SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT
Review by Michael Jacobson
Robert Brian Wilson, Lilyan Chauvin, Gilmer McCormick, Toni Nero
Directors: Charles E. Seller, Jr.
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 185:1
Studio: Anchor Bay
Features: See Review
Length: 85 Minutes
Release Date: September 16, 2014
certainly knows how to handle children.”
Films *** (on the cult scale)
thrown the word ‘chutzpah’ around a lot in my time as a review, but I
probably never meant it so wholeheartedly as when I use it to describe Silent
Night Deadly Night. Turning
Santa Claus into a psycho killer? It’s
still the most sick, twisted, demented idea I think I’ve ever encountered in
the history of movies. I guess
that’s why I like it so much.
movies have always been an affront to parents, but there was arguably never one
so reviled as this one. When my
parents owned a video store, my mother refused to stock this title just for fear
that the picture on the box of Santa going down a chimney wielding an ax would
freak children out. Then the
controversy made this a must-see film, and suddenly, we very quietly added it to
I first saw it, I was a little disappointed only because my imagination had led
me to believe it was going to be something much worse…namely, I thought it
really was going to have THE Santa Claus murdering kids.
It’s not about the real Santa, naturally, nor are there any kids that
get hurt…like most slasher movies, the victims are pretty much all promiscuous
open with little Billy making a Christmas Eve trek with his parents and baby
brother to visit Grandpa in a mental hospital.
Grandpa sits still and silent, never responding.
But when left alone with Billy for a moment, he comes to life, and spins
a horrifically dark tale of St. Nick. Yes,
old Kris Kringle brings presents to good children on Christmas Eve.
BUT…he also punishes the bad ones.
Then Grandpa goes vegetative again before anyone else can see what
happened. What would make a
comatose old man suddenly animated at just that time?
Well, without it, we wouldn’t have a movie.
Billy is scared about Santa’s visit. His
fears are compounded when a psycho dressed as the kindly old elf brutally
murders his parents in front of him on the way home.
and his baby brother are sent to a religious orphanage, where the Mother
Superior is a cold, callous bringer of discipline and punishment.
“Punishment is good,” she tells Billy, just before whacking him
pitilessly. “Punishment is
inevitable.” Another nun worries
about Billy’s constant nightmares and disruptions of behavior patterns every
Christmas. She fears something
terrible resides within him, waiting to be triggered.
She’s right, of course. Otherwise,
we wouldn’t have a movie.
forward to 18 year old Billy (Wilson) leaving the orphanage.
He’s tall, strong, handsome, and sweet, and he gets his first job as a
stock boy in a toy shop. All seems well, until Christmas comes around.
Not only are the nightmares still prevalent, but to make matters worse,
his boss persuades him to take over as Santa Claus on Christmas Eve when his
regular man gets injured. Then he goes so far as to invite him to drink that night
after the store closes.
encounter with a near rape in the backroom finally brings all the psychological
pieces together, and Billy, dressed as Santa and believing Santa’s job is to
punish the naughty, begins a hideous bloodbath of carnage and mayhem.
If he didn’t, we wouldn’t have a movie.
plenty of gratuitous nudity and violence to go around here.
Anchor Bay managed to reassemble a pretty complete and uncut version of
this film from a couple of different sources, so you can experience every grisly
detail. By and large, this is a
standard sort of slasher picture made more weird and disturbing by the fact that
you have a Santa Claus figure doing the killings.
also a bit unusual in that it inspires you to feel a little pathos for the
villain, if you want to call him that, by showing so much of the horrors of his
childhood. When he finally snaps
and goes a-hunting, we’re horrified, but still strangely sympathetic.
Robert Brian Wilson gives a decent performance, considering the basically
thankless role he has to fulfill. Without
it, we wouldn’t have a movie.
murders are good and gruesome, including an impaling, a bow and arrow trick,
using the business end (the claw) of a hammer, and so on.
Perhaps even more disturbing is that a Santa figure gets gunned down not
once, but twice, in front of a group of children.
response to the movie when it first appeared was swift, vigorous and merciless.
It was frequently pulled from exhibitions, banned from city to city, and
quickly built up a hate campaign like few had ever seen before.
It’s no wonder the movie has earned such a cult devotion over the
years. If I were a parent, I
wouldn’t want my kid anywhere near this picture.
But I’m not, so I cling to it as one of my closet horror fan guilty
I even love how the filmmakers were so blatant in the way they left the door open for a second movie with their final shot. Without it, we wouldn’t have a sequel...but that's a story for another time.
This is an impressive anamorphic transfer from Anchor Bay. Silent Night Deadly Night begins with a warning that the studio had to use composite elements from different prints to create an uncut version, and that some of the difference in footage may be apparent. Frankly, it’s not that bad. In fact, for the most part, the film looks really good, with clean images, good coloring, and none of the problems usually associated with 80s movies on disc. Even the darker scenes are clear and free from undue grain or murkiness. You can see a marginal difference in the edited-in clips; they weren’t quite as well cared for. But they bring on the added gore, so I’m glad to have it.
The new uncompressed surround is not overly dynamic and doesn't make much use of the surrounds; it's a bit dated sounding here and there, but no issues with the dialogue anywhere.
This edition starts with a new commentary track featuring writer Michael Hickey, composer Perry Bolkin, editor Michael Spence and producer Scott J. Schneid. Not a bad listen, but if you want to hear from the director, there is also an audio phone interview with Charles E. Seller, Jr. Rounding out is a poster and photo gallery, and “Santa’s Stocking of Outrage”, where you can read comments about the movie from angry parents and others (even film legend Mickey Rooney...ironic, considering he appeared in Silent Night Deadly Night Part V!), plus the critical “raves”. You gotta love a movie that revels in its bad publicity. One letter mentioned a TV commercial that terrorized the writer’s child…why couldn’t that spot have been included?
He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so PLEASE be good for goodness’ sake. Anchor Bay once again caters to the horror aficionado with the release of a controversial cult classic in Silent Night Deadly Night. Reviled, banned and boycotted, it’s just about everything a horror fan could ask for.