Seasons Bleedings. It's that time of year again! "To Deck The Halls with The Bowels Of Holly" and to make sure that "the children are hung by the chimney with care." That's right folks, it's time for a little X-mas Ex Mortis! Don't we all need to blow off a little holiday shopping steam by watching old St. Nick do what most of us fantasize about, which is killing everyone in his path, whether they are naughty or nice? Or inversely, to watch Santa get his bloody comeuppance for playing a pivotal role in instigating the commercially-charged economic rape of a holiday? Fear not, dear readers! KVLT VISIONS has the gift that keep on living long after the giving.
As with most slasher flicks, the premise is very straightforward. It's your basic "man pushed beyond his limits of restraint, hence, man goes on a murderous rampage" story. The plot revolves around a young boy named Billy who witnessed his family's roadside murder on Christmas at the hands of a maniac in a Santa suit. Billy is then sent to St. Mary's Orphanage. Throughout his adolescence and formative years, Billy, is subjected to a steady regimen of harsh "spare the rod..." corporal punishment at the hands of the school's Mother Superior, who makes Nurse Ratchet look like Florence Nightengale. Eventually Billy turns 18 and leaves the orphanage and gets a part-time job at local department store during the holidays. Under the duress of seasonal work, post traumatic stress disorder, and being forced by his employer to don a Santa Claus suit during an after hours office party, Billy snaps delivering his own brand of sadistic justice and yuletide terror to anyone that gets in his way, each time uttering the word "punish" before he kills.
Not the first killer Santa flick, but definitely the first to gain notorious notoriety. Panned and banned by moral majority watch groups in the US. and the U.K., the PTA, and mainstream critics like Leonard Maltin and Siskel & Ebert, Silent Night would not go away so silently. In fact, the negative publicity seemed to only heighten the public's awareness of the film, causing those with an already piqued interest to race out see if it was as bad as the critical witch-hunters had made it out to be. Silent Night... actually out-grossed Wes Craven's now horror classic A Nightmare On Elm Street druing it's opening weekend in United states and aside from being a top rental in the early 80's vhs boom, has gone out of print both times it was re-released on dvd. There are even talks of, and I shudder to say, a remake.
Keep in mind that this is not a Hitchcockian whodunit, or a spicy Italian giallo. This is hard-edged, demented, and at times sleazy American horror in the vein of Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer, but with a little more holiday flare. From the very beginning, the audience is made completely aware of who the killer is, and what his motives and methods are. Since the mystery is out on who the killer is, this puts the audience in a place of theoretical moral and/or ethical complicity, as accessories to the gruesome murders happening on screen by proxy. Which is probably why the critics railed against it upon it's initial release. At the time, few films outside of Bill Lustig's slasher classic Maniac, I Spit On Your Grave, and Last House On The Left, which were all demonized by the same critics mentioned above, have shown the audience what it was like to view the world through the eyes of depraved, deranged killers. The critics seemed to think that the world just wasn't ready for Jolly Old St. Nick and his murderous ways during the holiday hustle and bustle of 1984. Perhaps they were truly frightened and appalled by what they saw, which, I shouldn't have to point out, is the point of watching a horror movie. Or maybe they were just using their positions in the public eye to prop up a moral soapbox to foster higher ratings for their television shows and magazine and newspaper editorials? Either way the proof was in the pudding in that before Silent Night, Deadly Night was pulled from theaters by the angry moral majority, it actually out-grossed Wes Craven's modern horror classic A Nightmare On Elm Street opening weekend.
In the end, it's impossible to ignore that Silent Night, Deadly Night took cues from the then burgeoning concept of the holiday slasher flick and amped them up a few notches. Packing in more on-screen violence, insanity, and mayhem than all of the previous holiday themed horror flicks prior, Silent Night Deadly Night perfects the killer Santa formula ushered in by Tales From The Crypt: The Movie (1972) in a segment entitled, "...And All Through the House." Like so many gift boxes, bows, and wrapping paper the formula for the killer Santa movie was recycled in Silent Night Bloody Night (1974), Black Christmas (1974), Don't Open Until Christmas, To All A Goodnight (1980), and Christmas Evil (1980)
In the KVLT'S psychtronic eyes, Silent Night Deadly Night is a perennial favorite and has it's place amongst the offbeat celluloid holiday mantle pieces like Black Christmas (1974), Gremlins, Die Hard, and Lethal Weapon. The KVLT guarantee's that after viewing Silent Night, Deadly Night, that you'll be in the throes of the holiday spirit, the death throes that is. Just make sure that you say "punish" before you commit your holiday atrocities. Because you know that every time you say "punish" before you violently assault someone on Christmas, Billy, dons his bloodied Santa suit and tears off an angels wings.
Fun Facts about Silent Night, Deadly Night:
Look for scream queen Linnea Quigley in an early, and yes, topless, role.
Quentin Tarentino and Robert Rodriguez have both been quoted in saying that they realized that they had to work together after they found out that they both can quote Silent Night, Deadly Night from start to finish,
In the United Kingdom, it was never technically ruled as a Video Nasty, but it was nonetheless banned outright until 2009
In protest of the film, Siskel & Ebert read the credits aloud on their television show saying, "shame, shame, shame" after each name.
Angry parents actually succeeded in having Silent Night, Deadly Night withdrawn from theaters with constant picketing at each showing and a signed petition.