Christmas-themed horror films... there's more than a handful of 'em out there, but only a select few are really worth your time. I've long considered Jack Frost to be the one of the all-time greats in the horror-comedy genre, what with the great one-liners and the highly creative kill scenes. Still, when it comes to Christmas-themed horror films, there is one that stands out from the rest of the pack even more: Silent Night, Deadly Night.
Released to in 1984 with the hopes of becoming the next "Halloween" (as evidenced in the tagline), Silent was quickly yanked from theaters after only two weeks (not even giving it a chance to play on Christmas) due to the protests of many angry parents. Protesters actually lined up outside theaters with signs that read "Santa Does Not Slay" and "Deck the Halls with Holly, Not Bodies". Apparently the ad campaign for the movie, which depicted Santa heading down the chimney with a big shiny axe, was giving children nightmares and made them terrified of ol' Saint Nick. So TriStar caved in to all the pressure from the PTA, the ads were pulled from TV and the movie was removed from theaters shortly after. I know, I know... the PTA influencing a big movie production company sounds laughable, but it really happened.
As one would expect, having this much controversy surrounding the movie had true horror fanatics salivating with anticipation to see it. As a result, the movie enjoyed huge success when it was released on video. In all honesty, home video is really the only thing that kept the series alive. And now it's time to do my part in helping give the original movie the attention it deserves... after all, I definitely wouldn't want to be on this Santa's "Naughty List". So kick back with a hot cup of cocoa and some sugar cookies as we take an in-depth look at Silent Night, Deadly Night.
Our story begins with an all-American family driving down the road in their station wagon on a cold winter day. Billy Chapman, and his younger brother Ricky (who I might add, has got to be one of the ugliest babies on earth) are on their way to see grandpa. Mom assures young Billy that Santa is gonna bring him a "big surprise" tonight. Oh how right she is! As for gramps, he doesn't live in a cozy little cottage, nor is he in a retirement home with other elderly folk of his ilk. Nope, ol' gramps has been tucked away in a bona fide nuthouse all these years.
Grandpa Chapman (played by Will Hare, who once tried shooting Marty McFly "Take that, you mutated son of a bitch!" for trespassing in his barn) is catatonic and everybody thinks he's lost his mind. However, when Billy's parents leave the room, Grandpa turns to him and begins to scare the bejesus out of him in a way that only a creepy old dude can:
Gramps: "You're scared ain't ya? You should be! Christmas Eve is the scariest damned night of the year! I'd be scared too if I was you. You know what happens on Christmas Eve, don't ya? You know about Santa Claus?"
Billy: "He brings presents to all good boys and girls!"
Gramps: "Heheh! You're daddy told ya that, didn't he? Well I'll tell ya somethin! Santa Claus only bring presents to them that's been good all year! To the ones that ain't done nothin' naughty! All the other ones, all the naughty ones... he PUNISHES! What about you, boy? You been good all year?"
Billy: (shakes his head "no")
Gramps: "You see Santa Claus tonight, you been run, boy! You better run for your liiiiife! Heeheheeheeheheheheeehehehe!"
Naturally, this scares the crap out of Billy and he tells his parents that grandpa told him that Santa Claus is gonna punish him so he doesn't want Santa to come tonight. When his mom says tells Billy to ignore grandpa because he's a crazy old fool, Billy is stunned and responds, "Mommy you shouldn't have said that! It's naughty to say bad things about old people... Santa Claus will come and punish YOU!" He may be young, but you should really heed your kid's warning there, mom. Trust me, he knows what he's talking about.
We cut to a convenience store where a man in a Santa suit is doing some shopping. And by "shopping", I mean shoplifting. And by "shoplifting", I mean holding up the register guy. And by "holding up the register guy", I mean shooting him in the head and making off with the cash from the register. And by "shooting him in the head and making off with the cash from the register", I mean... well, yeah, that's pretty much what I meant. That's a lot o' bloodshed for some snacks and a measly 31 bux from the register. Me thinks Santa should start robbing places that have more cash on hand. Perhaps the local library?
Later that night, Billy and his family are driving down the road while "Santa's Watching" is playing on the radio. Off in the distance, they see the same Santa guy from the convenience store scene, apparently stranded. Billy wakes up and sees him waving down their car and instantly starts to panic in wide-eyed terror. "Looks like you get to see him after all Billy!" his dad chuckles, "No daddy, I don't wanna see him! Keep going! Don't stop!" Billy cries. But it's too late, for his good-natured dad has already stopped to see if he can help out Santa with his car troubles. Before he can speed off in time, Santa puts a bullet right between dad's eyes as his car backs into a ditch.
From there, Santa walks over to the horrified mom, pulls her out of the car and proceeds to rape her and then slit her throat while Billy watches in horror from some shrubbery he's hiding behind. So wait, why did people have a problem with how Santa was being portrayed in this movie back in '84? Seems like a historically accurate representation of ol' Saint Nick so far, right? Profanity? Check. Rape? Check. Murder? Check. Ho, ho, ho!
After having dispatched of mom 'n dad, Santa shouts, "Where are you, you little bastard!?" while Billy covers his head and continues to hide. Santa then disappears and all that's left are the corpses of mom 'n dad and Billy's infant brother Ricky crying in the station wagon. It's a nice touch when they play the "Sweet Little Baby" gospel tune while showing the dead parents as baby Ricky cries his ass off. Can you feel the holiday magic in the air? I know I can.
Three years later, we find Billy sitting in class at Saint Mary's orphanage, working hard on his latest drawing. As he hangs it up on the chalkboard for his fellow students to see, the collective looks of disgust and horror on their faces are priceless. Personally, I think this kind is a brilliant young talent and the nuns at the orphanage should burn in hell for trying to stifle his artistic creativity. I mean let's look at this thing a little closer:
You can't tell me that's not a thing of beauty... just look at it! Santa has not one, but FOUR daggers stuck in his body. The man looks like he was the assistant in an amateur knife-throwing act. And what about the reindeer? Good god, the head has been sliced clean off and is just now falling to the ground, with no killer in sight. All we see is a bloody cleaver on the ground which may or may not have been hurled at the reindeer. And then there's the Christmas tree in the background. It's completely unscathed, a glowing beacon of the holiday spirit. This just demonstrates what Christmas is all about to Billy - a festive brutal slaying. Beautiful.
Sadly, those damned nuns can't see Billy's artistic genius like you and I can... all they see is a deeply disturbed devil boy who should be locked away. "Simply because something unfortunate happened to his parents, which he knows nothing about, is no reason to allow him to run wild. He must be taught!" states Mother Superior. Sister Margaret, however, thinks that he's getting worse with every Christmas and that he needs medical help. Mother Superior will have none of that though... she'll teach him to be respectful by putting the fear of the Lord into him!
After being sent to his room for a while as punishment, Billy is eventually let out and encouraged to go outside to play with the other children. However, on his way out, he hears some noise coming from one of the nearby rooms and it turns out one of the nuns was uh... bending the ol' celibacy rules. Ok, she snapped the rules in half. As Billy watches them gettin' it on, he starts having flashbacks to the rape and murder of his mom. Before the flashbacks grow stronger, Mother Superior catches Billy peeping in on them and tosses him aside to go punish the two fornicators. Filthy devils!
After presumably beating those two sinners to death with a few swift swings of her blessed belt, Mother Superior confronts Billy about what he witnessed through the keyhole. "When we do something naughty, we are always caught. Then we are punished. Punishment is absolute. Punishment is necessary. Punishment is good." After sharing these encouraging words, she punishes Billy by giving him some mighty whacks on the tokus with her belt for leaving his room... even though Sister Margaret gave him permission to leave. If you ask me, giving a kid such conflicting messages like that is liable to make him go insane some day.
After another restless night of dreaming about his parents being murdered (and being tied to his bed by Mother Superior so he can't get up), Billy comes down the next morning and finds all of the other children opening their Christmas presents. All is going fine at first until Mother Superior brings up the fact that Santa Claus will be visiting the orphanage and that she will make Billy sit on his lap and behave.
You see, Mother Superior is a woman who lives by simple logic: If a young boy's parents were raped and murdered by Santa Claus, what better way to help him out than to have him sit on Santa's lap? Yeah, the only problem with that logic is that it doesn't work... it just screws up the kid even more. But hey, it's a movie and I'm all for seeing this kid sink even deeper into his own mental winter wonderland abyss.
We see her dragging Billy over to Santa and forcing him to sit on Santa's lap until one of the greatest moments in movie history unexpectedly happens right before our eyes:
With one mega-punch, Billy sends Santa Claus flying off of his chair and onto the floor!
The other children in the room show a variety of emotions ranging from amusement to complete and utter shock. It's not surprising though... after all, they just witnessed Santa Claus getting knocked the fuck out by one of their peers. And speaking of Santa, he doesn't even know what hit him as he slowly sits up and blood gushes out of his nose onto his fake beard. I'll tell ya what hit you, Santa... years of pent up kiddy-rage! It's gonna be hard to eat the sugar cookies we left for you when all your teeth have been knocked out, eh?
I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've replayed that whole scene. More times than I've watched the entire movie though, that's for damned sure. It's just too perfect.
Cut to ten years later, and we find Sister Margaret talking with Ira Sims, owner of the local toy store. She's trying to get him to hire Billy, obviously to give him a normal life, but Ira isn't so sure he'd be up to the task. That is, until he sees that Billy is now a fully grown, strong young buck who could lift even the heaviest of crates with ease. Psycho Billy... you're hired!
Will Billy go on to lead a perfectly
normal and happy life as the
stock boy in the local toy store?
Click here to find out on Page 2 of our
Silent Night, Deadly Night feature!
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