refreshingly different setting (Christmas) and the killer (Santa). While this will certainly not be to everyone's liking, the easily offended and children should keep their distance from SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT.
The PTA fought hard to have the film removed from theaters due to its subject matter and the fact that it was shown around Christmas. There were several protests in front of movie theaters nationwide and TriStar Pictures eventually withdrew the film, only to be re-released by another distributor in the spring of 1986.
In the UK the film was not submitted to the BBFC until 2009, but the first sequel was denied a certificate in 1987 after the distributors refused to make the cuts.
It is not hard to see why this film caused such controversy at its release, but now, 30 years later, this film should not shock anyone anymore. There are some bloody murders here, and unlike the FRIDAY THE 13TH movies, the camera does NOT pan away from the impact and we actually get to see the gooey good stuff, and they were not stingy with the blood either. There are some good and inventive kills here.
The acting is average with two noteworthy exceptions, Lilyan Chauvin (Mother Superior) delivering by far the best performance in the film and Robert Wilson, who plays the killing Santa (Billy) surprisingly well. A perfect example for not having the looks deceive you, as Wilson does appears totally innocent until he starts the killing spree.
A decent directing job by Charles E. Sellier Jr. (THE ANNIHILATORS), who at least was smart enough to hand over directiion of the gory parts to someone else instead of simply omitting them completely for not being able to handle the gore.
SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT overall is a good slasher and a must-see for genre fans who are sick of watching always the same folks slaughtering teens. There is something about a movie that plays Christmas Carols over violent and bloody killings and the killer being Santa Claus. Again, this is not a film for everyone, but all the grinches out there, and those or are not easily offended will certainly appreciate the change of "scenery", after all, lake season is over!
Despite all the controversy and attempts to shut the film down, SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT spawned 4 not so well-known and inferior sequels: SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 (1987), SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT 3: BETTER WATCH OUT! (1989), SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT 4: INITIATION (1990) and SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT 5: THE TOY MAKER (1991).
ON A SIDE NOTE
- spawned 4 inferior sequels and a remake in 2012
- many kill scenes were directed by editor Michael Spence instead of director Charles E. Sellier Jr., because Sellier was uncomfortable with the gory parts of the film
- was known as "Slayride" throughout its production. Tri-Star changed the title to SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT at the last minute
- the film offended not only parents throughout the US, but also movie critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, who read the credits out loud on their television show saying, "shame, shame, shame" after each name
- opened on the same weekend as A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984), and briefly out-grossed the latter by around $161,800
Feature running time: 81:20 mins. (unut)
Rating: Unrated (MPAA) / 18 (BBFC)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 / 16:9
Audio: English 2.0
Extras: Audio Interview (35:23), Unrated Trailer (1:26), reversible cover art.
Region: 2/PAL (locked)
Picture quality: 3/5
Audio quality: 3/5
Average picture and audio quality, and a half an hour audio interview. It supposedly also contained a booklet and a poster, but I got my copy used and those items were not included.
An OK release if you don't mind the absence of extras. The film is presented in its fully uncut unrated version.
on 14 November 2012
On Christmas Eve, 1971. Five-year-old Billy and his baby brother are taken to visit their grandfather at the mental institution. His grandfather has been in a catatonic state for a long time, when Billy is left alone with him, he suddenly turns to Billy and tells him all about how Santa Claus will punish anyone that hasn't been good all year round. As his parents return, his grandfather returns to his catatonic state. Later on that night as they're driving home, his parents pull over to help out a man dressed as Santa who appears to have broken down on the side of the road. The man pulls out a gun and shoots Billy's father and drags his mother out of the car, Billy runs away and hides behind some bushes where he witnesses the attempted rape and murder of his his mother. Three years later, Billy and his younger brother Ricky are living at St. Mary's Orphanage run by a strict Mother Superior. Still tormented by what he witnessed three years earlier, he's punished when he draws a picture of Santa killing one of his reindeer. He's sent to his room but Sister Margaret tells him that it's okay to go outside and play with the others, on his way out he hears sounds from a bedroom and then spies through the keyhole at a young couple having sex. The Mother Superior catches him and tells him that bad things require punishment, he's been bad so needs to be punished and punishment is good. Ten years pass and Billy has just turned eighteen and Sister Margaret gets him a job at Ira's Toy Store, everything is going well until Christmas time rolls around. When the person who normally wears the Santa costume doesn't show up, Billy is asked to wear the costume. Later that night at the Christmas party, he witnesses a co-worker getting a bit heavy handed with the girl he likes. After he rips her top open just like Santa did to his mother all those years ago, he completely snaps and kills him. Now completely insane, he kills everyone in the store and sets off to punish the whole town.
Robert Brian Wilson gives a solid performance as the eighteen-year-old Billy, he never acted in another theatrical film after this spending the next eight years appearing in several TV series and a TV movie. He retired from acting in '92 and became a devout Christian, got married, had three kids and is now head of a very successful company. Gilmer McCormick is good as Sister Margaret, she only appeared in a TV episode after this and presumably also retired from acting. The film also starred my personal favourite scream queen from the '80s, Linnea Quigley. In a typical role for her, she strips off and gets killed in what is probably the film's best murder. It's directed by Charles E. Sellier Jr. and was the second of the three films he directed, this one being by far the best. Being a 1984 slasher film, it had plenty of blood and nudity. I think the director and some of the actors showed a lot of promise here, their careers were possibly damaged due to the controversy that the film created. It was released theatrically at the same time as A Nightmare on Elm Street and was actually out-grossing Wes Craven's film until people started to publicly bash the film for showing someone dressed as Santa killing people. Angry parents picketed the cinemas that it was being shown at, and within a few weeks the film was pulled. Several high profile critics such as Ebert and Siskel protested against the film, even reading the credits out loud on their television show saying, "shame, shame, shame" after each name. The thing that really was pathetic is the fact that Tales from the Crypt in 1972 also had a killer dressed as Santa murdering people on screen, and no one batted an eye lid. It was only when VHS took off that the film finally found an audience again.
Arrow's DVD looks absolutely splendid, only occasionally does the picture quality falter, and that's only the scenes that have had the gore edited back in. I don't mind the quality dropping briefly if it means we have the complete version, especially when the rest of the film looks so pristine. There's a trailer on the DVD and an audio interview with director Charles E. Sellier Jr. It lasts for about 35 minutes with segments of the film playing, basically like a mini commentary which is lovely to have since he sadly passed away aged 67 on January 31st, 2011. There's an excellent twenty page booklet inside, a poster and the usual reversible sleeve that most Arrow DVDs have. There's no subtitles. Silent Night, Deadly Night is a classic slasher film that was made when the genre was at its peak. It's a great film, and a great looking DVD. A remake simply titled Silent Night has just been made, it stars Jaime King and Malcolm McDowell.
on 24 February 2011
Robert Brian Wilson plays an axe-wielding killer dressed as Santa Claus in this Christmas themed slasher flick. As a kid Billy saw his parents murdered by a homicidal killer in Santa Claus costume. During his stay in an orphanage he is taught by the Mother Superior that all naughty vices should be punished severely. A few years later Billy is an older teen working at his job as a store clerk, Billy is dressed as Santa Claus and quickly goes berserk. It's Christmas time and the blood begins to flow..."Silent Night Deadly Night" is a cult classic which spawned four inferior sequels. The killings are surprisingly mean-spirited and sadistic and the film was probably one of the most controversial films of the 1980s because the killer is dressed as Santa Claus. The PTA fought to have this film removed from theaters due to its subject matter and the fact that it was shown around Christmas although "Christmas Evil" with a similar premise had gone unnoticed. I would have to say that Silent Night was A very good slasher flick that I think was followed up by some pretty awful sequels, none of them were as good as the first and were a complete waste. The film also does a good job probing at why people do certain things, there is a background as we see why the main character became psychologically disturbed.
Obviously riding on the huge success of the teen slasher film such as Halloween (1978), Friday the 13th (1980) and My Bloody Valentine (1981) which took a traditional holiday season and then spun it series of set-piece killings around it Silent Night, Deadly Night is a fine example of the genre actually (in fact the original tag-line on the poster read 'You made it through Halloween, now try and survive Christmas'). The one thing that stands out about Silent Night, Deadly Night is that the script at least tries to give the killer some psychological reason behind his crimes, the whole set-up is quite good with the young Billy witnessing his parents being killed by a Santa and then being abused by a strict Mother Superior at an orphanage before he gets a job at a toy store where he starts his killing spree. While nothing spectacular the script manages to get inside the killers head and look at his motives a little better than your average teen slasher from this, or indeed any period. The pace is really good, at only just over eighty minutes in length Silent Night, Deadly Night is quite well fleshed out and never becomes boring with the second half one kill after another and not to mention that some of the death scenes were quite gory and there were was also alot of nudity, although some of the acting could have been alot better, Robert sometimes bulges his eyes and shouts NAUGHTY!!! and his acting was a bit off but then again it does look kind of funny and over the top. Oh and another thing don't miss out Linnea Quigley in one of her first roles. She gets naked and is then killed and impaled by dear antlers in one of the films best and most memorable scenes. Check it out if your a fan of 80's slasher films.
on 27 January 2013
After lengthy but enjoyable set-up scenes that explain why he has such issues with Santa, 18 year old Billy goes on a rampage dressed as Santa Claus and begins to slay locals. Robert Brian Wilson is all-American handsome charm until presented with a Santa Claus, and manages to look genuinely traumatised rather than just 'acting scared' when presented with one for the first time as 18-year-old Billy. His murderous killing spree is inventive and varied, taking in several different settings, and it makes a nice change in the unhinged killer stakes. The film also has several unexpected layers to it. While she's presented as the villain of the piece, the Mother Superior (Lilyan Chauvin) who made his orphanage stay hell is shown as old fashioned and misguided, not evil, genuinely believeing she's helping Billy when in fact she's stopping him from getting the treatment he needs. Billy veers interestingly from nice guy to nutter as well. And there's a wonderfully chilling 'Have you been naughty...or nice?" scene in the middle that's brilliantly executed.
The film has some hilariously subversive moments that feel like deliberate laughs rather than accidental ones, with Billy's Santa gleefully destroying many childrens' and adults' cosy feelings about Christmas. Apart from a final few seconds that reek of cheese, it's a lot of fun, and I'm glad I took a chance on i.
on 13 January 2010
Kudos to Arrow for getting this out on DVD in the UK Fully uncut.
The usual Arrow goodies apply with decent extras,a poster,informative booklet,and the now famous reversible artwork.
Anyone who likes Madmen on the loose movies needs to get this.
on 20 September 2010
A third person point of view killer that has alot of character background sets up this movie so that you follow the killers story before he finally loses it. As a slasher movie of the 80s, this is probably one of the most original and one of the best ones. I won't say too much on this, other than it is a classic, I seriously consider that if you're a slasher fan that you purchase it.
on 25 December 2015
Found this a bit boring frequently, though there some funny moments. Trouble is , the guy who plays Santa is not scary or menacing at all. Hes like the nicest, friendliest guy you would ever meet, and hes just not frightening as Santa. Though I suppose this adds a whole new layer, in that it becomes a "scrape the shiny veneer of society away and you find something dark and ugly" kind of film. But it does not realy work as a straight slasher, it doesn't seem to know what kind of film its trying to be, and it feels quite badly made and amateurish even though in the liner notes it says they spent nearly close to $1m dollars on it! A huge amount in 1984!! On what exactly????
A cult horror classic, Silent Night, Deadly Night is something of a treat for the old school horror faithful. Plot has a young boy witness the slaying of his parents by a man dressed as Santa Claus. He grows up in an orphanage run by an over zealous Mother Superior, moves out when manhood beckons and gets a job in a department store. Come Christmas time he is coerced into being the store Santa and promptly cracks up, grabbing an axe and wreaking slasher hell on everyone who gets in his way.
That's pretty much it, the stalk and slash formula in all its bloody glory. It's done very well here, with invention, genuine shocks and it's all boosted by having the mad Santa as an angelic faced beefcake (Robert Brian Wilson). Of course any new-age horror film fan coming to it for the first time now will struggle to see what the appeal is? So listen to the staccato music, feel the nastiness - the humbug of it all, observe that the film makers don't use filler or padding - they get in for some short sharp shock, and it's deliberately icky to garner a reaction.
Masterpiece of horror cinema? No of course not, the acting is sub-standard, the ending rushed, but in the same year as Wes Craven unleashed one of cinema's ultimate bogeymen upon us, Charles E. Sellier Jr. and his writers offered us a reason to actually hope Santa Claus doesn't exist. 6.5/10
on 22 February 2012
Silent Night Deadly Night works on so many levels. The first thirty minutes are genuinely chilling. The little boy's grandfather, the killing of his family and the horrible cold hearted nuns at the orphange. We then skip to when the now messed up kid is a late teenager and that is when things get really interesting. The 'toy shop' murders are the real highlight here.
However I am slighly confused as to why this movie was banned, yes there are some gory moments but I've seen much worse and from this era. It must be the santa killer thing, although Christmas Evil which pre dates this film by 4 years seems to have escaped under the radar.
The last part of the film turns into Jason Voorhees in a santa uniform with characters simply introduced so they can the be slaughtered in numerous ways. The climax of the movie, well for me was also a let down. Without giving much away all I can say is that it feels that the makers did the ultimate cop out.
All in all this is a very good slasher movie from a forgotten time and is well worth the purchase. To a lesser extent the great artwork here from Arrow should also be mentioned.