Walter’s Top 5 Slashers: #5 Silent Night, Deadly Night
Dir: Charles E. Sellier Jr.
Cert: 18 • US: 79 min • TriStar Pictures • 1984
Walter Beck reviews
Well hello Polari readers and welcome to our Halloween countdown of the Top Five Slasher Films of All Time, hosted by your Gonzo Correspondent to the Colonies.
For our first film, we’re gonna be looking at one of the most controversial gore feasts ever released in America, the infamous Silent Night Deadly Night.
It’s Christmas Eve 1971 and five year old Billy is going with his parents to visit his mentally disturbed grandfather at the state hospital. While his parents are away, grandpa speaks to Billy, warning him that Santa Claus punishes naughty children. Filling his head with fear, the old man goes silent when Billy’s parents return.
On the drive home, Billy’s parents stop their car to help a man dressed as Santa Claus. Once the car is stopped, the man pulls a gun, shoots Billy’s father, and violently rapes his mother, ending it by slashing her throat. Billy runs off into the woods and hides from the violent Santa.
Billy and his brother Ricky are remanded to a private Catholic orphanage where they are subjected to the harsh discipline of Mother Superior. Billy is repeatedly beaten and even tied to his bed as he relives in the trauma of Christmas Eve.
Once Billy grows up, one of the kindly Sisters gets him a job at a local toy store in the stockroom, hauling crates. For a little bit, things seem happy and well. Billy still suffers from nightmares, but he has a good job, a good boss, and good co-workers.
The snap hits when his boss Mr. Sims makes Billy the store Santa Claus for the Christmas season. Billy’s face changes, he becomes quiet and intense. While on his job, he frightens the children, telling them that he will punish them if they are naughty.
At the store Christmas party, Billy sees one of his co-workers attempt to rape Pamela, the stock girl. Billy fully blows and strangles the rapist with Christmas lights, then begins murdering his co-workers with a box cutter, a bow & arrow, and a hammer.
He then goes on a rampage throughout the town, killing people he finds being naughty …
As far as slasher films goes, this one opens our top five for its twisted story line; rather seeing the killer appear out of nowhere, like many slasher films, we get the full picture of how Billy goes from a sweet normal child to a twisted young killer. Knowing the trauma that has soaked most of his life, we empathise with him. Do we justify his violent rampage? Not at all, but we do understand why he has become what he is.
The gore is also a strong factor here, special effects artist Karl Wesson created a low-budget blood feast; particularly in the close-up shots, such as the hammer sticking out of Mr. Sims’ head or the iconic shot of the teenage girl being impaled on the deer antlers. While by 1984, many American horror films were pushing the boundaries of graphic violence, it was Wesson’s work on this iconic movie that brought new levels to what artists could do in films.
The film attracted significant controversy, with many parents in America being appalled at the idea of a killer dressed as Santa Claus. The film was picketed, boycotted, and the group achieved somewhat of a victory by forcing Tri-Star Pictures to take the ads off the air.
Like many horror films, Silent Night Deadly Night spawned a string of sequels, all of which are honestly crap. Unless you’re a serious fan of the films, stay away from them, they are nothing but lumps of coal, especially compared to the original.
But amidst the controversy, the film remained and became a beloved classic amongst slasher devotees. So whether you’ve been naughty or nice, have a gory holiday treat and watch Silent Night Deadly Night.