Silent Night, Deadly Night
- Not to be confused with the 1972 horror film Silent Night, Bloody Night.
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|Silent Night, Deadly Night|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Charles E. Sellier Jr.|
|Produced by||Ira Richard Barmak
Scott J. Schneid
|Screenplay by||Michael Hickey|
|Story by||Paul Caimi|
|Music by||Perry Botkin|
|Edited by||Michael Spence|
|Distributed by||TriStar Pictures|
85 minutes (Unrated cut)
Silent Night, Deadly Night is a 1984 American slasher horror film directed by Charles E. Sellier, Jr., produced by Ira R Barmak, written by Michael Hickey, and starring Robert Brian Wilson, Lilyan Chauvin, Gilmer McCormick, Toni Nero, Linnea Quigley, Britt Leach and Leo Geter. Set during Christmas, the story concerns a young man, who after witnessing his parents murdered and raised tumultuously in an abusive Catholic orphanage as a young boy begins to suffer traumatic experiences years later and emerges into a spree killer (donning a Santa suit) himself.
Released by TriStar Pictures on November 9, 1984, the film gained controversy upon release towards the advertising's deception. In response, the film received negative reviews and was pulled out of theatres a week after its release. While successful during its opening week, the film was a moderate success with $2.5 million made overall. Since its release, the film has developed a cult following and was followed by four sequels (with the fourth and fifth installment having no connection to the film) and a loose remake released about 28 years later. This was the only film in the series to be distributed by Tristar Pictures
In 1971, 5-year-old Billy Chapman and his family went to a nursing home to visit his catatonic grandfather. When the family steps out of the room and leaves Billy alone with his grandfather, the old man suddenly springs to life and warns him that Santa Claus punishes the naughty. That night Billy's family happens to come across a man dressed in a Santa Claus outfit seemingly having car trouble. The man is actually a criminal who just used the disguise to commit a robbery in a liquor store, in which he killed the clerk.
He then kills Billy's father with a handgun and slits his mother's throat with a switchblade in front of him and his crying infant brother Ricky. Billy then runs off to hide, leaving his baby brother in the car. However, the murderous Santa leaves the children out there to die. Three years later, it is 1974, Billy and Ricky are celebrating Christmas in an orphanage run by Mother Superior, a strict disciplinarian who persistently strikes children who misbehave and considers punishment for their wicked actions a good thing. Sister Margaret seems to be the only one who sympathizes with the children. She tries to help Billy open up and play with the other children, but Billy is constantly subject to Mother Superior's scrutinizing eyes and regularly punished. On Christmas morning, the orphanage has a man in a Santa Claus suit who visits the children. Because of Billy's childhood experience, he's terrified. Mother Superior drags Billy kicking and screaming to Santa, where he punches him in the face, causing his nose to bleed and flees to his room amid looks of horror. Ricky does whatever he can to protect Billy from getting punished.
Ten years later, 18-year-old Billy leaves the orphanage in hopes of finding a normal life. He obtains a job as a stock boy at a local toy store and develops a crush on his coworker Pamela. Billy's sexual thoughts regarding Pamela are often interrupted by morbid visions of his parents' murder. However, he steadily grows unstable.
On Christmas Eve, despite his protestations, Billy is coerced by his jeering coworkers into dressing up as Santa Claus for the store. Shortly after the store closes and the store staff party begins, Billy happens upon Pamela almost being raped by another coworker, Andy. Billy snaps, finally insane, and he hangs Andy with a string of Christmas lights and kills Pamela with a utility knife, uttering darkly that punishment is good. Billy's boss, Mr. Sims happens upon the scene where Billy kills him with a hammer. Mrs. Randall discovers Billy's grisly work and attempts to flee, but is attacked with an axe then killed with an arrow in her torso.
As his rampage continues, Sister Margaret comes in only to discover the carnage and returns to the orphanage to seek help via telephone. Billy breaks into a nearby house to attack the young couple inside: Denise and Tommy, who were seemingly having sex. After he hacks the door down with a double-bit axe, he impales Denise on a set of deer antlers before he throws Tommy through a window to his death. Denise's little sister Cindy interrupts Billy. Rather than attack her, Billy simply inquiries whether she's been naughty or nice. He smiles warmly and "gifts" her a bloody knife he used earlier. Billy exits and witnesses bullies picking on two sledding teenage boys. Suddenly he appears and decapitates one of the bullies, causing the other one to flee in horror. Meanwhile, the authorities are investigating the ongoing murders with the aid of Sister Margaret, who has deduced that Billy is the killer and postulates that he is making his way back to the orphanage, in a mission to kill Mother Superior.
The next morning, a man dressed in a Santa Claus outfit approaches the orphanage. Officer Barnes warns the man to stop but he does not and Barnes shoots him. To his horror, Barnes discovers that the man was in fact Father O'Brien, a deaf pastor on his way to the orphanage when a call came through from a police radio scanner. Billy appears and kills the distraught Barnes with the double-bit axe as punishment and hacks off the head of the snowman with the now bloody axe. Billy arrives at the orphanage with a reunion with good old Mother Superior. And through the use of his Santa costume gains entry and access to Mother Superior, now in a wheelchair, who disbelieves in Santa Claus, taunting Billy in gruesome horror. Billy raises the axe, yells "Die" and prepares to kill her but is interrupted by Captain Richards', who shoots him. Billy is struck in the back and collapses. He looks at the nearby children and utters "You're safe now, Santa Claus is gone" then dies in cold blood. As the children gather around, an attending Ricky coldly stares at Mother Superior before he eerily utters "naughty", thus foreshadowing the events of the second film.
- Robert Brian Wilson as Billy Chapman (age 18)
- Danny Wagner as 8-year-old Billy
- Jonathan Best as 5-year-old Billy
- Alex Burton as Ricky Chapman at 14
- Max Broadhead as 4-year-old Ricky
- Melissa Best as Infant Ricky
- Lilyan Chauvin as Mother Superior
- Gilmer McCormick as Sister Margaret
- Toni Nero as Pamela
- 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
- Will Hare as Grandpa Chapman
- Tara Buckman as Ellie Chapman
- Geoff Hansen (Credited as Jeff Hansen) as Jim Chapman
- Charles Dierkop as "Killer Santa" (criminal in a Santa Claus outfit)
- Eric Hart as Mr. Levitt
- A. Madeline Smith as Sister Ellen
- Amy Stuyvesant as Cindy
- Max Robinson as Officer Barnes
- Vinc Massa as Doug
- John Michael Alvarez as Jim
- John Bishop as Bob
- Richard C. Terry as Mac
- Oscar Rowland as Dr. Conway
- Richard D. Clark as Officer Miller
- Tip Boxell as Officer Murphy
- Angela Montoya as Little Girl on Santa's Lap
- Molly Cameron as Little Girls Mother
- Jayne Luke as Other Mother In Store
- Joan Foster as Other Mother In Store
- Betsy Nagel as Other Mother In Store
- Barbara Stafford as Teen Lover In Orphanage
- Paul Mulder as Teen Lover In Orphanage
- Spencer Ashby as Santa In Orphanage
- J. Paul Boardhead as Santa In Store
- Don Shanks as Santa Climbing In Window (uncredited)
- Dan Rogers as Dispatcher
- Spencer Alston as Child At Orphanage
- Kirsti Ballard as Child At Orphanage
- Jacob Peterson as Child At Orphanage
- Jonathan Wilde as Child At Orphanage
- Susie Stuyvesant as Child At Orphanage
- Aron Kinacid as Obnoxious Deejay (uncredited)
- Judith Roberts as Mother Superior (uncredited)
- Jean-Paul Rodrigues as Child At Orphanage
- Micheline Rodrigues as Child At Orphanage
- Monique Rodrigues as Child At Orphanage
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Initially throughout production, the film was titled as Slayride, before TriStar decided to change the title to Silent Night, Deadly Night at the last minute
The films editor Micheal Spence came in as the co-director for the film. This was because director Charles E. Sellier Jr. was uncomfortable with shooting the death scenes.
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 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 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".
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
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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 Siskel went as far as to read names of the film's production crew on air, telling them, "shame on you". 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, in May 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. The UK DVD was released on November 23, 2009.
The film had 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 loose remake of the film titled 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.
- Internet Movie Database Business/Box office for
- Internet MovIe Database Business/Box office for
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- BBFC Website - Silent Night, Deadly Night Classification
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- Psychotronic Video Guide (1996) - Michael J. Weldon