Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Silent Night, Deadly Night

‘Tis the season to be…killing?

Well, it’s that time of year again.  A time when, as a child, I couldn’t wait for it to come around again, a time for me to start dropping hints for my parents to get me the latest board game, action figure, race car track, or—Gasp! God forbid!—a toy gun or rifle.  Now, it only means that I have to drag the box marked “Xmas lights” from the garage’s storage area and wreck my back as I try to hang them all up within a few hours while listening to my wife dictate everything else that needs to be decorated inside the house.  Yes, the silly season is upon us.

But…what I do nowadays is just go through the motions to make the house look presentable while keeping my wife happy.  However, when the sun goes down and it’s that time in between finishing dinner and bedtime, I like to find a horror flick with some Christmas themes to go along the hacking, slashing, and overall brutal killing of unknowing victims.  So, of course, my first go-to DVD I pull down from my ever-growing library of home media is the cult classic, Silent Night, Deadly Night.

Back in 1984, I wasn’t the constant moviegoer that I am today.  I had barely turned 16 and had no job yet, so when I wanted to go to a movie it consisted of begging my mom or dad for a few bucks, ask them for a ride to the theater, and then ask someone to go with me.  Although I was 16, my parents really weren’t big on letting me see R-rated films—especially R-rated horror movies—and usually hesitated, resulting in a “no,” when I asked to see one.

When Silent Night, Deadly Night was released, my first thought was how I had wished I could see it.  And that thought was forgotten until there was a sudden uproar by Christian groups, protesting and picketing the theaters that showed the movie.  It seems that they had even had petitions signed to have the movie taken out of distribution, all because the killer wore a Santa Claus outfit.  So, of course, after seeing the pandemonium that this movie caused, it made me want to see the movie even more.  But it wasn’t meant to be and I just thought to myself that I’d see the movie someday.

Cut to about 20 years later, as I sat in front of my computer on the Netflix site, wondering what movies I can place in my queue, when suddenly Silent Night, Deadly Night comes to mind.  I placed it at the number one spot and waited eagerly for it to show up in my mailbox.

Well, what can I say about this film that hasn’t been said already?  I guess I can say that I like it.  Hell, I can even say I loved it.  But I really don’t know if it’s because I watched it around the Christmas season or because Linnea Quigley is featured in it or because it has an 80s appeal to it…I don’t know.  Maybe all of the above?

Before I go any further, let me synopsize the film…

The film begins with Billy Chapman going with his baby brother and parents to see his grandfather in a nursing home during the Christmas season.  As his parents leave him alone for a few minutes, Billy’s grandfather suddenly awakens out of his dreamlike gaze that dementia has given to him to tell Billy that Santa Claus is a killer that murders  everyone who’s bad.  As luck would have it, on the drive home, Billy’s parents are brutally murdered by a guy on the side of the road in a broken down car and dressed like Santa.  Billy, now orphaned with his brother in a Catholic Orphanage, grows up and remembers what his grandfather said that fateful night.  The day comes when Billy snaps and takes over the personage of Santa Claus, doing what his grandfather told him Santa was supposed to do.

I really do love this film.  It’s your characteristic type of slasher film from the 80s where the killer goes around, picking off teenagers one by one, as the film uses the same formula we’ve seen in countless horror films of this era.  It’s all for the enjoyment of the audience who enjoys a good scary slasher flick.

However, unlike most of the slasher films from the 1980s, Silent Night, Deadly Night doesn’t go the route of having the killer as some unknown person or have you believe someone’s the killer only to unmask the real one at the end of the movie.  No, this film shows you Billy’s the killer from the start as he’s pushed into insanity after being forced to dress like Santa Claus for a job.  No mystery, no guessing…the film just has fun with how Billy kills everyone who he believes is bad.

The performances are bad and unmemorable, the actors and actresses are not well known (except for Linnea Quigley and the actor who plays Grandpa—you might recognize him as Old Man Peabody from Back to the Future), and overall this movie shouldn’t even be available.  But I think the protests and anger those church groups displayed helped the film rather than hindered it.  I mean, I probably would’ve never wanted to see it if it weren’t for the media attention it earned back in 1984.  I think every news channel featured a few displays of picketing at a theater or two.  Bottom line: this movie is nothing to be concerned about.  Comparitively speaking—and I’m speaking of the movies from the 80s—this movie is pretty tame.  The way all those groups were protesting, you’d think the movie was about a killer who dressed like Jesus

Anyway, my final “bit” on Silent Night, Deadly Night?

If you’re sick of the constant feel-good Christmas movies throughout the television channels during late November and December and feel that familiar urge to see a horror movie, this flick is a good time to not take seriously and enjoy with a tub of popcorn.  It’s a great way to take out that frustration of hanging up Christmas lights all day.

Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas!  I welcome any comments!

You can also tweet to me on Twitter: @CinemaBits.

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