As winter draws in the nights are darker, colder and longer so its no wonder that it is a time for family and friends to huddle together inside their homes, sharing stories while looking for warmth and safety from the cruel world outside.
It is for this reason that throughout history the festive season has always been associated with ghost stories and although Christmas Horror seems like a oxymoron it makes total sense especially when you consider one of the most famous yuletide tales of all time, Dickens A Christmas Carol, not only features 3 spirits but Death itself.
The 80’s saw a sleigh load of slashers from Christmas Evil to Don’t Open Till Christmas all prompted by the brilliant Black Christmas which came out in 1974 and laid down a blueprint not only for X rated Xmas movies but also the genre in general.
Thanks to 101 Films Black Label one of the horror highlights from the period Silent Night, Deadly Night comes to Blu-ray for the first time in the UK in a great set including Parts 1 & 2. With newly-commissioned artwork, a booklet featuring new writing on Christmas horror and a sack full of extra content, best of all fans can see the Extended Unrated version of the first film adding much more gore to the already bloody and brilliant movie.
Interestingly upon its initial release Silent Night, Deadly Night became one of the most controversial horror’s of the decade due to its extensive TV and poster advertising which emphasised that the killer was dressed as Santa Claus. Parents protested in droves picketing theatres and singing carols in defiance all of which lead to all adverts and ultimately the movie itself being pulled from screens around the country.
Ironically the angry lobbying adults dread that their offspring would become fearful of Father Christmas is actually the main premise of the movie. The unexpected perversion of something we all see as being so pure and innocent is what increases the sinister and sick atmosphere and by twisting the Christmas traditions into something terrifying the film is far more effective.
For anyone who has never seen Silent Night, Deadly Night it would be easy to assume it is a by the numbers slasher however like the perfect present there is much more going on inside once the wrapping comes off. Fundamentally a thought provoking portrait of a psychopath visiting the main character Billy at ages 5, 8 and 18 the audience is taken on the traumatic journey through his life resulting in a rampage that nearly tears a whole town apart.
Opening in 1971 Billy is a small boy traveling with his mother, father and baby brother on Christmas Eve to visit his Grandpa at the Utah Mental Facility. Stoney silent the old man sits still until Billy is left alone with him when he springs to life ranting at the child about Santa and the terrible things he does to kids who have been bad.
Shaken by the evil elderly mans menacing tirade Billy tries to tell his parents how scared he now is of Santa but far worse things are about to befall the family when they unknowingly stop in the snow for a sadistic crook dressed up as Saint Nick. Shooting his father before raping and slicing up his mother, Billy somehow hides from the maniac but witness all the awful events scarring him for life.
Moving forward to 1984 Billy (Robert Brian Wilson) who has grown up in a orphanage under the extremely script rule of the malicious and uncaring Mother Superior (Predator 2 and Universal Solider star Lilyan Chauvin) finally has a normal life and a normal job working in a toy shop.
Unfortunately as the year goes by and December comes around Billy starts acting strangely and the suppressed memories of that horrific night combined with the puritanical upbringing the nuns have beaten into him start to unhinge the teen from reality. On Christmas Eve the last straw breaks his fragile mind and he is consumed by a desire to punish everyone he deems deserving whether they have been bad or not.
Expertly riffing off the age old threat that parents use every year to make their kids behave that Father Christmas is always watching them and knows if they have been naughty or nice, director Charles E. Sellier Jr. and writers Paul Caimi and Michael Hickey fully explore the darker side of that seemingly benign lie taking it to a creepy and chaotic conclusion.
Like Krampus the idea of a counter part to the jolly fat man who deals out pain and retribution to badly behaved boys and girls is part of the ancient traditions of Christmas and although many cultures may have left that particular part of the story behind the harsh yet simple concept that Santa is keeping a list and checking it twice lays down early concepts of right and wrong in many children.
Why the film works is because Billy is a tragic and sympathetic character and the movie makes sure to spend time showing us how the small innocent child was transformed by extreme trauma into the punishment obsessed lunatic we see out on a killing spree in the final act. Thats not to say its an entirely serious affair as once Billy is unleashed we are treated to some entertainingly gratuitous kills, upped significantly in the unrated addition.
Wonderfully balancing story and slaying Silent Night, Deadly Nigh makes you think and scream in equal measure and has rightfully earned its place on the list of top Christmas horror films as an above average slasher perfect for fans of the genre to unwrap and watch any time of the year.