Review Date: December 25, 2007
Released by: Anchor Bay
Release date: 11/12/2007
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
There’s no doubt that the best Christmas themed horror film is the original Black Christmas
. Bleak, vague and brutal, it sucks every ounce of cheer out of the holiday, so much so that even the snow resonates with a existential emptiness. But who wants to actually watch that on Christmas? No, for four years now, I’ve instead been joyously watching my Silent Night, Deadly Night
DVD double-feature instead. An anti-yuletide classic, to be sure, with spanking nuns, killer santas, Linnea Quigley nakedly impaled on Rudolph’s antlers, and a whole lot of sleaze. Unfortunately for many, the Anchor Bay disc has been out of print for some time now, but thankfully they’ve got the perfect present this year. That’s right, a re-release of the original film. It’s the same disc as before, but read the review anyway, because Santa will punish anyone for doing otherwise.
Silent Night, Deadly Night
begins as most slashers do. Normalcy is disturbed when a traumatic death drives one of its onlookers to kill in the future. Except, in Silent Night, Deadly Night
, the killer is dressed as Santa, the emblem of holiday cheer. Little Billy, after receiving a bad omen from his seemingly comatose grandfather, witnesses his mother raped and murdered by a man dressed in a Santa suit. The images of sex and violence stay entrenched in his mind, as he forever links the two with the symbol of Jolly old Saint Nick. A mulletted, new Billy is put in a foster home, and continuous mistreatment from the evil Mother Superior (Lilyan Chauvin
) further corrupts his morals. As Billy finally ages into adulthood, he views Santa as a man who punishes those who have been naughty…with death!
Billy (now played by Robert Brian Wilson
) gets a job at Ira’s Toys, where he is an instant hit with the kids and with the manager. In a Mentos-like montage, Billy’s endearing persona and hard work ethic are emphasized, capped off with him denying the temptations of alcohol for the calcium goodness of milk. Thattaboy, Billy! But as Christmas begins to loom, Billy starts to feel the old anxieties quell up again. When he is forced to wear the Santa suit for the kiddies, Billy undergoes a horrific transformation. Intent on punishing those abiding by the slasher conventions of drinking and having sex, Billy unleashes a world of “Punish!” Mother Superior is last on his list, but the police are hot on his trail.
Silent Night, Deadly Night
just might be the most mean spirited movie ever made. The kind of torture that Billy is subjected to makes I Spit on Your Grave
seem comparatively tame. Billy first has the shock and displeasure of witnessing his grandfather come out of coma just to tell him that Santa is going to punish him. That is followed by Billy watching his parents get shot and his mom stripped and raped. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he watches a nun have sex and is subsequently beaten with a belt for it. Not only that, but the ungodly mullet he is given with is a haircut wished on nobody. He is forced to wear a Santa suit, and then witnesses yet another raping just in time for present giving. The movie goes to such great lengths to make Billy a sympathetic character, but damned if it isn’t some of the darkest setup in cinema history. Not only that, but a deaf, old priest in a Santa suit is also shot down in gory glory. Who said Christmas was happy?
Yet, despite the inherent mean-spiritedness, the dark tone is offset by a healthy dosage of fromage. Early on, the film establishes a Troll 2 dialectic with the grandpa-grandson relationship, and the results are nearly as cheesy. The grandfather channels a certain Grandpa Seth quality, spouting off overly serious lines that can only be seen by the young protagonist. When Billy grows to age 8, it is impossible not to laugh at how he suddenly gets freckles, a gap in his teeth and a sultry mullet. His line readings are nearly as bad as Joshua’s in Troll 2
. The real cheese kicks in though, with each of the older Billy’s murders. Like Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare on Elm Street
was oddly released day and date with Silent Night,Deadly Night
), Billy utters a one liner with each kill. His verb of choice is “Punish!” although he interchangeably uses “Naughty!” on a regular basis. What makes it all so enjoyable is the seriousness with which Robert Brian Wilson approaches his character. His role is written with a Sandler-esque seriousness, yet he approaches it as if he were Marlon Brando.
The last ingredient that makes the film a fine yuletide dish is the gratuitous sleaze. Voyeurs will bask at all the naked on-looking that goes on throughout, as Billy seems to possess a raw talent of seeing every beautiful girl acquaintance naked regardless of location. Nuns, co-workers, his mother and even Linnea Quigley all give a little to the leer of the camera. Quigley’s performance is most notable, marking a stunning screen debut alongside her grave-baring in 1984’s Return of the Living Dead
. Her scene in this film, where as her boyfriend points out, Santa isn’t the only one who comes, is one of the hotter bits of slasher screen nudity. This movie loves to watch, and Linnea is more than happy to show.
Silent Night, Deadly Night
is one of those movies that tries so deliberately to offend, but it succeeds in eliciting a short of shameful enjoyment in the bah humbugging of one of the cheeriest days of the year. It is not exactly the Christmas movie you want to tell your parents about, but it sure is a fun bit of mean-spiritedness while it lasts.
Before playing the first film, there is a screen that informs of the two prints used for the transfer of Silent Night, Deadly Night
. The majority of the 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer is taken from a high quality film print, while some of the gore footage is taken from what seems to be a tape master. As you can guess, the print quality is radically different and at times distracting. Like the director’s cut of Army of Darkness
, the discrepancy in film elements is always noticeable. Still, the transfer presented is the most complete transfer possible, and most fans will be happy to take it anyway they can get it.
|Tape Footage||Film Footage|
The majority of the footage looks very sharp, clean and detailed. The textures of each brick can be seen in the exteriors at the orphanage, and every pit on grandpa’s face comes through. Color saturation is also admirable on the parts of the transfer taken from the high quality print. The footage from the tape master unfortunately looks much worse. The most noticeable imperfection is the softness – it looks as if the film was being shown through a foggy glass. Not only that, but the colors are much more washed out and aged, overcast with a slightly yellowish hue. Blacks lack depth and appear more as shades of grey. There is even some print damage noticeable on the tape portions of the master. Still, as noticeable as the added segments are, the majority of this transfer is still very nice and a major improvement over VHS and Laserdisc. Please note that this is the same transfer from the original disc.
The film is in no-frills mono, and its sounds as one would expect. The cheesy Christmas music comes across without distortion, and explosions register without hiss or pop. But it all sounds pretty flat, but for these kind of movies, that will do just fine.
So the trailer isn't included here, despite claims of the contrary on the back. Thankfully though, the rest of the fun features from the original release are preserved (since this is the exact same disc, right down to the menus). The film contains a 35-minute phone interview with director Charles E. Sellier, Jr. and he is pretty talkative regarding production, his involvement with Grizzly Adams(!) and the need for filmmakers today to be more responsible than he was when he made Silent Night, Deadly Night
. His slight drawl and roundabout way of discourse is both personable and at times boring, as he seems to extend everything much longer than it need be. Still, he remembers quite a bit from the production, and his stance on moral and responsible filmmaking is admirable, seeing as most people would decline altogether to discuss a film with as much controversy as this.
Anchor Bay fleshes out the controversy with a few slide galleries. The first is a very engaging “Santa’s Stocking of Outrage”, which features complaints from newspapers, petitioners and even Mickey Rooney on why the film deserved to be banned. Unfortunately there were no comments by Siskel or Ebert, despite their anti-slasher campaigning on their Sneak Peaks show. Still, it gives a good historical context to all the outrage that the film had to endure. The poster and still gallery further exploits the controversy, as many of the posters make mention of the film being what everyone didn’t want the viewer to see. If the film succeeded at anything, it was definitely marketing.
Silent Night, Deadly Night
is awesome. At its core it’s a somber cautionary tale about the evils of hero worship and the chain of domestic abuse, but in all its seriousness it unintentionally veers into the realm of black comedy. If an Aryan twentysomething yelling “Punish!” in a Santa suit doesn’t strike you as the least bit outlandish, then perhaps you need a visit with Mother Superior. This DVD is the same as the original release for the first film, which isn’t all that bad. There’s still the VHS quality of the uncut scenes, but the remainder is solid, including a few nice marketing related extras (although the advertised trailer is still not included). The double feature DVD is still the disc of choice because of the inclusion of the bad movie notoriety, Silent Night, Deadly Night 2
, but if you can’t find it, this is the perfect alternative. If you pick up neither, Santa will know…and all will be carved.
Movie - B
Image Quality - B+
Sound - C
Supplements - B
- Running time - 1 hour 25 minutes
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English Mono
- Audio interview with director Charles E. Sellier, Jr.
- Santa's Stocking of Outrage
- Still and poster gallery