I am very seasonal with my movie choices. For instance, I refuse to watch movies with snow in the summer. So Horror-Christmas movies really mess me up. I still don’t know the appropriate time to watch The Nightmare Before Christmas. Thus I’ve never had much interest in this bizarre sub-genre, that was until I saw Black Christmas. That film was a 1974 holiday slasher from director Bob Clark (A Christmas Story) that actually beat Halloween to the punch conceptually. Black Christmas was a film that gave me hope for Christmas-Horror movies. So did Silent Night, Deadly Night live up to that hope? No, it was not good. Rather, it was quite naughty.
SNDN begins on Christmas Eve 1971. A young boy named Billy and his family are driving to visit his grandfather in a mental hospital. When they arrive, Billy is shocked to see his grandfather in a zombie-like state. Once Billy’s parents step out of the room, Gramps comes out of his cationic trance to warn Billy about Santa Claus. “You see Santa Claus tonight you better run boy, you better run for ya life!” He says. Later that night we see a man dressed as Santa robbing a convenient store and murdering the cashier. The robber’s path crosses with Billy and his family driving home and Billy then must watch as his mother is raped and killed and his father is shot in the head. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s presented in an effective way. The story picks up with Billy a few years later living at a strict Catholic Orphanage. Still traumatized by Christmastime, Billy acts out in violent ways and is disciplined several times with a belt by the Mother Superior.
I liked all the characterization in the early setup scenes, but once the film reached modern day it became a heaping hunk of coal. Eventually, we are introduced to Billy as a strapping 18 year old working in a toy store. This is followed by the lamest montage ever. The new squeaky clean Billy is a little corny but still likable, especially when you consider his harsh upbringing. Still, Billy can’t quite handle himself around the holidays and that’s when he decides who is naughty and who is nice. It’s pretty hilarious to see a guy thrown into a fit of rage anytime he sees a man dressed like Santa. That would have worked great for a comedy. Sadly this film addresses the matter of Santa psychosis seriously. Billy is also brought to the edge anytime he sees a man and a woman having sex, which happens more than you would expect. So Billy goes on a bizarre killing spree dressed as Santa Claus.
Everything up to the point of Billy becoming a slasher Santa is entertaining enough. It’s interesting to delve into the mind of a guy who has a phobia of Jolly Saint Nick. I just don’t understand why it would lead him to murder. It’s like one day it sets him off just cuz… Or should I say “just claus”? The last fortysomething minutes are basically just Billy going around killing people and then heading back to his orphanage for a ‘lil bit of slaying. The cops come after Billy, which leads to a hilarious scene where they shoot a completely innocent man also in a Santa suit.