Director: Charles E. Sellier Jr
Script: Michael Hickey
Cast: Toni Nero, Robert Brian Wilson, Linnea Quigley, Lilyan Chauvin, Gilmer McCormick
Running time: 85/ 82.5 minutes
Back in the early to mid-eighties the ‘Slasher’ film boom was at its height, following the massive successes of Halloween and Friday the 13th. Silent Night, Deadly Night was lumped in with these, although I wouldn’t really bundle it into that particular subgenre as it clearly fits in more comfortably with the smaller subgenre of ‘yuletide horror’. The film received much condemnation on its release with many complaints regarding its depiction of jolly Saint Nick dishing out punishment to those he deems to be ‘naughty’! It didn’t help that much of the film sees violence and abuse perpetrated on children, and even poor orphaned children become witness to some pretty unpleasant violence.
Beginning with a family trip to a sanatorium, in Utah, to visit a mentally disturbed grandpa, (who freaks the older son, Billy, out by telling him to fear Santa Claus), we then follow the family as they head home, only to be waylaid by an armed robber who then kills the parents in front of the boys. The orphans are taken in by an orphanage run by a very strict nun who has no understanding of PTSD and thinks she’s helping Billy by making him face his fears, especially those based around Xmas. When he freaks out he’s repeatedly punished by the sadistic mother superior.
Ten years later and Billy has a job arranged for him by perhaps the only nice nun at the orphanage and he begins to work at a department store. Initially things go fairly well, but, not long before Xmas, he’s asked by his boss to take on the mantle of store Santa when the original ‘Santa’ is taken ill. Once Billy has the suit on he slowly starts to lose it and finally lashes out when he saves a female colleague from being raped by his own line manager in the back store room, but when she seems ungrateful for his intervention he kills her too and then goes on a crazy killing rampage, butchering anyone who gets in his path and who he sees as being ‘naughty’…
Despite what was probably quite a low budget, and featuring some questionable black ‘comedy’, there’s a lot to enjoy here and Silent Night, Deadly Night is actually quite an accomplished low-rent horror flick with a bit more substance to it than many of its ilk. Replete with a discordant musical score and some good photography Silent Night… is a film that stands out and it’s nice to see a horror film set in Utah, during the winter, for a change. The performances are all pretty good, including the child actors who don’t really put a foot wrong.
Horror fans will enjoy the inventive and often gory deaths, including death by Xmas lights, by being cut open by a box-cutter knife, a decapitation during a sled ride and by being impaled on deer horns (we salute you Linnea Quigley!). The film also has a satisfying conclusion, with a nod and a wink at the audience that there might be a follow-up waiting in the wings, which there was…
I watched the extended cut of the film, which has more of the gore and violence left in, apparently.
Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2
Director: Lee Harvey
Script: Lee Harvey & J.H. Earle
Cast: Eric Freeman, James L. Newman, Elizabeth Cayton, Jean Miller, Darrel Guilbeau, Brian Michael Henley, Corinne Gelfan
Running time: 88 minutes
Made a couple of years after the first film, Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 comes across as being a bit of a quick cash-in on the first film, but is still quite a lot of fun on its own merits and has become something of a cult film these days. Most detractors of the movie complain that much of the first half of the film is made up of large chunks from the first film, as the younger brother of Billy (the killer from the first film) is interviewed by a psychiatrist trying to get to the bottom of what set Ricky (Freeman) off on his own copy-cat killing spree. I guess if you hadn’t just seen the first film it acts as a handy recap, but I found myself fast-forwarding through it as I’d only recently seen the first film!
Where Silent Night 2 comes into its own is during the second half, from around the 40 minute mark, where the new stuff starts to happen. Ricky is set off after witnessing a sexual assault very similar to that perpetrated by the robber who killed his parents – not that he really witnessed that (he was just a baby at the time), but who needs logic in films like this one! This time the rescued damsel in distress doesn’t attack him for killing her nasty boyfriend so he lets her live…
Ricky then goes on quite a comical kill-spree, randomly attacking people (mostly shooting them) and laughing like a pantomime villain as he does so, shouting “naughty” or “Its garbage day!” as he murders them. He finally ends up seeking revenge on the nasty Mother Superior who seems to be hideously disfigured in this film, for some reason, probably because they couldn’t get the original actress to return and had to disguise the fact… Amusingly, the door to her room is numbered 666, but this doesn’t last long when Ricky takes an axe to it. There’s a fairly tense game of cat and mouse between her (in a wheelchair no less) and her murderous stalker before it all culminates in a familiar sort of way.
While the production values are inferior to the first film, Silent Night 2 still has much to recommend it, especially its sense of manic energy and fun once Ricky’s kill spree gets going. Although Freeman’s acting is somewhat ‘larger than life’ it all kind of adds to the fun and charm (?) of the film and I can clearly see why this has become a well-loved cult film over the years.
Commentary with Robert B. Wilson & Scott J. Schnaid
Commentary with M. Hicky, Dory Botkin, Michael Spence & Scott J. Schnaid
101 Films is distributing Silent Night Deadly Night 1 & 2 on Blu-ray. There are a bunch of extras on the disc which include:
Slay Bells Ring: The Story of Silent Night, Deadly Night (46 mins) – A decent warts and all style of documentary that’s mostly made up of talking-heads interviews but is still a good watch, mostly due to the fact that most of the people interviewed are actually quite interesting to listen to. Apparently Tri-Star pulled the picture from cinemas due to all the controversy surrounding it, but it later did really well once out on home video.
Oh Deer! (21.5 min) – Interview with actress and ‘scream queen’ Linnea Quigley who talks about her background and career, including her less than pleasant experience dealing with actor Jack Palance!
Christmas in July (10 mins) – A tour of the locations used in the film, as they are now, with comparison pictures; quite interesting in a nerdy – I need to get a life – sort of way.
Audio interview with director Charles E. Sellier Jr (58 mins) – The director talks about how he got into films (through nature documentaries) and shares some anecdotes about the film itself.
Santa’s Stocking of outrage (4.5 mins) – Collected quotes of outrage about the movie – some are quite amusing!
Poster & stills gallery – Some cool posters and video covers, and a doll!
On the second disc there’s:
Theatrical version (82.5 mins) – I didn’t watch this.
R-rated theatrical trailer (1.5 mins) – A nicely cut trailer complete with wear and tear crackles…
VHS trailer (30 secs) – This plays out in 4:3 ratio;
TV spots (1.11 mins) – This plays on the film’s controversial history, but is of an inferior VHS quality
Radio spot (36 secs) – Replete with very cool voice-over
Slay bells ring again: The story of Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 (75 mins) – A very insightful talking-heads type of documentary, which charts the whole film from its origins through to its final release, as did the previous feature-length doc. Director Lee Harry makes for good company and reminded me very much of actor Bryan Cranston from Breaking Bad, especially his voice. My only negative comment is that they should have given their interviewees a dusting down with powder before recording them as everyone looks really sweaty!
Garbage Days are here again (19.30) – Robert Patterson (no, not that one!) takes actor Eric Freeman around all the film’s locations and Freeman reminisces about the shoot, including revealing how some gory shots were left out.
Ricky Today (8 mins) – A short homage to the original sanatorium interview, this is a fun vignette.
I don’t sleep (62 mins) – An interview with VXF artist Christopher Biggs, which is very interesting, especially if you’re into all your behind-the-scenes special effects stories. Chris is clearly a cool guy, who’s also very talented so it’s good to spend time in his company.
Commentary with Lee Harry, Eric Freeman and James Newman
Commentary with Lee Harry, Joseph H. Earle and James Newman
Theatrical trailer (1.57 mins) – A fun précis of the film