By Jerome Reuter
For any fan of the ‘slasher’ genre, this film needs no introduction. Now that we’re getting to the tail end of the holidays, it’s time to shed some light on this one. Silent Night, Deadly Night was released in 1984, and stirred up a wave of controversy upon hitting the silver screen. After viewing this one, you might be wondering why. It’s not excessively gory, and some of the violence is almost laughable. The story of a killer donning a Santa suit, and knocking off people seems a bit ludicrous, even by slasher standards.
Truth be told, it’s kind of laughable. I can’t help myself with this one, or the sequel. I’m not alone either; many horror fans consider this film to be gold. It’s one of those films that isn’t going to provide satire, or anything that will give you nightmares; it’s just fun.
The story is focused on a young man named Billy. He hasn’t exactly had the easiest upbringing, or one that lacks childhood trauma. Within the first half of the film his family is murdered, by a maniac wearing a Santa suit right in front of him. We then cut to his upbringing in a strict catholic orphanage, were he is constantly on the receiving end of harsh discipline from the cruel mother superior. We’re brought out themes anyone who went to Catholic school might have experienced, such as sin, punishment, and discipline. For the record, I never went to Catholic school, but I’ve seen a good amount of films from the nun-sploitation sub genre.
Now Billy is a young man, ready to enter the world as a contributing (and killing) member of society. So, what’s Billy’s first contribution to society? He gets a job working as a store Santa. Gee, I hope that doesn’t trigger any bad memories…
From this point on, the film goes into familiar slasher territory. I need to add, that some of these killings are so over the top you can’t help but laugh. From a sled decapitation, strangulation by Christmas lights, these killings border on slapstick. That is to say, if slapstick involved cold blooded murder and one lines such as “Punishment is good” and “Naughty.”
Next, throw in a few keystone cops and a final showdown with the naughty nuns. That’s what you get with Silent Night, Deadly Night. It’s nothing but fun, and something to enjoy on your stressful holiday downtime.
Going back to what I mentioned earlier, this one was a huge storm of controversy. So, I feel the need to touch base upon that. When the film was distributed it was panned by several critics, and picketed by several PTA groups. Several parents, with nothing better to do decided a movie with a killer Santa was not appropriate for a theatrical release. Showing jolly old St. Nick in this way ruffled many feathers, and many theatres ended up pulling the film. That didn’t stop its popularity, as it outsold A Nightmare On Elm Street on its opening week.
As far as this film being controversial, it isn’t. There were, and still are worse things that America’s youth could be watching. Aside from that, this is aimed at teenagers. It’s not aimed at 4 year olds, who believe a fat goof ball is going to drop down their chimney on Christmas Eve. Those same people let the film Christmas Evil slip under their radar.