Forget Ebenezer Scrooge. In Silent Night, Deadly Night the badass that doesn’t have a merry bone in his body is Saint Nick himself. I recall the furor over it’s release just days before Christmas, one that got the movie banned in many states shortly thereafter. It wasn’t banned here in Canada, but all that publicity sure put it on my ‘must see someday’ movie list. More than 40 years later I finally caught up with it.
Orphaned after witnessing the brutal slaughter of his parents on Christmas eve at the hands of a lowly convenience store robber, Billy (Robert Brian Wilson) grows up in an orphanage under the watchful wing of his own guardian angel, Sister Margaret (Gilmer McCormick). Traumatized, Billy doesn’t fit in with all the other orphans, but he is otherwise obedient and good. But scars of that dreadful night remain, and Billy gets panic-stricken whenever confronted by any Santa Claus, whether they be men wearing suits or simple images. But the Mother Superior at the orphanage will have none of it, believing that she can punish the fear out of him, something that just aggravates Billy’s hostility when faced with his red suited nemesis.
All grown up and seemingly normal, Sister Margaret persuades a local toy store owner to hire Billy as a stock boy where he works hard and does everything he is told, despite being bossed by a lazy, conceited supervisor. He even takes a shine to one of the girls working there.
But all his progress comes to an end Christmas eve when the hired Santa calls in sick and Billy is asked by the boss to put on the dreaded red suit. Things aren’t too bad at first, with Billy only scaring the bejesus out a a few kids on his lap, but once the store closes and the employee after party starts things get a little out of hand. Billy’s supervisor starts putting on the moves with that girl and as he tries to rape her, Billy, now in full berserker mode, strings up a set Christmas lights around the scoundrels neck. When the girls starts screaming, well Billy then goes on a full rampage, first in the store and then along to the next house he finds, but not before a late night slay ride encounter with some bullies Let just say that that axe used in the movie poster is no red herring. It’s bloody red before long.
With plenty of gore and nudity to boot, the critics and cynics had an easy target, as there had never been a Christmas movie like this before. Today, I’ve lost count of how many Christmas horror movies there are even on my own shelves.They’ve been around so long that they’re remaking them. But this is the granddaddy of them all and the first to get the old ladies all tied up in their knickers.
The interview with director Charles E. Sellier Jr. as DVD extra was fascinating as he didn’t anticipate the reaction the movie received when released. To him this was just another slasher that was all the craze at the time and a project he was reluctant to do in the first place, but not because of the subject matter or it’s treatment.
While not intended as one, the final scene is a great setup for a sequel. In fact there are five movie in the series. I’ll be getting to Silent Night, Deadly Night 2, shortly as my DVD box has both movies. How’s that for an X-Mas gift?