“PUNISH!”: ‘Silent Night, Deadly Night’ Review

Posted in Screening Room by - December 15, 2017
“PUNISH!”: ‘Silent Night, Deadly Night’ Review

Every holiday needs a good slasher, and that’s what Charles E Sellier Jr.’s Silent Night, Deadly Night offers in the form of Billy, a psychopath dressed up as Santa with an ax for a weapon. Christmas horror is hard to achieve, Gremlins and Black Christmas are particular standouts, but Silent Night, Deadly Night is intent on terrifying the hell out of you with its grisly murders and the actual character of Billy along with a few decent creepy visuals that are particularly nightmarish and scary.

The plot is a signature slasher, and that’s the brilliance of it. As a kid, Billy (Robert Brian Wilson) witnesses the murder of his parents on Christmas and after years of a near torturous upbringing on an orphanage tries to accommodate to society by finding a normal job. After developing a crush on one of his co-workers and witnessing a horrific thing done to her, Billy loses his grip on reality and unleashes his psychopathic tendencies as a terrifying Santa Claus killer.

A lot of what makes Silent Night, Deadly Night work is how much it emphasizes itself as a legitimate Christmas horror entry; the fact that Billy uses a Santa Claus outfit to go on a killing spree is a bold move by the filmmakers. What the idea of a killer Santa loose around Christmas time is terrifying to children, and if I had seen this as a kid, it definitely would’ve had a huge impact on me. Silent Night, Deadly Night also benefits from a commitment to tone and to establish a believable horror scenario that doesn’t feel like a joke. The film takes its material seriously but the filmmakers have a perverted sense of fun with it and that’s part of what makes it a beloved cult classic. Unlike a film like Jack Frost (not the Michael Keaton film) that attempts to be a legit horror film and ends up being not scary and unfunny precisely because they take everything as a joke. Silent Night, Deadly Night is first and foremost a horror film and a remarkably decent entry into the slasher canon that takes all the tropes from the subgenre and centers them on Christmas – all to great effect.

Some of the Silent Night, Deadly Night’s killings are also particularly inventive and gruesome the filmmakers do a great job of actually incorporating Christmas elements into them; even though Billy uses an ax, the film still finds time to have a death by Christmas lights, for example. The film also does a great job of giving Billy a decent reason of why he would snap; it’s not as terrifying as Michael Myers just “snapping” at the beginning of John Carpenter’s Halloween. At least it’s a legitimate reason for why he would hate Christmas, not to mention having all those years of an abusive upbringing just boil up inside him until they reach a turning point.

Silent Night, Deadly Night also includes a lot of great creepy visuals, courtesy of Henning Schellerup, that is pretty memorable and terrifying. With its great central slasher and a remarkably dark and somber tone to go with it, Silent Night, Deadly Night is a standout Christmas slasher film that watching. It has a decidedly meaner tone than some other Christmas horror films, but its commitment to its horror roots is one of the reasons of why it’s worth watching.

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