Movie Review: “Silent Night, Deadly Night”— Warm Mug of Holiday Fear

Written by Angela December 19, 2014


Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, except for one mouse.
This mouse had a craving for one type of cheese
That dripped with excessive B-movie sleaze.
For that brand of celluloid, mouse searched with his might,
Until he discovered “Silent Night, Deadly Night.”
The film was unsavoury, much gore did it boast,
Thankfully this is what mouse liked the most.
And so, eyes shining with holiday fervour,
Mouse got his fix of yuletide murder.

In a plot as contrived and cardboard as the rhyme above, “Silent Night, Deadly Night” (1984, dir. Charles E. Sellier, Jr.) is the haphazard tale of Billy Chapman, a man driven into a psychotic rage during the Christmas season. While this premise may accurately reflect what most of us really do go through during the holidays, its finer points involve Billy’s traumatic childhood memories and a host of characters too abysmally ignorant to help him properly cope. As it turns out, when the child who witnessed his parent’s murder at the hands of a deranged killer clad in a Santa Clause suit is later forced to sit in a faux Santa’s lap and severely punished for resisting, he is all the more unlikely to repress his own murderous impulses when forced to wear the same costume as an adult. Go figure.


Christmas Eve is the scariest night of the year!

For those of us needing a break from seasonal drivel, “Silent Night, Deadly Night” is as gratifying as it is hokey. I’m tempted to argue that there lies somewhere in the film’s subtext a satirical commentary on the mind-numbing excessiveness of the holiday, but in truth this is little more than William Lustig’s 1980 “Maniac” donning a fake white beard. All the tropes of the “deranged psychopath” genre are there: violent childhood trauma, strict religious upbringing inducing sexual guilt, and sexual desire conflicting with destructive urges. Having seen these elements hundreds of times before in almost every other horror movie’s depiction of a serial killer, the only reason to not write them off in this one is their alignment with Christmastime imagery—a juxtaposition so incredibly forced it veers dangerously into the realm of dark hilarity. The driving force behind Billy’s rampage happens to be his twisted reasoning that as Santa, it is within his power to dole out an exacting bloody justice onto whomever he deems “naughty.” This is played as scary, but I can’t help but wonder how much better the movie would have been if it had emphasized the angle of Santa being a badass vigilante of some kind. I’d definitely be nicer throughout the year if I had the threat of that guy looming over my head every December.


There is no Santa Clause!

Although not nearly as renowned, “Silent Night, Deadly Night” reportedly out-grossed Wes Craven’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street” before being pulled from theatres, by non other than the PTA, on the grounds that its advertising campaign misled sweet, young, innocent children into thinking they were off to see a family-oriented Christmas film. Wonderful as the notion of their sitting in the darkened theatre and slowly realizing otherwise may seem, it nevertheless feels a tad unbelievable given the film’s less-than-subtle title. In any case, “Silent Night” has been culturally dubbed one of the most ill-conceived slasher flicks ever made, and garners much of its cult status and numerous sequels because of this. As unwholesome as its nudity and gruesome murders are, it’s worth a watch if you’re in the mood for something sardonic to break with the obligatory cheer of the season and keep you from going completely insane.

My Rating: 5/10 (7 with spiked nog)



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About Angela

Angela McInnes is an English major and up-and-coming horror film aficionado. To her, happiness is a bottle of rum and a creature-feature on a Saturday night.

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