‘Silent Night, Deadly Night’ (1984) review

20 Dec

Christmas just isn’t Christmas without annual screenings of festive slasher films, and what better way to kick off some yuletide spirit then with a viewing of Christmas cult classic Silent Night, Deadly Night. If you’ve never seen this infamous slasher, you’re in for a right utter treat. The film is a glorious guilty pleasure, full of tacky one-liners, great set-ups and some, at times, very bad acting.

Poor Billy Chapman. He was such a normal child, looking forward to Christmas and possibly catching a glimpse of Santa himself. All that changed on a holiday visit to see his Grandfather at a mental institution. Grandpa is catatonic; he hasn’t spoken a word for a very long time. But as soon as Billy is left alone with him for a few minutes, he springs back to life, warning Billy about what Santa really does at Christmas. He not only brings presents for the good boys and girls, but punishes the bad ones.

On the way home, his family come across a man dressed as Santa who needs help. Once they pull over, the man gets out a gun and starts to shoot Billy’s Father. Billy escapes from the car and hides, only to watch his Mother raped and have her throat slashed. A few years pass and we see a now traumatised Billy growing up in a Catholic orphanage where he has been punished for being naughty by the very strict Mother Superior.

It was only a matter of time before Billy would eventually go mad. After leaving the orphanage he gets a job at a toy store where he one day has to dress up as Santa. Cue the catalyst for a Christmas Eve night of mass murdering and ‘punishing’ all those people in the town who have been naughty. A psychotic Santa wondering around town with an axe, just what you asked for on your Christmas wish list.

When originally released in 1984, images of Father Christmas with an axe upset many people across America and the PTA fought to have the film removed from theatres. It didn’t help that Siskel and Ebert condemned the film and its makers on their film show. Soon after, large families and protest groups started appearing outside theatres showing the picture, angry at the subject matter and that children had seen their beloved Santa depicted as a serial killer through television trailers and advertisements. TriStar, the original distributers, ended up pulling all adverts for the film six days after it was released and withdrawing it from cinemas shortly after. Whilst it was never officially a ‘video nasty’, Silent Night, Deadly Night was never submitted to the BBFC for classification and was only released on DVD in the UK in 2009 after Arrow Films resubmitted it and got an 18 certificate for it uncut.

Not that that controversy will put any of you off watching the film. After all, we are highly educated and able to make well informed opinions! If you’ve never seen it, Silent Night, Deadly Night is an absolute must! Watching Billy’s mentality spiral manically out of control in a badly acted way is a right treat and Lilyan Chauvin is brilliant as the hard-as-nails menace that is Mother Superior. The lesson to be learnt here? That not watching this film every Christmas is an act of naughtiness that really will go punished.

And we all want to be good boys and girls sometimes, don’t we…?!

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