Christmas, for many, is a time of traditions – decorations, presents, food, family, and the copious amounts of alcohol that makes dealing with the rest of it possible. Another of those traditions is that of the Christmas movie. Scrooge, The Grinch, George Bailey, and a host of other well-known characters grace our living rooms each year because familiarity brings comfort. But these long-held traditions began with someone trying something new, so I say this year it’s time to shake things up a little and consider starting a new Christmas-movie tradition of your own. Silent Night, Deadly Night is just the Christmas miracle your family needs.
Four-year-old Billy, his little brother, and their parents travel to the vaguely-named Utah Mental Facility on Christmas Eve to visit Billy’s grandpa (Will Hare), who spends his days locked in a comatose stare, apparently oblivious to everyone around him. That is, anyway, until Billy’s parents leave Billy alone for a few minutes with Old Man Creepy who suddenly perks up and terrorizes his grandson with a tirade about Santa punishing naughty children. As Billy and his family are driving home that night, a man in (surprise) a Santa suit (Charles Dierkop, Grotesque,) botches an attempt to rob them and ends up murdering Billy’s parents while he watches from the bushes at the side of the road. Flash forward four years where Billy and his brother are living in an orphanage run by an abusive nun who beats him with a belt, ties him to a bed, and forces him to wear a mullet. Flash forward another ten years and a grown-up Billy (Robert Brian Wilson) lands a job working in a toy store and boy is he doing great! So great, in fact, it can only be properly expressed with a montage that looks like the intro to a bad 80’s sitcom – he’s helping small children, he’s drinking his milk, he’s flirting innocently with his cute coworker Pamela (Toni Nero), and he’s displaying an above-and-beyond attitude that earns him a satisfied, this-kid-has-that-special-something nod of approval from his boss (played by Britt Leach (Night Warning) who, appropriately, made an appearance in every 80’s television show ever made). Yes, Billy is doing swell until, you guessed it, he’s asked to fill in as the store Santa on Christmas Eve. Considering his past, he actually makes it to closing time in pretty good shape, if not a little frazzled, but it’s at the after-hours store Christmas party that things go south. Billy’s jerk coworker Andy (Randy Stumpf) lures Pamela to the stockroom by telling her he has a “present” for her and that “this particular present isn’t for everybody to see” (Spoiler Alert: the “present” is actually his penis). Billy walks into the stockroom just in time to see Andy assault Pamela, thereby triggering memories of all the bad mojo from his past and the murderin’ commences.
When this movie opened in November of 1984 a bunch of uptight parents lost their shit because they claimed the trailer and movie posters depicting a killer Santa was giving their kids nightmares. Probably, they were just cranky from getting in fistfights over Cabbage Patch Kids in Walmarts, but dammit, those movie posters had to go! TriStar Pictures quickly pulled all the ads but the PTA was out for blood and so picketed to shut down the R-rated movie that none of their children could get into anyway until it was removed from theaters two weeks after it opened. Thankfully, it was re-released a few months later with new posters that didn’t show Santa with an ax and eventually went on to great success as a video rental. The world would not again witness a movie ruin Christmas for so many people until the release of Love Actually nineteen years later.
There’s a lot to like about this movie. For one thing, it was released in 1984 when the 80’s slasher craze was in full swing and there was a sort of kill-scene arms race to come up with the coolest ways to murder people. Silent Night, Deadly Night has quite a few good ones, including the iconic sled decapitation scene, but for creative ways to kill someone it’s tough to beat Santa impaling topless babysitter Denise (Linnea Quigley *See Below) on the antlers of a mounted deer head (a rack on a rack, if you will). There was some funny dialog, cheesy moments, lots of topless people, (I think everyone was wearing a tearaway shirt) and there was Grandpa who gave one of the most awesomely ridiculous, out-of-nowhere performances you’re likely to witness and every moment of his scene is to be savored – in other words, Silent Night, Deadly Night has everything you want and expect out of a classic 80’s slasher movie.
So this holiday season when A Christmas Story is getting ready to come on for the seventh time that day, take it upon yourself to save Christmas and turn on Silent Night, Deadly Night. Either, everyone will love it and have a great time, or they’ll make their way out of the room giving you some much-needed peace and losing track of how many eggnogs you’ve had. Either way, you win!
*Known as America’s Scream Queen, Linnea Quigley was in so many 80’s horror movies, I decided to list them here instead of cramming them all into the body of the review (Graduation Day, The Black Room, Fatal Games, The Return of the Living Dead, Creepozoids, Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Night of the Demons, Dead Heat, Nightmare Sisters, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, Witchtrap, Murder Weapon, Sexbomb, Blood Nasty, Robot Ninja).
“Seven o’clock…it’s over…time to get shitfaced!!!”