Hello, kiddies! Time is getting short as there are just two days left before the big day. And now it’s time for another installment of Dread Central’s Six Slays of Christmas feature! It’s nearly time to celebrate the coming of Saint Nick (or whomever you believe in) so we’re taking a look at a different yuletide horror flick each day until the 25th! Think of it as a cinema crazed Advent calendar!
Today’s film is a perfect example of why it’s never a good idea to protest against any form of entertainment because you feel it’s too extreme or in bad taste. Whether it’s music, movies or television, whenever you protest, you do nothing more than promote and advertise whatever you’re railing against. And today’s film Silent Night, Deadly Night is a perfect example.
The film is included in this list as much for its iconic stature in the history of the genre as its content. And how did this film, which is admittedly very much like so many other 80’s slashers, become so memorable? It stands out because The Parent Teacher Association protested against it, organizing and inspiring large groups of people to gather in angry disgust at theaters across the country when the film was screened. And what was the response? Well, it opened on November 9, 1984, the same weekend as A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Silent Night, Deadly Night brought in more money than Freddy and Nancy. Unfortunately, due to pressure from protesters, the movie was pulled from cinemas after a two-week run. However, the film was already profitable after that short run. And the protest worked so well that it spawned four sequels. Way to go!
As for the film itself, it’s the most recognizable Christmas horror film for people who aren’t big fans of the genre. And it is a pretty entertaining movie, containing plenty of the staples of 80’s horror, lots of blood and ample boob shots. There’s not a lot of variance here; it’s your typical 80’s slasher … it just has the killer in a Santa suit. But it’s a fun ride as we watch Billy (Robert Brian Wilson) driven over the edge of sanity and start decapitating sledders.
After being terrorized by his supposedly catatonic grandfather during a visit to the Utah Mental Facility on Christmas Eve, 1971, in which the old codger tells him how Santa Claus punishes the bad children, Billy becomes further warped by witnessing a man dressed as Santa murder his parents on the side of the road. That’s a really shitty Christmas Eve. There are, however, two things we can learn from Billy’s childhood traumas: 1) Don’t leave your child alone with a catatonic mental patient, no matter how still he sits while people are in the room, and 2) Never stop for a Santa broken down on the side of the road. If you don’t see reindeer and a sled with a broken runner, keep driving; he’s a fake!
Billy’s problems continue during his upbringing at St. Mary’s Home for Orphaned Children due to Mother Superior, an aptly named nun, drunk with power and quick to bust out the belt to punish bad behavior! She taught Billy that “… Punishment is absolute. Punishment is necessary. Punishment is good …”. Mother Superior also beat Billy’s ass and taught him fornication was a punishable offense. Honestly, I’m surprised it took the kid as long as it did to snap.
And what was it that finally pushed this Santa-fearing, sexually repressed young man over the edge? Well, the toy store where he was working had him play Santa Claus for the kiddies. That’s right; so there’s Billy in a full-on Santa suit. But that didn’t do it. It’s not until he stumbles upon one of his co-workers attempting to rape another. This, of course, triggers the memory of his parents’ murder, and he finally goes off the deep end, strangling the attempted rapist with a string of Christmas lights. And although this may have been a bit extreme of a reaction, it was undoubtedly a good intentioned, heroic deed. All was well…until 10 seconds later when he killed the woman who was being attacked as well. Things kinda go downhill for Billy and all those who cross his path after that.
From here, Billy goes on a rampage which brings us some really memorable scenes … Who can forget the image of a naked Linnea Quigley impaled on a rack of antelope antlers? Or the unfortunate bully who stole a sled, only to lose his head on the ride down the hill. Literally. And, of course, we close the film on Billy’s little brother Ricky’s one-word assurance that we’ll have a sequel coming our way as he gazes at the now wheelchair-bound Mother Superior and utters…“Naughty.”
I don’t know if Silent Night, Deadly Night director Charles E. Sellier, Jr. and producer Ira R. Barmak (for whom Ira’s Toys, Billy’s place of employment is named) expected their film would still be this recognizable nearly 30 years after its original release date, but it has stood the test of time. The movie proves that infamy is as good as anything to keep your name in the spotlight as the years go by. Few of us know who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1969, but we all know what Charles Manson was doing. Infamy tends to keep your name around.
There you have it: The infamous Silent Night, Deadly Night is the newest offering of the Six Slays of Christmas. One more tomorrow … what could it be? Hmm …
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