Silent Night, Deadly Night

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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
Dennis Whitehead
Screenplay by Michael Hickey
Story by Paul Caimi
Starring Robert Brian Wilson
Lilyan Chauvin
Gilmer McCormick
Toni Nero
Linnea Quigley
Music by Perry Botkin
Cinematography Henning Schellerup
Edited by Michael Spence
Distributed by TriStar Pictures
Release dates
  • November 9, 1984 (1984-11-09)
Running time
79 minutes
85 minutes (Unrated cut)
Country United States
Language English
Budget $750,000
Box office $2,491,460

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.


During Christmas Eve of 1971, 7-year old Billy Chapman, 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 the naughty ones.

Not far away, a man disguised as Santa Claus robs a liquor store and shoots the clerk after he reaches for his pistol. Heading home, Billy and his family 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 pistol and shoots Billy's father. Billy runs into a field, hides and watches as the criminal drags Billy's mother from the car. He rapes her and slits her throat with a switchblade, killing her.

Christmas Eve of 1974, Billy and Ricky live at St. Mary's Orphanage. Billy (now age 8) 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 reluctantly agrees, and gets 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 with a belt 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, which Billy insists that he didn't know, which Mother Superior responds "Good". She tells Billy that what the older kids were doing was something very, very naughty and they thought they could have sex without getting caught, but they were punished. She then says, "But when we do something naughty, we are always caught and then we are punished."

She also reminds Billy that "Punishment is absolute. Punishment is necessary. Punishment is good." Billy reluctantly agrees. Mother Superior tells Billy that he left his room, to which he reluctantly admits to having done, having Mother Superior responding "Very, very naughty" in a stern voice, while Sister Margaret looks on feeling sympathy for Billy. Mother Superior then takes Billy to his room, where she spanks him with a belt while laying on a chair, and then sending him to his room for him to sleep. 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 horror. 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.

The next morning, 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. 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." Then, Billy looks shocked and scared as Mother Superior comes in, and angrily cries, "William!"

Ten years later, 18-year old Billy is hired as a stockboy at Ira's Toy Store, thanks to Sister Margaret. Things go normally 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 disturbingly ends with Billy being punished by a switchblade. At the store, an increasingly shaky Billy is forced to play the store's Santa Claus; he tells misbehaved children 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 resolves to "punish" his co-worker by hanging him with Christmas lights. Pamela tries to fight Billy, but Billy grabs a utility knife and says "Punishment is necessary, Pamela. It is good!", as he cuts Pamela's stomach with the utility knife. Meanwhile, a drunk Mr. Sims goes to check on Andy and Pamela, when he gets a claw hammer slammed into his skull. Mrs. Randall then finds the bodies and attempts to flee the store, but is shot with an arrow through her heart. After Billy leaves, Sister Margaret goes inside and sees Mrs. Randall's body and runs out, screaming.

Meanwhile, two teenagers, Denise and Tommy are having sex on a pool table. Later, Billy breaks in and kills Denise 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 if she's been naughty or nice, in which she insists that she's been good. Billy pulls out the utility knife, and asks her, "Are you sure?", having the girl nod her head, Billy gives her his utility knife and warmly smiles as he leaves. At a nearby hill, he decapitates a teenage bully with a double-bit axe (Which he had from the store) who has stolen a sled from a younger 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 previous 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 to his orders to halt, Officer Barnes shoots him. When the fake beard is pulled away, Officer Barnes realizes it isn't Billy, but old and deaf 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, "There is no Santa Claus!" Billy becomes furious, raises his axe to kill Mother Superior, and shouts out "Naughty!", while Mother Superior closes her eyes awaiting her death. Before he can strike, Captain Richards comes in and shoots Billy twice in the back, making him collapse. Before he dies, he weakly turns his head to the horrified children and weakly says, "You're safe now. Santa Claus is gone." Billy dies while Sister Margaret looks at him sadly. Ricky (who still lives in the orphanage), looking at Billy's axe, then looks up at Mother Superior with a stare and says, "Naughty."



The film was released theatrically in the United States by TriStar Pictures on November 9, 1984.[1] 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.[2]

Home media[edit]

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.[3] The second release was in 2007.[4]

The first two region 1 releases are currently out of print.

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".[5]

The film was re-released on December 12, 2009 in the Brattle Theatre as a double feature with Black Christmas.[6]

On December 4, 2012, the film was again released alongside Part 2 as a two-disc "Christmas Survival Double Feature", containing the same archival bonus features as the 2003 release.[7]

On September 16, 2014, the film was released on Blu-ray by Anchor Bay/Starz Entertainment as a 30th Anniversary Edition. No new special features were included, with the exception of a few new commentaries, none of which any of the actors participated in. The Blu-ray contains exactly the same release as previous DVD editions with the extended scenes edited back into the film with noticeable picture quality changes. There has yet to be a release of the full, uncut print from a single source.

Controversy and reception[edit]

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.[8] 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.[citation needed] 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.[9]

The film was later re-released by an independent distributor,[citation needed] Aquarius Films, in May of 1985, 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 the United Kingdom, the movie was never submitted for certification to the BBFC, and its 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.[10] The UK DVD was released on November 23, 2009.


Silent Night, Deadly Night spawned four sequels.


A remake, under the name: Silent Night was released on December 4, 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.[11]


In November 2013, it was announced that Fangoria in association with Brainstorm Media and Screenvision would be re-releasing the film to theaters in the United States throughout December 2013.[12]


External links[edit]