Feature Presentation: Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

Well December is here and the time for all good little boys and girls to get presents is almost upon us. I know that good boys and girls don't read The Lair so with Christmas just 20 Days away, The Bug has plenty in store for the Naughty ones out there. Each Friday you can check out our Feature Presentation for this month for a celebration of killer Clauses, and on the week of Christmas look forward to an entire week of cult goodies that I'll be wrapping up for you Moonies. Now without further ado, I think it's time I introduce tonight's flick.

When it comes to sadistic Santa's, there have been quite a few over the years. I thought we'd start with one that was not the first (we'll see that one later on) this was perhaps the most hyped. The uproar it caused got it banned in several locales, and it raised the ire of those very important taste makers Siskel and Ebert as well as Leonard Maltin. Personally those guys are not the barometer of what I like. Now when Joe Bob says of this film,  "One of the scariest body- hackers ever made." that's more like it. I just wish I could agree, but more on that later. Right now get out your chocolate covered cherries, fire up the tree, egg some nog, and enjoy...

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) starring Robert Brian Wilson, Lilyan Chauvin. Gilmer McCormick, and Linnea Quigley. Directed by Charles E. Sellier Jr.

On Christmas Eve, young Billy and his parents travel to see his catatonic grandpa in the nursing home. While his folks go off to consult with the doctor, young Billy sees a different side to the old man. He begins to talk and warn Billy that Santa punishes the naughty boys and girls and if "You see Santa Claus tonight you better run boy, you better run for ya life!" Sufficiently freaked out, Billy no longer wants to stay up at night to see Santa. In fact he wants nothing to do with the jolly old elf period. Unfortunately for his family, they get flagged down by a man in a Santa suit that seems to be having car trouble. The real problem seems to be more in the cash flow department as he shoots Billy's father to death and attempts to rape his mother before deciding to just slit her throat. 

Billy is naturally is one messed up kid. He and his brother are sent to live at an orphanage run by a very strict Mother Superior (Chauvin). She seems to have little pity for Billy's problems even though Christmas is approaching. Sister Margaret (McCormick) tries to appeal to the head nun for the boy but to no avail. The Mother Superior is intent on making Billy a normal boy and uses all kinds of punishments to accomplish it. When she forces Billy to sit on the lap of a Santa on Christmas, Billy slugs the man and runs off. His tortured psyche now even more bent than before.

Ten years later Billy (Wilson) has grown into a larger, but perhaps no more well adjusted man. Sister Margaret gets Billy a job at Ira's Toys as a stock boy. All goes well for him, but as the holiday season comes on the old wounds begin to reopen. When he is coerced into playing Santa when the regular Santa calls out, it's only a matter of time before Billy goes off the deep end and begins to look for all the naughty children that deserve to be punished. 

Film Facts

--The original title to the film was Slayride. This is referenced in another holiday classic Earnest Saves Christmas where the Santa that Earnest is looking for is starring in a film by that title.

--Ira's Toy Shop was named after the film's producer Ira Richard Barmak.

--To protest the film Siskel and Ebert read the credits out and intoned "Shame, shame." After each one.

The Bugg Speaks
So is it one of the "scariest body-hackers ever made" as Joe Bob said. Well, no, but it's a pretty fun film. It's full of plot holes, bad ideas, and shoddy production, but in the scare department it's pretty lacking. That's not to say that there aren't a good many killings in the film. In fact there's about 10 of them, and some are quite creative. I especially enjoyed seeing Linnea Quigly (who was also in yesterday's Savage Streets which was made the same year) getting impaled on a wall mounted deer head. In other places people get beheaded, strangled by Christmas lights, gutted, and hammered in their cranium. Yet while there is no shortage of bodies being strewn about, except for the impalement the killing either happen in a more implied fashion or are essentially bloodless. 

The acting also left a lot to be desired. Robert Brian Wilson seemed affable enough as the 18 year old Billy, but once he went Koo Koo for CoCo Puffs, his maniacal Santa just wasn't that maniacal. Even while he was killing people he seemed more confused than psychotic. There were also a couple of troubling aspects to the character. While it seems that he is out to punish the naughty and feels justified doing it, he avoids the police when he sees a car coming his way. It may just be me, but if he was truly as off his gourd as we are meant to believe, he would have just continued down the road, axe in hand, and kill those naughty cops when they tried to stop him. However there were certain nuances that I liked about Billy. When he's in full murdering rampage mode, he meets a child who tells "Santa" that she's been good all year. He takes out a bloody box cutter and gives it to the confused tyke for a present. This scene was worth the price of admission. 

The other actors were fairly good. Lilyan Chauvin is completely hate-able as Mother Superior, but while she manages to mess Billy's mind up real good, it's the sympathetic Sister Margaret that really does Billy a disservice. I'm not sure where she came up with the thought that it would be a good idea to get a guy who goes nuts around Christmas a job in a Toy Store at the holidays. Worse yet when she calls to check on him and finds out they have him playing Santa, she doesn't warn them. Instead she takes her sweet time getting there and allows four people to get slain in the process. All I'm saying is Sister Margaret you got some serious confessin' to do.

The direction of the film is workmanlike at best, but what I'd really like to talk about here is director Charles E. Sellier Jr. himself. After directing one more genre picture, 1985's The Annihilators a.k.a Action Force, he's gone into producing mostly documentary films such as George W. Bush:Faith in the White House, Ancient Secrets of the Bible, and Breaking the Da Vinci Code. It's almost needless to say that Sellier has refuted his earlier film. He has been quoted as saying he regretted making it, and that it was not an anti-religious film. Yeah, right. Cause the portrayal of Catholicism made it look so awesome. That orphanage made the one Annie got stuck in look like the Ritz by comparison. I could go on a rant here(and I'd love to) about religion and the politics of making money and being a douchebag, but I won't, after all it's Christmas. 

In the end this is a fairly average film with a few laughs and a few cheap thrills in it to make it worth your watch. I wouldn't be giving it a lump of coal, but it wouldn't get everything on it's wish list either. For the genre fan around the holidays, it's not a bad choice, but it isn't good for goodness sake. 
Bugg Rating


  1. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  2. Thanks Susan feel free to come back and leave a comment any time.

  3. i just did a second review of this film, it's one of my favorites.

  4. I believe we are in agreement about this one. Nothing as special as some make it out to be, but it's a good time.

  5. You hit the nail on the head with this one. I can't understand why the bored soccer moms of America got up in arms when this came out. They gave this movie a rep it didn't deserve. You were kinder to it than I was.

  6. mr. lightning bug, two names for you to conjure with, "MICHELLE TRACHTENBERG" and "OLIVIA HUSSEY", a couple of incredible gorgeous sexy little darlin`s that hopefully you will be encountering, (and lusting after), in the next couple of weeks as you do your comparison reveiw of the two versions of "BLACK CHRISTMAS", (i personally would give the edge to the 2006 version, but they are both superb films and i`m looking forward to hearing you opinion on them), michelle is my favorite of the 2 birds although olivia used to drive me wild as well, she was breathtaking back in the 70`s, and i just wondered which one of those 2 little sexpots you fancied most?. Now with regards to "silent night, deadly night", well i thought it was o.k., (top-notch reveiw, by the way), but not anywhere near as good as either of the 2 aforementioned "black christmas" movies. Now if you`ll excuse me i`ve got to get back to the 1973 musical remake of "LOST HORIZON" with olivia, and every episode of buffy that michelle was ever in!!.

  7. Probably my favorite Christmas horror movie. Sorry, Black Christmas! This ones just so much fun and any movie with Linnea Quigley's bare chest in it (which is any movie Ms. Quigley stars in) is alright in my book.

  8. Sister Margaret was hot business.


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