Charles E. Sellier, Jr.
Robert Brian Wilson - Billy Chapman (age 18)
Lilyan Chauvin - Mother Superior
Gilver McCormick - Sister Margaret
Danny Wagner - Billy Chapman (age 8)
H.E.D. Redford - Captain Richards
Britt Leach - Jerome Sims
Toni Nero - Pamela
Linnea Quigley - Denise
Genre - Horror/Slasher
Running Time - 85 Minutes (Uncut Version)
Score - 3 Howls Outta 4
Ah, the early 1980s. Ronald Reagan was President. His wife was preaching people to say no to drugs. Madonna was preaching out being like a virgin. Michael Jackson was getting his jerry curls caught on fire. Van Halen had the biggest album in the world. People wanted to see films about nutty classical musicians. And girls just wanted to have fun. Oh yeah...soccer moms with too much time on their hands were protesting some Christmas horror flick that depicted Santa Claus in a bad light.
You gotta love 1984, where sex, violence, and snorting cocaine was appreciated greatly, yet a murderous Santa Claus was absolutely reprehensible. The priorities, people - the priorities!
While it was okay to have kids killed in their dreams or watch some dude in a hockey mask butcher campers, conservative parents [probably led by Tipper Gore - she was usually behind stuff like this at the time] flocked to theaters to protest the release of SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT. I mean, how dare some movie studio desecrate the loveable image of Santa Claus by having him murder people on screen? I mean, it's never happened before on film if you don't count the 1972 version of TALES FROM THE CRYPT or 1980's CHRISTMAS EVIL! I mean my God! Santa killing naughty people - the sacrilege! These parents ruined any chance of SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT having any sort of box office chance, pretty much dooming it to video stores in record time where it gained the cult following it truly deserves.
24 years have passed and it's pretty laughable to think anyone who have a heart attack over SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT. As a matter of fact, I can't believe anyone would go out of their way to protest this film in 1984! What's the big deal? Women showing their boobs and seeing people murdered in brutal ways was nothing new at the time. Hell, evil Santa films were around way before this one. However, SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT managed to do something most films failed to do - blur the line between reality and reelity. And that's why SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT is a slasher classic during the peak era of the slasher film. It also helps that the film is also pretty good, even today.
Poor 5-year-old Billy Chapman (Jonathon Best). After a trip from the nursing home to see his grandfather (Will Hare) [who scares Billy with the idea of a vengeful Santa Claus who kills those who are naughty], Billy, his two parents, and his little baby brother drive on home until they see a hitchhiking Santa (Charles Dierkop) on the road. What the Chapmans don't know is that this Santa Claus just robbed a convenience store and murdered the store owner. This killer Santa shoots Mr. Chapman and then rapes Mrs. Chapman before slicing her throat - all in front of a hiding Billy, who now believes that Santa has punished him by killing his parents.
Three years later, Billy (Danny Wagner) is at a Catholic orphanage, where he is still haunted by this evil Santa. The Mother Superior (Lilyan Chauvin) tries to beat the fright out of him and even forces Billy to sit on a Santa's lap to get over his trauma. It doesn't work, as Billy is more traumatized than ever.
At the age of 18, Billy (Robert Brian Wilson) is helped by Sister Margaret (Gilver McCormick), who finds him a job as a stockboy in a toy store. The customers love him [especially the women, who find him good looking and nice] and the boss adores him, much to the chagrin of some of Billy's co-workers. However when the store Santa becomes sick, he's given the task to be the new store Santa, which causes Billy's mind to snap. With an axe at hand, Billy vows to punish everyone who has been naughty as a killer Santa Claus.
SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT proves that the hype and controversy was done by people who failed to either watch the film or understand it before making a judgment on it. There is no killer Santa Claus in this film. SNDN is about a kid who was traumatized by someone dressed as Santa to the point where he feels he needs to act like Santa in order to deal with it, which he never does. The producers are not endorsing evil Santas to scare children. They're not condemning the whole Catholic Church because a single nun happens to be a cruel and abusive bitch. This is a horror film made for horror fans that just happens to take place around Christmas time. What else was the killer supposed to dress up like? The fuckin' Tooth Fairy? Christmas equals Santa Claus and the film takes advantage of it. If these protesters had actually thought about what they were protesting, they wouldn't look like jackasses right now. How people can be offended by something like this when there were more important issues in the world at the time is beyond me.
SNDN is pretty much your typical slasher but with a sympathetic killer. In probably the harshest setup in slasher history, we watch Billy go from an innocent child to someone who is so traumatized that he loses his mind and becomes the person he fears the most. I mean, the kid watches his dad get shot to death and his mom raped and killed, helpless to do anything about it while his baby brother cries. And then when he's trying to deal with his trauma, some bitch nun who thinks she has the answer decides to whip the boy with his belt and condemn him because he's still afraid of what happened to his parents. How insensitive can one person be? And she's serving the Lord? I'm sure there are nuns like this in the world but hypocrisy pisses me off. Wasn't that bad mullet Billy had to sport bad enough on the kid? And then as an adult, he's forced to wear a Santa suit and watch a girl he likes get raped right in front of him. I mean, how much can someone take before wanting to grab an axe and kill? These stupid suburban soccer moms could only see what was on the surface, not bothering to watch the damn film to see what the real story was. It's a slasher with a true psychological formula. There's an actual story and the people in the film actually have personality and character. How many slasher flicks can you really say that about? SNDN should be commended for that, not criticized for it.
What SNDN is known for [supposedly] are the death scenes. We get a whole bunch of stuff here. We have gunfire, throats being sliced, a piercing arrow, someone gutted like a fish, death via hanging from Christmas lights, hammer to a skull, a decapitation, death by being thrown out a window and having a shard of glass impaling the victim, and the classic Linnea Quigley death via antlers. The "uncut" footage shows some of these scenes visually in action, but they could have been just as effective being left out. I honestly don't understand the whole thing about the gore in this film. Yeah, there's some but it's pretty tame even by 1984's standards. Slashers like FRIDAY THE 13TH and THE BURNING are a lot gorier than SNDN, so I never understand why alot of my friends gush over the stuff in this film. I think the only special one is the Linnea Quigley death while the others are pretty standard.
The film is also pretty sleazy. Billy's mom shows her boobs. A nun shows hers. Billy's co-worker, Pamela, displays her nice ones. And Linnea Quigley never turns down a nude role and this film is no exception. SNDN is a very voyeuristic film where the characters want us to watch them be as naughty as possible. Billy got to see all of these boobs too up close. Lucky bastard.
The direction by Charles E. Sellier, Jr. is actually pretty good. The visuals aren't perfect and some of the shots are badly framed at times, but the pacing works really well and the editing is nicely done. I also like that there is some tension during some of the slashing sequences, although it's never overwhelming enough to scare someone. It's a nice looking slasher flick for a low-budget production. SNDN looks more expensive than it probably was so that's good direction. Too bad he never directed another film due to the controversy of SNDN. I really don't blame the guy for leaving it all behind after the backlash.
The acting is pretty decent here too. The three actors who played Billy [Jonathon Best, Danny Wagner, and Robert Brian Wilson] all did a good job protraying the transformation from an innocent child who loved Santa Claus to a deranged individual who feared Santa Claus to the point where he became him. Best was cute as the innocent Billy. Wagner was believeable as the scared and confused Billy. And Wilson used his good looks to contrast with the ugliness Billy harbored inside. Sometimes his "Naughty!" and "Punish!" bits were laughable because Wilson was so serious saying them. But I felt for the character and that wouldn't have happened if the actors weren't good at their jobs. Lilyan Chauvin as Mother Superior really pissed me off. She's the kind of woman you just want to see slapped around a bit because she's such an evil bitch. Chauvin did a great job making me hate her and confirming why I'm against organized religion to begin with. Gilver McCormick's performance as Sister Margaret was simple. She only stood out because she was quieter and nicer than Chauvin's character. And Linnea Quigley does what she does best - show us her beautiful breasts. Top notch performance as always by a young Ms. Quigley.
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE PULLING ANTLERS OUT OF MY ASS
- Santa Claus only comes when everyone is asleep. That's because he's a sadistic pedophile who likes to stuff more than just stockings. Not that I know that from experience or anything...
[That's the last Christmas I spend at Neverland Ranch.]
- Grandpa told Billy that only boys and girls who were good the entire year get presents from Santa. I guess 99 percent of the population will be punished Christmas morning. I hope I remember my safe word!
- Don't ever pick up a hitchhiking Santa Claus. It'll end up being a "slay" ride for anyone involved.
- Billy was shocked to find two people having sex inside the Catholic orphanage. I don't know why. Aren't religious people supposed to be screaming "Oh God!" and "Jesus Christ!" while in deep penetration, I mean prayer?
- Billy punched Santa in the nose after refusing to sit on his lap. Who knew a little boy could turn Santa Claus into Rudolph?
- The very drunk Mr. Simms got hammered in the head by Billy. Don't you just love ironic moments?
- A couple were about to have sex on a pool table. Too bad that 8 ball in the corner pocket was probably more of a scratch than an actual victory.
- Billy killed Denise by impaling her on a pair of antlers on the wall. Thanks deer for the visual!
- Don't go sledding alone in the snowy woods. You'll lose your head over the thrilling ride.
THE FINAL HOWL
While not the best slasher film in the world, SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT is still a classic piece of Christmas horror that any horror film will like every Christmas Time. It has a great story and some interesting characters. Just don't expect scares or a lot of gore in this slasher salad. And if you don't appreciate this one, Billy will consider you naughty. Remember - when it comes to a killer Santa Claus, he deals with a "don't axe, don't tell" policy. Merry Christmas, everyone!