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As a young boy I remember the response to the “Silent Night, Deadly Night” ads displayed in my local grocery store’s video section. Parents quickly covered their kids’ eyes, complaints were made to the on-duty store manager, and little old ladies gave their pacemakers a Sweatin’ to the Oldies-like workout after seeing the movie poster, which showed Santa’s darker side.
Based on Paul Caimi’s popular college writing assignment entitled “He Sees You When You’re Sleeping”, this blood-covered gift of Yuletide terror was directed by filmmaker Charles E. Sellier, Jr., who is known for his religious documentaries, and also created the lovable mountain man on the lam, Grizzly Adams.
On his family’s way back home from a fun-filled evening at the looney bin, Billy suddenly comes down with a very bad case of Santaphobia, thanks to Gramps. While Billy is left to senior-sit his supposedly comatose grandfather, the crazy geezer briefly snaps out of freeze frame mode, and tells the young lad a Brothers Grimm-style tale about a vengeful Santa who collects bounties on the naughty. This warps Billy’s little mind faster than a Federation starship escaping a Klingon Bird of Prey. Soon, what seemed like the harmless ranting of a bitter and mentally unstable man, becomes terrifying reality when Dad (Jim), ever the good Samaritan, stops to help someone who appears to be the jolly ol’ elf himself. Now, wait a second. I know for a fact that Santa doesn’t drive his red car or anything with wheels while on duty. How do I know this? Well, it’s part of his Santa Employment Clause. So, where are his sleigh and reindeer? Also, this guy is able to fit his robust frame down small openings with ease, can deliver presents to children across the world in record time by using a sprinkle of X-mas magic, but we’re to believe he can’t get his car started? Even an elderly person with cataracts in a dust storm at night could see that this guy isn’t the real McCoy. I’m starting to get a bad feeling about this. And by the time Dad gets a clue from the Clue Fairy, he finds himself on the wrong end of a loaded gun held by a crazed maniac, and by then it’s already too late for him and Mom. Well, at least he’ll be spared from opening another gaudy necktie, and she won’t have to look at another crappy, handmade dried macaroni X-mas wreath.
A valuable life lesson has been learned here: If you have an overwhelming desire to be a “do- gooder” around the holidays, make sure you’re in a public place with lots of people. For example, try volunteering at a soup kitchen, collect Toys for Tots, or participate in a food drive. But whatever you do, don’t stop for any strangers wearing Santa gear at night on X-mas Eve, especially on dark, abandoned sections of highway, because they are most likely killer nutjobs who are a few ornaments short of a fully decorated X-mas tree. And if it turns out you snubbed the real Santa, no big deal. The worst thing that’ll happen is you’ll probably be put on his naughty list for a year, and find a few lumps of coal in your stocking come X-mas morning, but at least you won’t be sporting a body bag.
Just when you think young Billy hasn’t been traumatized enough after he witnessed Anti-Claus brutally murder both of his parents, things go from bad to worse when he lands in a Catholic orphanage run by Mother Inferior, whose disciplinary methods are approved by the Medieval Punishment Association of America (the MPAA for short). When she isn’t punishing unique artistic expression like a heart-warming depiction of holiday carnage, or tying little boys to bed posts S&M style, she keeps would-be fornicators and young Billy in line with her trusty sidekick, a leather belt I like to call the “Holy Enforcer.”
After surviving his cruel sentence at the orphanage, a physically and emotionally scarred, but otherwise happy-go-lucky adult Billy leaves to pursue a lifelong dream of working in the wonderfully rewarding world of retail. In no time he scores a sweet position at the local hot spot, Ira’s Toys, which also doubles as a storage facility for leftover seasonal stock. The place is so run-down that I wouldn’t feel safe keeping empty boxes there. Even the roaches have picket signs. But, hey, everybody has to get their start somewhere. Gandhi didn’t just wake up one morning with millions of followers. Eager to please his new boss, Billy immediately mastered the fine art of stocking boxes, became a pro at punching a timecard, and showed off some mad skills with a box cutter. His future at Ira’s Toys looked as bright as Rudolf’s red nose, aside from that close call involving a smiling Santa decoration, which almost caused his psyche to unravel like a cat playing with a ball of yarn. Everything after that was really going well for the star employee, until he got promoted to store Santa. To be honest, the only reason why he got the promotion is because Mr. Simms (the dork who owns the store) had a last-minute “no show”, and needed to find a quick replacement. Later that night at the store’s X-mas party, everybody was enjoying themselves until, without warning, the holiday cheer quickly turned into holiday fear, as Billy became the Yuletide Avenger and declared open season on the “naughty.”
Most of the holiday-themed murders look very ordinary when viewed with the same eyes that saw the shower scene from “Psycho” or the prom massacre in “Carrie”, though there are still some screen exits worth mentioning. An example is the humorous death of what has to be the wimpiest door in cinematic history, which was waving a white flag after getting hit with Maniac Santa’s first ax blow. The Big Bad Wolf with half a lung and advanced emphysema could blow this door clear off its hinges without any problem. Next we have veteran scream queen extraordinaire, Linnea Quigley, showing off her boobtacular trophies before succumbing to rack-on-rack violence. Another really cool kill involves a middle-aged loser who steals a toboggan and becomes “the headless hoodlum” during a late-night joyride down a hill. Lastly, we have Officer Barnes, who gets a mid-dissection via an ax to the gut, and then takes more tumbles than a load of wet clothes in a dryer down a staircase. Unfortunately, like the door, the victims in the film don’t put up much of a fight, either. They’re not paralyzed with fear, just bad writing and directing.
While “Silent Night, Deadly Night” may not be the best entry in the holiday horror sub-genre, it isn’t the worst one, either. That distinction (which is nothing to be proud of) goes to its sibling sequel, “Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2.” So, start off the holiday season a little bit early this year by checking out this bah-humbug slasher with a glass of milk and cookies, and get in touch with your inner Scrooge.
– Picturesque mountains of Utah
– Selection of heart-warming, but out of place X-mas songs
– Billy wearing an Obi Wan Kenobi robe
– Frosty the Headless Snowman
– Ira’s Toys named after producer Ira Barmak
– Various Halloween costumes
– Moon Goon
– Textbook left hook
– 80’s edition Mr. Potato Head
– Rapid fire flashbacks that may induce seizures
– Double-handed, competition style ax throw
– Babe kabob without the grill
– A killer ending
Rated 7.0 out of 10
Check out the trailer for Silent Night, Deadly Night