Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
Immediately following Thanksgiving, before we’ve even had a chance to digest all that food or the fact that Great-Grandma Mildred just came out as a lesbian and declared herself “on the prowl,” we are bombarded with constant reminders of the impending arrival of Christmas. From pre-Christmas sales, to the ubiquitous Christmas music, to ads telling you to buy this and that for so-and-so, to blinding red and green as far as the eye can see, to pre-pre-Christmas sales, and of course: Santa, Santa, Santa. It can be overwhelming. And if you’re anything like me, all that Christmas cheer can sometimes make you want to puke (or it could be all the eggnog).
The last thing I want to do when I’m already holiday-queasy is to watch a Christmas movie because they’re so saccharinely sweet, cheery, and emotionally manipulative that a mere 5 minutes of one will surely make my innards become my outards. This is why I prefer the movies that offer a darker, more cynical take on the holidays: the anti-Christmas movies. And Silent Night, Deadly Night is exactly that.
WHY DID I DRINK SO MUCH EGGNOG?
On Christmas Eve, 1971, a young boy named Billy witnesses his parents get slaughtered at the hands of a criminal dressed in full Santa Claus garb, and he barely escapes with his life. He grows up in an orphanage and every year, he begins to act strangely around Christmastime. The orphanage is run by the stern Mother Nuncliché…I mean, Mother Superior, whose solution for Billy’s Christmas freak-outs is to make him sit on Santa’s lap. This ends with a broken nose for Santa, and a Nun-rage spanking for Billy. When he turns 18, he gets a job at a toy store a few months before Christmas. The holidays roll around and the store needs someone to wear the Santa suit and, Hey, Billy, you’re neither old, fat, nor jolly, so you’re the obvious choice to put on this suit! A few PSTD-induced flashbacks later, Billy grabs Santa’s Axe (*Sold Separately) and the Christmas Carnage begins!
To the genuinely creepy and disturbing first act of the movie. Billy and his family go visit Grandpa, who’s a vegetable, at a mental hospital. As soon as the parents are out of the room, Grandpa turns to Billy and starts telling him how scary Christmas Eve is and that Santa punishes the naughty boys and girls. This scene completely creeped me out. Not just because of my fear of old people talking to me, but because of the sheer delight the old man seemed to get out of scaring the shit out of his own grandson. I also liked the fact that he’s apparently been faking his non-responsiveness for years just so he could terrify Billy this one Christmas Eve. That’s the kind of prank that takes commitment (literally).
Jamie Kennedy: The Later Years
The other important scene in the first act is the actual murder of Billy’s parents. What’s most effective here is that it is unrelentingly bleak. Billy’s dad pulls over to help a stranded Santa Claus and is rewarded with a bullet to the head. Billy’s mother then has her throat slit while the boy watches from the side of the road. The scene ends with shots of the dead bodies, a crying baby in the car, and the desolate snowy landscape, while joyful Christmas music fades in. FUCKED. UP.
Unfortunately, there’s not much to the plot. Once he puts on the suit and starts to believe he is Santa and must dole out punishment to the naughty peoples of the world (or at least the surrounding area within a 5 mile radius), any real story is thrown out the window. For the most part, once he kills all his coworkers at the toy store, he begins just wandering around looking for other victims.
There is an attempt at a subplot involving the Mother Superior torturing Billy as a boy, just so he will have some ultimate destination for the final scene of the movie back at the orphanage, but it is minor. However, it does lead to a hilarious exchange between Sister Margaret (in the Dr. Loomis role) and Captain Richards where they attempt to predict his next move: The Orphanage! Of course, I’m not exactly sure how the other two locations where he killed people (Random Unrelated Character’s House and Random Snowy Forest Area) really fit into the pattern, but I’m neither a detective nor a nun so I’m clearly missing something.
A Badge & A Nun – a new show on TNT
If you’re looking for gore or creative kills, you’ve come to the wrong place. Sadly, there’s not a single Christmas-themed kill in the movie at all. No candy cane impalements, no bludgeonings by fruitcake, no one even gets run over by a reindeer. The closest thing we get is someone is strangled to death with a string of Christmas lights and another person is impaled on the antlers of a deer head mounted to the wall. I’m going to hope and pray that it was a reindeer. Oh and he decapitates a snowman for no reason.
Why is this piñata filled with snow?
Billy’s catchphrase is terrible. When he kills people, he moans “PUUUUNIIIISH” like a zombie searching for brains. I would have expected some sort of snarky “You’ve been NAUGHTY!” but instead we get this dull, lifeless delivery making it not particularly scary. In fact, at the very end of the movie, Billy’s little brother says “NAUGHTY” indicating he may carry on the Santa’s slaying tradition created by his brother, and that’s exactly the way Billy should have been saying it the whole time.
The first act of the film is great and disturbing in the way it pretty much just says “Fuck you” to feel-good Christmas movies. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie doesn’t live up to the beginning and becomes too predictable, rote and, frankly, boring as we don’t really care about any of the characters except for Billy and he’s turned into a murderous monster. It’s worth checking out, especially if you’re sick of A Christmas Story playing 472 times in a single day, but it probably won’t get into your yearly rotation.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take Half a Drink: whenever a boob shows up. There are lots of boobs.
Take a Drink: whenever the words “naughty” or “punish” are said
Down a Shot: whenever Santa’s Axe hits something other than a person (poor Snowman!)