Friday, December 5, 2008

Second Look: Silent Night Deadly Night

We previously took a second look at the movie “The Believers”, this time we are going to take a second look at the movie Silent Night Deadly Night as a part of our on going December 08 theme of “Holiday Horror”. So without further ado, here is a second look at Silent Night Deadly Night.

Silent Night Deadly Night

Silent Night Deadly Night has a simple story, it is the story of a young boy who is so traumatized by Santa Claus that it triggers him to kill and keep killing anyone that is naughty. The film starts off with a serious bang, we are exposed to a rape and double homicide. But let me rewind a little more. Initially the movie starts off with a visit to granpa, a family goes to see grandpa, and he is completely still and doesn’t talk. However, when the parents leave our main character Billy alone, grandpa wakes up and warns him that Santa Claus punishes the naughty. This scene is quite the disturbing one, and formulates an excellent example of how creepy old people can be.

The film quality is not that great. If you saw the original vhs transfer, as I did when I was a kid, this movie is really dark and grainy. The scenes are terribly edited, terribly shot, and considerably low budget. The budget was estimated at 750,000 and that is not a whole lot of money for a theatrical film, even if the year was 1984. The movie was a huge hit at video stores, and the rentals made this film a cult classic. I remember the oversized box with the awesome cover art was something really cool and made me want to rent it, and my dad being the cool guy that he was let me rent it! The initial transfer of this film is just terrible, and if you have seen the dvd you don’t know what I mean.

The dvd release updated the transfer and really made a great quality update. The movie was remastered digitally and brightened with great results. However, the dvd makers decided to leave some of the original footage unmastered and vhs quality, and you can really see a difference, it’s probably the biggest difference in film quality that I’ve ever seen from a remaster.

Silent Night Deadly Night Screen2

Why Silent Night Deadly Night is scary:

Here we go, this is what you’ve been waiting for right? This film scares the crap out of a lot people, and upon its release it was banned out right. Just like many other horror films from this era, we get a minor hitch hiker warning with a man dressed as Santa Claus on the side of the road waving down our main characters. The movie shows a graphic rape and double homicide towards the beginning of the film. The rape isn’t as harsh as “Irreversible” or “Mysterious Skin” but it’s a tough one to watch considering the 1984 release date. However, the killer, dressed as Santa Claus slices a throat and kills Billy’s dad. Billy and his little brother escape harm, but this Santa Claus has really done some damage. This is really scary, and a main reason why you should never pick up a hitchhiker or even stop on the side of the road to pick anyone up that looks suspicious. I’m sorry, this is just scary and somewhat realistic in its portrayal. The meaning well family stops to help a stranded Santa Claus only to get ruthlessly killed and right in front of their kids.
The true villain hasn’t even manifested itself yet, it’s really Billy but first he must go through some better times. With his parents dead, he and his brother are placed in an orphanage where he has some problems every christmas with the idea of Santa Claus. A hilarious scene happens when he draws a picture of Santa and his sleigh completely bloodied and battered. Another great scene is a little out of place but features Billy peaking through a key hole at a couple having sex. Mother Superior (the head nun) finds him looking, orders him to his room and then whips the living hell out of the young couple! Great sequence, and then after all that, Billy gets whipped mercilessly for being naught! Holy crap, if this were going down today in full public knowledge, this orphanage would be shut down, because parents in the U.S and abroad are no longer in charge half of the time of the discipline of their children at all. My parents spanked me with a leather belt when I did something wrong, so I did my best not to screw up, and it worked! I’m not condoning abuse, I’m just making light of the fact that today, parents are push overs.

The second scary part of this film deals with the psychology of repressed memories. Billy grows up to be a model citizen, and he gets a job at a toy store and he’s really good at what he does. There is a great musical montage to explain all this, and he really does excel in this new found job. He even starts to like one of the women working at the toy store and things start to look good for our hero. However, when Santa Claus is absent, and Billy has to be him for the day, his repressed childhood horror sparks a notion in his head and he completely goes crazy. He then goes on a killing spree, first killing his coworkers and then rampaging through the town all night killing anyone that he deems naughty. This of course leads us to question morality, as the story has only people that are doing bad things getting killed and not just your random presumed innocent person. The death sequences are gorey, and are straight forward, not a lot of fighting takes place, the villain here (Billy) is ruthless and robotic.

Lastly, the worst part of this film is the fact that it spits in the face of law enforcement and religion with one easy swoop of events. Mother superior doesn’t fear Billy, and the police don’t really believe that Billy is the killer. However, things really get bad when Billy shows up at the orphanage and….well….I’m not going to give you the ending, but it goes down!

Silent Night Deadly Night Cover

Silent Night Deadly Night is a scary film, but it also is offensive in a lot of ways. It really is a character study, behind all the glorified sequences of death. The movie really throws the christmas tale upside down and makes you wonder about the Santa Claus mythos, especially considering that in every mall across America some hack is playing the beloved character. This movie really pisses on the whole notion of Christmas and an immaculate Santa Claus by shoving murder and mayhem down your throat, and you know what? It’s one of the better examples of exploitation and horror that came out of the 1980’s, and rightfully so. Silent Night Deadly Night spawned 4 sequels, but none of them came even close to topping the pace, and/or story that this film set up. It’s not going to win awards, but there’s a lot of creepiness to this film, and if you allow yourself to enjoy it a little before just pawning it off as another slasher, you will find that this movie was way ahead of its time, and it’s a shame that no one really saw it in theaters, since it got banned outright. But now we get a good remastered version, and a directors cut to satiate the holiday killing spree. Check out my original review of Silent Night Deadly Night here, and keep coming back for more Holiday Mayhem all this month.

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3 comments:

The Space Cowboy said...

Nice description. Looks like a budget movie with simple effects. But probably worth watching once. Thanks for the post

thebonebreaker said...

Great Review Jorge!

As far as 'Holiday Horror' goes, I actually prefer this one over Black Christmas (the original - I hated the re-make)

Fred [The Wolf] said...

Great review. Not my favorite holiday horror flick but one of the better ones for sure.