Silent Night, Deadly Night
- Not to be confused with the 1974 horror film Silent Night, Bloody Night.
|Silent Night, Deadly Night|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Charles Sellier|
|Produced by||Ira Richard Barmak
Scott J. Schneid
|Screenplay by||Michael Hickey|
|Story by||Paul Caimi|
|Starring||Robert Brian Wilson
|Music by||Perry Botkin|
|Edited by||Michael Spence|
|Distributed by||TriStar Pictures|
|Running time||79 minutes
85 minutes (Unrated cut)
Silent Night, Deadly Night is a 1984 American slasher film produced by Ira R Barmak, written by Michael Hickey, directed by Charles E. Sellier, Jr. and starring Robert Brian Wilson, Lilyan Chauvin, Gilmer McCormick, Toni Nero, Linnea Quigley, Britt Leach, and Leo Geter.
The film focuses on a young boy who, after witnessing his parents' brutal murder at the hands of a man clad in a Santa suit on Christmas, grows up tumultuously in a Catholic orphanage and slowly emerges into a spree killer himself. The film caused an uproar when released in 1984 during the holiday season, and has developed a cult following.
Christmas Eve, 1971: Billy Chapman, who is 5 years old, his parents and his infant brother, Ricky, are on their way to visit Billy's institutionalized grandfather. At the institution, Billy's parents review the catatonic grandfather's records with the doctor, leaving Billy and the old man alone. With the adults gone, Grandpa suddenly becomes lucid and giddily tells Billy the terrible, secret truth about Santa Claus: he not only gives presents to good boys and girls, he punishes naughty ones.
Not far away, a man disguised as Santa Claus robs a liquor store and shoots the clerk after he reaches for his gun. Billy and his family, heading home, come upon the man, his car apparently broken down on the dark, deserted road. Against Billy's terrified objections, his father pulls up beside the stranded man, who pulls out his gun and shoots Billy's father. Billy runs into a field, hides and watches as the criminal drags Billy's mother from the car and slits her throat, killing her.
Christmas Eve, 1974: Billy and Ricky live at St. Mary's Orphanage. Billy, who is 8 years old, is sent to his room for drawing a picture of a bloody Santa Claus and a decapitated reindeer. Later, Sister Margaret tells Billy to come outside and help build a snowman the children are making. Billy get ready to go outside, but before he goes outside, he sees an older boy and girl starting to have sex. Mother Superior thrashes the older children and she gets mad at Billy for leaving his room. She asks what he saw upstairs, to which Billy responds, "Nothing, Mother Superior." Mother Superior then asks Billy if he knew what they were doing, then Billy says, "No, Mother Superior," to which Mother Superior responds with a simple "Good." Mother Superior then explains to Billy, "What they were doing was something very, very naughty. They thought they could do it without being caught. But when we do something naughty, we are always caught, and then we are punished."
She also reminded Billy, "Punishment is absolute. Punishment is necessary. Punishment is good." Billy reluctantly agrees. Mother Superior then told Billy that he left his room, to which he reluctantly admits to having done, then Mother Superior replies in a very stern voice, "Very, very naughty," while Sister Margaret looks on with sympathy for Billy. Mother Superior then takes Billy to his room, where she spanks him with a belt while laying on a chair. Then she tells Billy, "Now go to bed. And stay there." That night, traumatized by the day's events, Billy has nightmares about the murderer dressed as Santa Claus and the murder of his parents, so he wakes up screaming in terror and horror. Then, Billy runs out of his room only to be caught by Mother Superior, who ties his arms to his bed while he struggles to get free to no avail.
Christmas morning, 1974: The orphanage kids line up to sit on Santa's lap. Billy, terrified by the sight of him, is forced to join in or face his punishment. Finding himself face-to-face with his worst nightmare, Billy wiggles free and punches Santa in the face, giving him a bloody nose, to which Santa says, "What the Hell's wrong with that kid?". Billy flees to his room and starts having a panic attack, as he mumbles: "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be naughty. Don't punish me. Please." The bedroom door opens and Billy is shocked and scared as Mother Superior comes in, and says in an angry voice, "William!"
Ten years later, Spring, 1984: Billy, who is now 18 years old, is hired as a stockboy at Ira's Toy Store, thanks to Sister Margaret. Things go well until the Christmas decorations begin to appear, including images of Santa Claus. Billy has a crush on co-worker Pamela, and dreams of making love to her. But these dreams were always ended up with his own violent punishment by Santa. At the store, an increasingly shaky Billy is forced to play the store's Santa Claus. He tells children who are misbehaving that he will punish them, terrifying them into submission.
After the staff's Christmas Eve party, Billy finds Pamela being raped by his fellow co-worker, Andy, while she refuses. Drunk and upset while angrily losing his temper, Billy has flashbacks to the night his parents were killed. Soon, he becomes psychopathic, thinking that he can Punish the Naughty and he resolves to punish his co-worker, killing Andy by hanging him with Christmas lights while a terrified Pamela watches on. Pamela tries to fight Billy, but Billy grabs a box cutter, and says to her, "Punishment is necessary, Pamela. It...is...good!", and cuts Pamela's stomach open with the box cutter, killing her. Meanwhile, Mr. Sims, drunk, goes to check on Andy and Pamela, when he gets a hammer slammed into his skull, killing him. Mrs. Randall then finds the dead bodies and tries to flee from the store, but gets impaled with an arrow through her heart, killing her instantly. After Billy leaves, Sister Margaret goes inside and sees Mrs. Randall's body and runs out, screaming.
Billy then breaks into a nearby house and kills a teenager named Denise who is having sex with her boyfriend, Tommy on a pool table by impaling her on the antlers of a trophy deer and kills Tommy by throwing him through a window. Interrupted by a little girl, Billy asks her, "Have you been good or have you been naughty?" Then she says, "Good." Billy asks her, "You haven't done anything naughty?" The girl then says, "No, Santa Claus." Billy then pulls out the box cutter he killed Pamela with, and asks her, "Are you sure?" The girl nods her head, Billy gives her his utility knife and smiles. At a nearby hill, he decapitates a teenage bully with an axe who has stolen a sled from a young teenage boy. While the other teenage bully sees this, he screams in terror and runs off.
The next day on Christmas morning, Police Captain Richards tallies the night's murders, attributed by witnesses to Santa Claus. Sister Margaret tells the Captain she suspects Billy is the culprit because of his history. She deduces that his next attack will likely be at the orphanage. A police car is dispatched to the orphanage, where the officer named Officer Barnes sees Santa trudging towards the building. When Santa does not respond so his orders to halt, Officer Barnes shoots him. When the fake beard is pulled away, Officer Barnes realizes it isn't Billy but old hard-of-hearing Father O'Brien.
Billy then appears, says "Punish!", and kills Officer Barnes by striking his axe in Officer Barnes' chest. A child named Andrew then lets Billy into the orphanage, while believing him to be Santa. Billy approaches the now-wheelchair bound Mother Superior, and she tells Billy in a stern voice, "THERE IS NO SANTA CLAUS!" Billy then becomes furious, raises his axe to kill Mother Superior, and shouts out "NAUGHTY!" in an angry voice, while Mother Superior closes her eyes awaiting her death. But before he can strike, Captain Richards shoots Billy in the back twice, making him collapse to the ground. Before he dies, he weakly turns his head to the horrified children, and says in a weak and dying voice, "You're safe...now. Santa Claus...is gone." Then Billy dies, while Sister Margaret looks at the dead Billy very sadly. Ricky, who still lives in the orphanage, looks at the axe near his dead brother's body, then stares sulkishly upset at Mother Superior while she curiously looks at Ricky with a confusing, rude, and sulky look upon his face, and Ricky quietly snarls, "Naughty..." in a very threatening voice, indicating that he will kill Mother Superior.
- Robert Brian Wilson as Billy Chapman (age 18), the main character and antagonistic protagonist. As a young boy, he was scarred for life when a criminal disguised as Santa Claus killed his parents, which is why Billy never liked Santa.
- Danny Wagner as 8-year-old Billy
- Jonathan Best as 5-year-old Billy
- Lilyan Chauvin as Mother Superior, an old Catholic sister who abused Billy at the orphanage when he was young.
- Gilmer McCormick as Sister Margaret, a nice Catholic sister who is Mother Superior's assistant and unlike Mother Superior, she was nice to Billy.
- Toni Nero as Pamela, Billy's love interest.
- Britt Leach as Mr. Sims
- Nancy Borgenicht as Mrs. Randall
- H.E.D. Redford as Captain Richards
- Linnea Quigley as Denise
- Leo Geter as Tommy
- Randy Stumpf as Andy, Billy's co-worker.
- Will Hare as Grandpa Chapman, Billy's paternal grandfather.
- Tara Buckman as Ellie Chapman, Billy's mother who is later killed by the killer Santa by having her throat slit after he tried to rape her.
- Jeff Hansen as Jim Chapman, Billy's father who is shot by the killer Santa.
- Charles Dierkop as Killer Santa, a drunk criminal dressed as Santa Claus.
- Eric Hart as Mr. Levitt
- A. Madeline Smith as Sister Ellen
- Amy Stuyvesant as Cindy
- Max Robinson as Officer Barnes
The film was released theatrically in the United States by TriStar Pictures on November 9, 1984. On its opening weekend, the film outgrossed Wes Craven's landmark slasher A Nightmare on Elm Street, which also opened the same day. Before being pulled from theaters, it grossed $2,491,460 at the box office, still making the film a success against its $750,000 budget.
The film was released three times on DVD in the United States by Anchor Bay Entertainment. The first release was a double feature disc alongside sequel Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 in 2003. The second release was in 2007.
The film was released on DVD in the United Kingdom in 2009 by Arrow Video; this set includes an audio interview with director Charles E. Sellier Jr., poster, booklet including "Deadly Director: Charles Sellier Interviewed by Calum Waddell" and "Silent Night, Sex Night: The Slice and Times of Linnea Quigley".
Controversy and reception
Silent Night, Deadly Night was one of the most controversial films of the 1980s because the ad campaign, particularly posters and TV spots, made significant emphasis on the killer being dressed as Santa Claus. The PTA fought to have this film removed from theaters due to its subject matter and the fact that it was shown around Christmas, although an earlier film with a similar premise had gone unnoticed.
Upon its original release in 1984, the film received a negative reception. Siskel and Ebert condemned the film and went so far as to read the film's production credits on air, saying "shame, shame" after each one. Siskel also said that all the money the filmmakers were making off of this film was blood money. Leonard Maltin also denounced the film, calling it a "...worthless splatter film", giving it zero stars and asking: "What's next, the Easter Bunny as a child molester?" Large crowds (mostly angry families) formed at theaters and malls around the nation to protest the film. TriStar Pictures, its original distributor, pulled all ads for the film six days after its release (November 15). The film itself was also withdrawn shortly thereafter, due to the controversy.
The film was later re-released by an independent distributor, Aquarius Films, beginning in spring 1986, with an ad campaign replacing the original "Twas the night before Christmas"-theme with a new one that centered on the controversy surrounding the film and edited out all close-up shots of Billy, in the Santa suit, with weapons. The print ad material also replaced the original 'Chimney' picture with one that talked about the controversy.
In United Kingdom, the movie was never submitted for certification to the BBFC, although the sequel was denied a video certificate in 1987 after the distributors refused to make the cuts required for an '18' certificate. However, in 2009, Arrow Films submitted the film to the BBFC for classification, who passed the film uncut with an 18 certificate. The UK DVD was released on November 23, 2009.
Silent Night, Deadly Night spawned four sequels.
- Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (1987)
- Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out! (1989)
- Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation (1990)
- Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker (1991)
A remake, under the name: Silent Night was released on Dec. 4th, 2012. The film was directed by Steven C. Miller and stars Malcolm McDowell, Jaime King, Donal Logue, Lisa Marie, Ellen Wong, Brendan Fehr, Courtney-Jane White, Mike O'Brien, Cortney Palm, John B. Lowe, Curtis Moore and stuntman Rick Skene as Ronald Jones Jr., The Killer Santa.
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- "Silent Night, Deadly Night / Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (DVD)". dvdempire.com. Retrieved 2011-04-13.
- "Silent Night, Deadly Night (DVD)". dvdempire.com. Retrieved 2011-04-13.
- In the UK? Win a Copy of Silent Night, Deadly Night on DVD!
- Boston Residents: Catch a Double Feature of Silent Night, Deadly Night and Black Christmas This Friday!
- YouTube - Siskel & Ebert At the Movies 1984 Silent Night, Deadly Night
- Unknown (2006). Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film (DVD (Region 1)). United States: THINKfilm.
- BBFC Website - Silent Night, Deadly Night Classification
- "Malcolm McDowell Talks Silent Night, Deadly Night Remake". dreadcentral.com. Retrieved 2012-04-18.
- "Special Announcement: FANGORIA Brings Holiday Horror Classic “SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT” Back to the Big Screen this December!". fangoria.com. Retrieved 2013-12-09.
- Psychotronic Video Guide (1996) - Michael J. Weldon