CHRISTMAS CINEMA: Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

At one point in this movie, Santa Claus gets shoved down by Billy, our hero, and he yells, “What the hell is wrong with that kid?” And I yelled in defense, “Santa raped his mom, you fucking asshole!”

Merry Christmas, everyone, it’s time to descend into the absolute nadir of scummy movies and watch something that parents were right to worry about their kids watching.

Christmas 1971. Billy Chapman and his family go to see his grandfather in a nursing home. The silent, senile old man just sits there, but when Billy’s parents walk away, he tells him that he should be afraid when Santa comes, because he knows that Billy hasn’t been a good boy. On the way back, Billy’s parents slow down so he can see Santa walk along the road. Billy is already freaked out, but then Santa shoots Billy’s dad before raping and killing his mother — all while Billy and his infant brother Ricky watch.

Christmas 1974. Billy and Ricky celebrate in an orphanage. Well, there’s not much to celebrate. There’s non-stop punishment from Mother Superior and only Sister Margaret and Ricky are there to help Billy. Every holiday, our hero goes insane, drawing pictures of Santa killing his family and punching people dressed like Santa.

Christmas 1984. Sister Margaret gets Billy a job at a toy store, where things seem to be looking up. Billy even gets a love interest, Pamela, who he has wet dreams about that are interrupted by visions of Santa killing his family. Alright, I lied. Nothing is looking up, because Billy’s boss has a new job for him: he has to be Santa for Christmas Eve.

There’s a scene where Billy tells a young girl on his lap that he’s going to punish her — while two moms look on approvingly — that is total insanity. Sister Margaret calls while this is happening to see how Billy is doing, only to learn that he’s doing the one job he never should be doing.

There’s a party in the store and Billy leaves on the Santa suit. The owner tells Billy to keep on drinking and he’ll think he really is Santa Claus. Pamela leaves with Andy, the employee that always gives Andy a hard time. As Billy follows, he sees them making out, but soon Andy starts to rape his love interest. Billy responds in the way that any rational human being would: he hangs Andy with Christmas lights and stabs Pamela while describing how punishment is good.

Billy has followed his boss’ advice: time to do what Santa does on Christmas Eve. Billy’s version of Santa? His job is to kill. Billy lives up to that job description by killing his boss with a hammer and the store manager with a bow and arrow. Seriously, this movie has gone off the rails. Even scenes where people sing carols take on menace and dread.

Billy can’t stop his rampage now. He kills a young couple just for having sex, impaling the girl on a deer’s antlers and throwing the guy out the window. Talk about reindeer games! He then wakes up a little girl in the house and keeps asking her if she was naughty or nice. When she answers nice, he gives her a knife!

Don’t be a bully harassing sled riders in Billy’s neighborhood either, because he’ll chop your head right off.

Sister Margaret turns to the police, who rush to the orphanage. One of the cops screws up on arrival and kills a cop dressed as Santa right in front of a kid. Santa lives matter! He pays for his naughtiness by getting axed by Billy, who makes his way into the building to  confront Mother Superior. She taunts Billy, telling him she doesn’t believe in Santa. Billy goes to kill her and is shot by a cop. Sister Margaret is sad that Billy is dead and tenderly touches his face. Yep, a nun is sad that a serial killing Santa Claus has been stopped from killing another nun. Such is this movie.

Billy dies, but not before telling the kids “You’re safe now, Santa Claus is gone.” Ricky, his brother, looks at Mother Superior and says one word: naughty.

Ricky would return in Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 and Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out!  There were also two unconnected sequels, Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation and Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker, as well as 2012 remake, Silent Night.

Originally, this film was released by Tri-Star Pictures. But people weren’t ready for it. Maybe they’re never ready for it. Parents groups demanded that the film be removed from theaters and the ad campaign, which ran during family-friendly shows, scared the seasonal shit out of plenty of kids.

People even protested the film, standing outside and singing Christmas carols. This movie was the Crispus Attucks in the War on Christmas!

Silent Night, Deadly Night was later re-released by Aquarius Films, who obviously gave zero fucks. They’re the folks who re-released Cannibal Ferox with the amazing title Make Them Die Slowly and transformed Zombie Holocaust into Doctor Butcher, M.D.

Critics were…unkind to say the least. Gene Siskel read the names of the crew on At the Movies with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert to shame them and the LA Times claimed the film was one of the worst of all time. Leonard Maltin also gave the film zero stars. Oh yeah? Bah humbug!

Silent Night, Deadly Night came from Charles Sellier, who also was responsible for TV’s The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, which was based on a book he wrote. According to Wikipedia, “Sellier was born as a Cajun Catholic, later converting to Mormonism and then to evangelical Christianity.” What is a Cajun Catholic?!?

Maybe this is why — other than this film — Sellier was known for creating family-friendly movies and shows with Christian themes, like In Search of Noah’s Ark and In Search of Historic Jesus. To be fair, he also produced some ridiculous conspiracy stuff like Chariots of the GodsBeyond and Back and 1980’s Hangar 18 (another TV commercial that gave me nightmares), as well as various apocalyptic, Da Vinci Code and far-right Christianity documentaries.

Sellier was a believer in market research and the master of four-walling, a practice where he rented out theaters and kept the profits for himself. This enabled him to, in the words of his IMDB bio, gain “the distinction of having more pictures in the Top 50 independent grossers than any other independent producer in the 1970s.” He also produced The Boogens! Man, I wish Charles Sellier was still alive so I could find out how he came to make a movie as blissfully batshit as this one!

Needless to say, I loved this movie. It’s a gutter crawling piece of pure garbage, perfect for my holiday season. I savored it by literally screaming my throat raw whilst dancing around my living room in pure holiday celebration!

Shout Factory has just re-released this film with plenty of seasonally perfect extras, including an exclusive, limited edition 8″ tall Billy/Killer Santa action figure by NECA. It’s really something to behold!

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