CHILLING CLASSICS MONTH: Silent Night, Deadly Night (1972)

Hey guys! Paul Andolina is in charge for this review. I met Paul at a wrestling show and we discovered a mutual love of film. Check out his writing at Wrestling with Film.

I love holiday themed horror movies. I probably spend too much time scouring the internet and books to look for more films with a holiday bent to add to my watchlist. Just this October I participated in a friendly movie watching competition. Its theme was holiday-centric horror. When I picked up Chilling Classics I had completely glanced over the fact it contained the film Silent Night, Bloody Night. I already owned it separately on DVD. I finally got around to watching it for this review and I was not expecting what I got. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised.

Silent Night, Bloody Night is a horror thriller released in 1972. It was directed and partly written by Theodore Gershuny. You may be familiar with his work unknowingly as he worked on both anthology television series, Tales from the Darkside and Monsters as both director and writer. Silent, Night Deadly Night is about the Butler house, a one-time asylum with an interesting past. Wilfred Butler the man who restored the house to its current state dies when he set himself on fire on Christmas of 1950. His only surviving relative, his grandson, Jeffrey Butler, is selling the house. He’s in town to settle affairs but his lawyer and other people go missing. What is it about this house? Why does Jeffrey want to sell it and why do the townsfolk seem so eager to acquire it all costs?

The film stars James Patterson, a Derry, Pennsylvania native, as Jeffrey Butler. He died during post-production of the film and his lines were apparently dubbed by someone else. It also stars the director’s then-wife Mary Woronov as Diane Adams, the mayor’s daughter. It largely centers around these two characters. Someone is calling the townsfolk and in whispered tones is asking them to come to the Butler house. The calls sort of reminded me of those placed by Billy in 1974’s Black Christmas. However, the caller is able to convey a creepiness without the crassness of the calls in Black Christmas. There is something deeply unsettling about the hush toned calls from the mystery caller, who says she is Marianne. The movie is deliberately paced and has substantial payoffs both in terms of plot and the kills depicted. Even though there are only two or three kills depicted outright, there is one that will catch you off guard and change the tone of the film drastically. 

The movie takes place around Christmas but it isn’t played up much, apart from some Christmas tunes on the radio, some decorations, and sparse snow. It still has the dreariness one would want in a holiday horror flick and would go well with some spiked eggnog or whiskey laden hot chocolate on a snowy day. There is a particularly interesting use of the church hymn In the Garden as well. It is a recurring theme throughout the movie’s soundtrack and adds an extra dose of oddness to the proceedings. If you enjoy low budget films or holiday centered horror or just enjoy proto-slasher films you’ll find much to enjoy in Silent Night, Bloody Night. I should also point out that not only is this Cannon’s first released film it is also co-produced by Lloyd Kaufman of Troma. I hope you consider watching this film during the upcoming holiday season but must warn that most cuts of the film released on DVD are not the best looking prints.

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