85 Minutes (Uncut Version)
SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT is a hard movie for me to review. Before my first viewing, I was expecting a very corny, light hearted, Christmas themed gore romp. I was expecting a 1980's version of SANTA'S SLAY.
I couldn't have been more wrong in my initial assessment. SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT (SNDN) does what so many slashers tried to do and inevitably failed to do. The film actually has a very guttural, real, and brutal feel to it. . . at least the first forty-five minutes or so.
The movie starts out with a family in a car. They come across a skinny guy dressed as Santa stranded on the road. They stop, Santa indiscriminately murders the mother and father. Leaving toddler Billy and baby Ricky to fend for themselves on a cold Utah Christmas Eve.
This scene shocked me. The violence in the opening of the movie has a real 'punch to the gut' feel. Director Charles Sellier (better known as a TV producer) does a good enough job of building the family dynamic during the car ride, that when they're killed, you see the baby crying and Billy hiding in the ditch, it actually has impact. The feeling of this scene creates the basis of Billy's future psychological problems.
With that being said, the film progressively gets cornier and more of a popcorn slasher flick starts showing through little by little.
Billy is whisked away to a catholic orphanage. He draws pictures of decapitated reindeer. Billy starts showing signs of anger and rage during the holiday season. He goes totally apeshit when the nuns try to put him on Santa's lap (were they not told a phony Santa murdered his family?). Sister Margaret understands his plight, while Mother Superior punishes him at every turn. Billy gets caught peeping on some older orphans being "naughty" (making sweet, sweet, love). Mother Superior lashes Billy for being naughty. The movie than takes us ten years into the future.
Billy gets a job in a sweet toy store. Here we get to see tons of gnarly 80's toys (Snake Mountain from Masters of the Universe was the best). Once Billy settles into his job, we are treated to a montage. We get to see what a fine young man Billy has become. He works hard. Refuses to drink scotch when offered by his dirty, guido co-worker. He's obviously a stand up guy. When Christmas rolls around, the montage stops. He clams up when he sees pictures of Santa. When the guy in the store's Santa breaks his ankle and can't come in on Christmas Eve, stock boy Billy gets a promotion that puts him in the smelly, rented fat-suit of his arch-nemesis. Jolly old Saint Nick.
This is where the movie really loses any and all seriousness it once had. Billy becomes a crazy mindless Santa Hulk when he sees his pervy guido co-worker Andy, force himself on his crush Pamela. Billy flashes back to when his mother was killed and goes on a rampage that lasts for the remainder of the movie.
We see people hung by Christmas lights, thrown out of windows, and shot by a bow and arrow. . . It goes from slightly psychologically disturbing, to a FRIDAY THE 13TH clone. Except rather than being a slilent killer like Jason Voorhees, Billy prefaces the mutilation of all that lie in his path with a poorly delivered, "NAUGHTY!" or "PUNISH!" It's wonderful.
Most kills in this movie are completely random. Other than the co-workers Billy kills, all other bodies are just bystanders. Absolutely none of Billy's kills are central to the plot of the film whatsoever.
Aside from being a slasher film that attempts to give the psychologically deranged killer a tangible reason for his actions, the controversy SNDN created was more notable. It was released by a major motion picture studio. Tristar Pictures became interested in B pictures around 1982. Low budget movies (especially in the horror genre) have historically been made for very little money and brought big box office business. Movies like HALLOWEEN and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE were made on a shoestring yet generated untold fortunes. SNDN was made for more than those movies. Tristar wanted in on that piece of the industry and SNDN was their first stab at it.
Tristar felt they had the formula right for a low budget blockbuster. Little did they know that placing a murderer in one of the most famous outfits in the universe would generate rage from the public. PTAs around the nation and other parents groups protested the film extensively.
Tristar felt the heat and pulled the movie about two weeks into it's theatrical run. The movie made it's budget back in the first three days of release. The movie would have made an absolute fortune had Tristar not totally wussed out . In fact, SNDN released the same weekend of NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. The first week, SNDN grossed more. The second week, after the protests and critical beating the film took, grosses dropped drastically, possibly paving the way for the success of NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET.
PARENTS JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND:
Concerned, protesting parents got the movie pulled. This movie was rated R. No one under 17 admitted. Just because the killer is wearing a Santa suit that makes it fair game for censor? YOUR KIDS ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO WATCH IT. The content of the movie isn't the problem, the problem was marketing. The trailer tries it's hardest to avoid showing Billy, but gleefully shows an indistinguishable Santa figure impale people.
This movie isn't about being Santa being a killer. Billy is the killer. He just happens to be wearing a Santa suit. He wears his fear, hatred, pain, and dysfunction. Probably not easy to market that. . . but, marketing Santa as a murderer on network TV wasn't a good idea. The killer Santa gimmick had been done many times before (VAULT OF HORROR comics did it in 1953). It was just never advertised before.
SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT PART 2
Anchor Bay (DVD Release)
|This is the greatest poster of all-time.|
SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 (SNDN2) sucks. Over half the running time is Ricky (Billy from SNDL1's baby brother) narrating the story of why he's in a mental hospital. The footage he narrates is THE ENTIRE plot of the first film.
This movie was originally intended to be a re-cut of the first film (for some reason, another video reissue?). Director/Editor Lee Harry and Writer/Editor Joseph Earle we assigned the re-cut but asked whoever (I think it was IVE Video?) they were working for if they could turn it into a sequel.
The new scenes are really quite funny and for the most part are not very Christmas-centric. SNDL2 has gained some notoriety on youtube due to being such a off the wall corny movie:
It makes me wonder what a full, true sequel could have been.
But what we end up seeing is essentially a short version of the first movie with a new, VERY ridiculous rampage sequence tacked onto the end. While it's hilarious, it doesn't justify sitting through 60 minutes of a movie you may (or may not have) already seen.
This one can essentially be written of as an attempted money grab. However, It's worth fast forwarding to the new content, because it is just bonkers. Ricky (Eric Freeman) will make you chuckle. He certainly doesn't take things as seriously as his older brother did in the first movie. . . or at least he's conscious of how big of a psycho he is.
For anyone who does not know. There were three more movies in this series. Seriously. They'll have to wait until next year.
- M. McSlam