I remember watching this infamous festive shocker years and years ago on a pretty poor video transfer, and despite questionable picture quality it stuck in my mind as one of my favourite slashers. With all the controversy surrounding the movies initial release under its alternative title ‘Slay-ride’ the movie has had a spate of releases and has been difficult to locate a single, complete, uncut version of the movie. Thankfully Anchor Bay (and subsequently Arrow et al) have put an end to this, and finally a fully uncut (an amalgamation of two different cuts) has been released; it is this version which will be reviewed.
It doesn’t take a genius to recognise what this movie is about, just look at the cover art and slogans! A killer father Christmas is stalking a sleepy rural US town.
Young Billy Chapman doesn’t have much to be merry about at Christmas. One fateful Christmas Eve his dad’s car is flagged down by an armed thief dressed as Father Christmas. Billy is helpless to do anything, and can only watch on as his dad is shot dead and his mother gets ploughed before having her throat slashed; that’s one way of emptying Santa’s sack! After being raised in an orphanage governed by a sadistically strict mother superior, he is never taught to deal with what he witnessed that night. When he finally comes of age, he is given a job in the local toy shop where he’s the model worker, right up until the point the store’s Santa calls in sick and he must fill in for him. This is where the shit hits the fan and he goes on a rampage punishing all those who have been naughty!
Naturally the plot isn’t the most complex, but then in this genre they seldom are, but for some reason ‘Silent Night Deadly Night’ seems a little more viable and more thought through than most. The opening sequence is quite striking, I always find scenes are more brutal when kids must watch such atrocities happening to their loved ones, and from then the films atmosphere remains dark. It’s one of the only slasher movies where you do empathise with the killer, a little anyhow, feeling his actions are in some way justified because of his childhood trauma. That’s not to say the movie gets all mushy, rest assured all of the murder scenes are more than unnecessary, with all the amounts of decapitations and impalements you’ve come to expect from the genre, I just mean to say that rather than becoming camp and light-hearted ‘Silent Night Deadly Night’ remains brutal and non-PC.
Speaking of violence, he might not visit every house in one night, but he sure puts in the effort. Billy is far more scrutinous than the real Santa also, and you really don’t have to do too much to end up in his naughty, rather than nice category! The body count, whilst not excessive maintains a steady pace through the film. The quality of the murders depends on which print of the movie the section comes from. Most of the gore shots presumably are from the broader release of the two, boasting a better clarity and brightness of picture quality. That said, the more hardcore shots, the impalement of one girl on a trophy deer head and a few other extended sequences are taken from a much darker, grainier source. Either way, the gore effects are pretty standard for a slasher, and whilst not every kill is a showstopper, there is a satisfying range of kills.
Overall, as I have stated, this is a favourite of mine. I liked the slightly darker than most feel to the film, it still has a camp charm, but I think that’s due to change in times rather than intention. For a slasher movie there’s some decent gore, and the effects look pretty decent to. Despite a temptation to write this movie off as simply another holiday season cash in, ‘Silent Night Deadly Night’ up there with the best slashers regardless with a good character basis and a decent attention to detail with regards to plot pacing, atmosphere and kills.