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SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT

1984, Dir. Charles E. Sellier, Jr.
79 min. Rated R.
Starring: Linnea Quigley, Robert Brian Wilson.

Review by Noel Wood

#5 on our list of the Best Christmas Movies Ever!

Suprise! Bet you didn't think you'd be seeing this fine piece of cinematic goodness on this list, and quite so high either. But yes, the subgenre of yuletide slasher flicks has contributed one such film to our Retarded Christmas Top Ten, this one being one of the first to come down to the pike. And it's definitely the best of the bunch.

In case you're scratching your head at the idea of Christmas slasher flicks, then you obviously have missed some good camp. There's of course the one credited as the innovator, 1980's YOU BETTER WATCH OUT (better known as CHRISTMAS EVIL.) THere's also some '90s entries into the game, most notably JACK FROST (no, not the one with Michael Keaton, but the 1997 snowman slasher) and 1996's SANTA CLAWS, with the brilliant tag line "His Slay Bells are Ringing!". But my favorite, ever since I saw it way back in my childhood, has always been SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT

This film is notable for a few reasons, the biggest of which is the huge controversy that it stirred up upon its initial release. Apparently the outcry that resulted from the television ads caused many theaters to pull it, resulting in the movie barely being shown on the big screen before gaining a huge cult status as soon as it hit video. As a longterm result, this movie is still out of print, and the demand for it is still very high. In fact, I was looking for a copy of this movie recently to refresh my memory a bit on it, but came up short in my efforts. Actually, I was unable to search as much as I wanted to due to transportation woes, so I'm stuck reviewing this from distant memory. So bear with me.

If you haven't guessed, this movie basically features a psychopathic killer who runs around in a Santa Claus suit. The killer in question starts off as an innocent kid named Billy. Billy's life seems normal enough until he takes a vacation with his family and on the way stops in to visit his strange grandfather that hasn't spoken in years. When they leave Billy alone with him, Gramps snaps and warns Billy that Christmas is not the time of peace on Earth and goodwill to men, as we've all come to believe. Oh hell no. Christmas is a time of evil, and good ol' Saint Nick might as well just be the living embodiment of the Devil himself.

This film relies on foreshadowing a whole lot, because next thing you know, Billy's folks stop to help a stranded motorist who just happens to be dressed as Santa, despite Billy's warnings (I mean, he's just had his shit freaked by his loony old grandpa.) And wouldn't you know it? The motorist shoots Billy's dad in the face and then rapes and kills Billy's mom, all while he looks on in horror. Billy eventually winds up in an orphanage. Billy sees all kinds of things happen that contribute to his dementia, while Mother Superior tries to keep him sane by offering prompt punishment whenever he misbehaves. Every Christmas he builds up more and more rage, until one year when he's working in a toy store, and the boss makes him don a Santa suit. Then, ladies and gents, all hell breaks loose.

This evil killer Santa isn't that far off from the real thing. He's finding out who's naughty or nice -- and killing the ones who he thinks are naughty. He takes it out on all comers, decapitating folks with his axe, strangling them with Christmas lights...he even manages to impale a bare-breasted babe with a set of reindeer antlers. Eventually he makes his way back to the orphanage that raised him, where the film reaches its climax.

Yes, this movie is bad. In the typical 80's slasher flick fashion, it features the quota of blood, gore, gratuitious nudity, and stereotyped characters all across the board. Oh, and of course, the queen of bad horror movies herself, the immortal Linnea Quigley, who gets the best death scene in the film. But it's still a friggin' classic. So-bad-it's-good drive-in fare, SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT is one that is sure to be enjoyed by future generations as well as those of us who saw it late at night on Cinemax or some other cable outlet at 2 AM when we were way too young to be up that late.

Oh, and this movie, in traditional horror fashion, spawned a bunch of sequels. Seriously, skip them. They might be a little easier to find in your local video store, but they can never match up to the original. If you can find this movie, rent it. Make it a family Christmas tradition!

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All Material Copyright 1998-2006 Movie Criticism for the Retarded.

For questions, comments, or the occasional stalking letter, send mail to Noel Wood. Please give proper credit when using any materials found within this site.


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