"If NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET gave you sleepless nights ...
And if HALLOWEEN made you jump at every shadow ...
And if every FRIDAY THE 13TH was more frightening than the others ...
THEN BEWARE. [ ... ]
directed by: Charles E. Sellier, Jr.
starring: Lilyan Chauvin. Gilmer McCormick, Toni Nero, Robert Brian Wilson, Britt Leach, Nancy Borgenicht, H.E.D. Redford, Linnea Quigley, Leo Geter, Randy Stumpf, Will Hare, Tara Buckman, Charles Dierkop, Eric Hart, Jonathan Best, Madeline Smith, Amy Styvesant, Max Robinson, Oscar Rowland, Geoff Hansen (I)
(back of video blurb):
"Bearing the emotional scars of a young boy who has seen his mother and father brutally murdered by a savage killer in a Santa Claus costume, 18-year-old Billy explodes into a lethal frenzy- he's asked to put on a Santa Claus suit himself to entertain the customers of the department store where he works. Reminded of the tragic events that have marked his life, Billy embarks on a killing rampage that is as ghastly- and controversial- as anything ever seen on film.
"Silent Night, Deadly Night" is THE movie THEY tried to stop you from seeing and it's now in its original and uncut version; recommended for mature audiences only- but not to be missed!"
"Santa's waiting. Christmas Eve is slowly fading. Can you hear him in the night?
... Close the door; turn out the light."
The words to this popular song take on a slightly more sinister meaning...
Ah, yes- the Santa slasher. Loved by those with a sense of humour and a penchant for Christmas kitsch; hated by those without a sense a humour and a penchant for marching round cinemas waving placards proclaiming moral fury. And it's this film- SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT which, above all those other festive festerings, which struck a cord of self-righteousness amongst the God fearing folk of America.
Reputedly it was a TV spot of a maniacal Santa swinging an axe along to the tagline of: "He knows when you've been naughty!", that fueled the flames. OK, so I might be a little upset if I had a pair of kids whose rose tinted view of dear old Santa had just suddenly turned a distinctive shade of blood red, but, hey, they got to find out the truth sometime (that he's not real - not that he's a mass-murdering psychopath, I mean). And, anyway, the film's promoters agreed to push the TV ad to a late night slot, so the kiddies were safe. This, however, did not stop theatres being picketed (one placard slogan reputedly screamed, "DECK THE HALLS WITH HOLLY, NOT BODIES"!), which sometimes works to a film's favour (the mob hired by the makers of SNUFF to picket the theatre where it was showing reputedly brought the patrons in in thrill-hungry droves). The controversy, it seems, was not particularly good for this little slasher flick, however, as it resulted in the film being pulled from several cinemas and its distributors ditching a planned wider release.
So, was this slab of tinsel terror any worse than any of its ilk? Well, that's a loaded question, somewhat. Let's start at the very beginning (sorry for the obscure nun reference- all will become clear later, I promise ).
SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT kicks off on Christmas Eve 1971, as a young family, listening to "Christmas Fever" on the car radio, make a journey cross country. In the back, one of the little boys, Billy, asks his Mother if he can stay up and see Santa- she says "No", as, "Santa's going to bring a big surprise tonight".
Their destination, it turns out, is the Utah Mental Facility (festive, or what?), where the Dad's Father sits in a chair in a seemingly catatonic state. However, when the rest of the family leave the room to talk to a doctor Pops turns to young Billy, an evil leer on his lips, and says: "She [his Mother] can't save you nobody can! Christmas Night is the scariest night of the year! Santa only brings presents to good children- all the naughty ones he punishes. You see Santa Claus you better run, boy- you better run for your life!". ... So, no chance of a Werther's Original I think you'll agree.
Already traumatised by Grandpa's less than festive jeer Christmas Eve gets no better for little Billy. On their way home the family stop to help a stranded motorist who is wearing a - Santa Claus costume. Squeals of delight (although Billy is less sure) turn to those of terror as this Kris Kringle shows his true colours- as the thief who had earlier shot dead a store clerk for a measly few dollars ("31 bucks? Merry fuckin' Christmas."). Billy's worst fears are realised as, as he watches from the side of the road where he manages to scramble, he sees his Mother and Father murdered, in cold blood, by this Satanic Santa.
The story jumps forward three years to December 1974, but things aren't much better for Billy at St. Mary's Home for Orphaned Children, where he lives with his younger brother. Run by a Mother Superior who's more Ilsa than Julie Andrews (see, I told you it would become clear), and who has taken a particular dislike to the disturbed young boy. Despite the protests from a kindly nun, she beats Billy after he spies a couple having sex ("Punishment is good!"), and ties him to the bed to stop him escaping ala Joan Crawford. However, this 'Mommie Dearest' goes too far when, on Christmas morning ("I see nothing but greed where there should be gratitude!"), she forces Billy to sit on Santa's lap- and, understandably, he freaks and punches the poor schmuck out.
Now we jump forward a second time- to Spring 1984, when Billy has just turned 18. The kindly nun manages to secure the strapping, and seemingly well adjusted young man a job in a toy store (cue lots of cheesy footage of him rearranging displays and hugging small children, accompanied by some synth atrocity). As Christmas approaches Billy's behaviour begins to get more and more erratic, but he holds it together until he is forced to stand in for the store's Santa. "Try not to scare the little bastards.", deadpans the owner- Billy, however, ignores him and, close to the edge, he tells the wriggling brats that they had better have been good- or he'll punish them! After the store closes the staff have a drunken party and Billy's last remnants of sanity vanish as he witnesses one of his colleagues attempting to rape the girl he loves. With a cry of "Naughty!" this Santa really goes to work
SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT takes its time getting to the good old fashioned slasher action of its second half, but that ain't necessarily a bad thing- it almost feels as if you've earned it when it finally arrives. The film has far more character development than most films of its ilk and there's clearly been some attempt to make the characters (especially Billy) feel real, but, wisely, the film makers know what kind of film they're really making and throw in enough sensationalist shocks along the way to keep even the most jaded of viewers happy. However, although it packs a punch (one part sleaze; one part grime- and all the better for it), its impact is lessened by a number of key things. Now, it was never going to be taken seriously as a social critique of any kind (given its jokey (albeit black humour) premise) but some out-of-place amateurishness and seriously mixed performances (some great; some not so great) lets it down just when it might really land a killer punch.
Of course, what most viewers want to see when they hire a movie like this is an insane Santa rampaging through the suburbs attacking the unwary- and the naughty. And you don't get much naughtier than teenage baby-sitters fornicating on a pool table whilst they should be keeping an eye on their charges! Naturally, Santa comes a knocking and, in the film's most memorable death sequence the pesky teen (Linnea Quigley no less!) is impaled on some ornamental deer's antlers. It's closely followed by a funky sleigh-ride decapitation, where surviving friend's overacting is just the icing on the cake.
In a film which goes out of its way to say "Bah-humbug!" before blowing raspberries and flipping the bird at any kind of festive spirit that dares jingle a bell anywhere in its vicinity there's one scene of misanthropy that made me blackly laugh more than any other (I'm not heartless, but sometimes I just can't help myself). In a tragic case of mistaken identity the police shoot dead a man dressed as Santa Claus outside the orphanage, in front of appalled children and nuns. To make matters worse (as if they could be!) it turns out the dead man was a kindly old priest who was deaf to boot, and so couldn't hear any of the shouts for him to cease from the police. They killed Santa! Bah-humbug, indeed.
It probably comes as no great surprise to hear that this dime store (but roughly effective) tragedy doesn't end well. Still, whilst it'll never hold a candle to BLACK CHRISTMAS (the ultimate anti-festive fun) it's one hell of a ride nonetheless whilst it lasts, so chuck another log on the fire and revel in how Christmas' used to be- back in the good old days.
BODYCOUNT 14 female:4 / male:10
1) Male shot in head and chest with gun
2) Male shot dead with gun
3) Female has throat slit with knife
4) Male has knife plunged into side (dream sequence)
5) Male strangled with string of fairy lights
6) Female slashed with stanley knife
7) Male whacked in top of the head with pickaxe
8) Female shot through chest with arrow
9) Female impaled on deer's antlers
10) Male thrown through window
11) Male decapitated with axe whilst on sleigh
12) Male shot in back with gun
13) Male whacked in chest with axe
14) Male shot in back with gun