Friday, December 24, 2010


Silent Night, Deadly Night is respectably trashy.  It knows that it has to just live up a little bit to its title.  Nay, it has to just try and live up a little to its tagline.  It's also a kind of cultural artifact of a time in the 1980's where there were "themed" horror-slasher movies (i.e. Mother's Day, My Bloody Valentine), later parodied in the Grindhouse trailer by Eli Roth, Thanksgiving.  Does it really matter too much how the mythology begins for each one?  There's a psychopath on the loose and he'll gut a bunch of teenagers- or some older people too, but no, no children, heavens no not the children- and then maybe (or maybe not?) get it at the end.

This time around with the 'Christmas' theme it all begins when a little boy, little Billy, goes with his family to visit Grandpa.  Grandpa hasn't moved or talked for years... but then he's left alone with little Billy, and becomes animated - by that I mean he's creepy as fuck and tells the kid that if he's been naughty, even once in the past year, Santa will get him!  And then on the way home, coincidentally, the family (parents and little baby) get caught off guard by a Santa Claus stick-up guy who sticks a gun at them and fires away till the car screeches to a halt.  The father gets shot, the mother gets (almost) raped and throat slit, all in eye-shot of Billy hiding in the bushes.

Cut to a few years later, Billy is a basket-case - that is when it comes to Christmas time and Santa is there.  Hey, when you see one killer Santa, all of them are Killer Santas.    Then the movie cuts ahead again to current-day 1984 as Billy gets a job at a toy store, nice but on the edge of insanity (cause, you know, if you see a Santa killing your parents then you're screwed for life, I guess, since all Santas are the same).  He also has a thing with sex.  Ooh, naughty, naughty sex, those people must be punished!  It's after seeing two co-workers going at it, the woman resisting and being raped by the Guido-creep (not to be racist, he fulfills the stereotype by the nature of the acting and writing), and then Billy *click* snaps.  Killing spree!

Perhaps there's that one point in the movie's favor: you don't need to wonder much about the identity of the killer.  He's right in front center, doing to children he comes across what Santa originally did to him: traumatizing with lots of BLOOD!  It becomes a laugh riot to see Billy go off on anyone and anything he comes across; only one he comes up against is spared, though the pay-off of this is even funnier than you might expect.  In terms of the 80's slasher-mythology, people get it all over the place in some semi-creative ways, the women usually without any shirts on (cause hey, when you go out to let the cat out, don't put a shirt on, just little short-shorts will do), and the guys maybe have a shirt on, depending on their physique.

Naughty children get punishment.... or orgasms, maybe orgasms.
Most of the killings are overly gruesome and stupid, and one of them especially, maybe the most memorable, is the most random as Billy goes out to a sledding hill at night to ambush a couple of stupid teens doing a sledding competition.  The pay-off for that scene is one of those deaths that gets people talking after the movie ends (maybe not as bad as what happens to one girl and a stuffed deer head, but you do what you can here).  But maybe most interesting is how the movie takes a position on the traumatizing of little Billy.  Sure, he could've gotten the help he needed, but where's the fun in that?  Better to have nuns like the Mother Superior at the orphanage whip the crap out of him until he... continues to be pathologically afraid of Santa and have images of his parents' slaughter replay in his head.  Punishment... urge to kill rising... that's basically Billy's mantra here.

All of this adds up to really idiotic entertainment, but entertainment nonetheless.  I think a certain attitude has to be taken here, as an antidote for all of that usual Christmas-bullshit cheer, and as another in a long series of slasher movies with a killer loaded with blood.  It should be forgettable, just by the nature of it not having anyone particularly memorable in the cast, or its director.  But due to a series of sequels (one of which directed by, I shit you not, Monte Hellman! oh how the mighty fall), it is memorable, and something of a minor Christmas classic for exploitation freaks out there.  Certainly fills a sleazy-quota of the night, and maybe with an eggnog and gingerbread cookies and chestnuts by the roasted fire, it'll do just the trick.  And you may wonder if Jack Skellington is around to kick some ass and take names and so on.

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