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Christmas, that special time of year when people give and get, go out of their way for their fellow man, and yes, the suicide rate spikes through the roof! This holiday has always had its dark side, simply because one person’s happiness is often another’s misery. Sorry, that’s just the way it is. Not that I’m a scrooge or anything, but ones happiness and success often magnifies another’s failures and sadness. I think we do society a great injustice by not recognizing that simple and important fact.
That is why there is always at least one horror film during the holiday season. People need to get out that aggression and work though their hidden desires to hurt and maim. Horror films do this, but it wasn’t always that way. Horror films during the holiday season or more to the point, about the holiday season, weren’t always acceptable. Not until one film changed the playing field forever…Silent Night Deadly Night.
Silent Night Deadly Night begins with a bit of fun. A man and his totally 80’s hot wife (yes I know it’s supposed to be 1971), are on their way with their kids to visit his father in a rest home. When they get to grandpa, he is supposedly catatonic, but this is an act as he proceeds to terrorize the older of the kids, Billy. “Christmas is the scariest damn night of the year! If you see Santa, you’d better run!” Well isn’t that creepy? I’d be traumatized too. On their way home, Billy explains that he doesn’t want to see Santa but it doesn’t matter, Santa is coming to see him. Minutes earlier, a man dresses as Santa robs and kills a clerk at a convenience store and then breaks down on the road ahead of young Billy and his family. What ensues is something right out of the Crow comic and as a matter of fact, I wonder if one influenced the other as far as staging.
The aftermath of the encounter leaves Billy an orphan who goes on to be tortured by the Mother Superior of the orphanage until he is an adult. When and why he becomes Santa is a series of coincidences but the result is Billy, dressed as Santa and drunk for the first time. Not a good combination. Billy is disappointed again and with the idea in his head that he really is Santa, decides that enough is enough. He has an agenda now. To punish the naughty, and there are a lot of naughty people at Christmas.
This is one of those films whose reputation is talked about more that the film itself. Is it actually a gem amongst horror films? A film whose merit can be argued time and again? Or is it just another slasher from the era of boobs, blades and blood? In all reality, it is a bit of both.
Silent Night Deadly Night was sort of the bad boy of slashers. It didn’t really deviate from the formula and hell, every movie was about naked girls having sex back then (awe the 80’s, forget the fashion and most of the music. It was about the films). The problem that this film ran into is that it did it with a Christmas theme. People were so outraged at the thought of a killer Santa that there were protests in the streets. It was a different era back when parents still gave a damn. Though it is no work of art, it does have its nuances. Billy is betrayed by everyone he looks up to (or at least should look up to), his Grandfather, Nuns, first love and co-workers. He isn’t equipped to deal with the world because he has never been in it. As ludicrous as it sounds, you can understand Billy if you truly want to.
Is it a film to watch every Christmas? Not really, because lets face it, there is better offensive material out there to have a black Christmas with (like Black Christmas for instance). But the film should be in your collection. It is a part of horror history that can’t be denied and though it is debated and discussed thoroughly when brought up, the problem is that it is rarely brought up at all.
The acting could be better, but for the time and type of film it is, we’ve seen worse. And for every couple of bad performances we get a good one (or at least a memorable one). After all, this film does have Linnea Quigley in a typically sexy performance and some of the kids are priceless.
The important thing here is not whether or not the film is solid, but is it entertaining? And that it is. It’s one of those films that still carries a sense of “WOW I can’t believe I’m watching this”. That alone is something worth experiencing. This film, if nothing else, has some of the most bizarre and disturbing imagery ever.
This year, if you’ve never given this film a shot. Pull it out and grab a drink or four. It’s a fun movie with friends and could be even more fun as an adult drinking game/ strip movie night. Have a happy jolly Christmas indeed.
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