Silent Night, Deadly Night

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Not to be confused with the 1972 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
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 $1,065,000 (estimated)[1]
Box office $2,491,460[2]

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 years later. This was the only film in the series to be distributed by Tristar Pictures


In 1971, on a visit to his institutionalized grandfather, who warned 5-year-old Billy Chapman that Santa Claus punishes the naughty, his family happens to come across a man in a Santa Claus outfit seemingly having car trouble. The man, actually a criminal who has just used the disguise to rob a liquor store, mercilessly kills Billy's father with a handgun in front of him and his infant brother Ricky, then slashing their mother's throat with a switchblade and leaving the children alive. Three years later, 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 as a good thing. Sister Margaret seems to be the only one who sympathizes with the children, trying to get Billy to open up and play with the children, but they are constantly under Superior's scrutinizing eye and regularly end up getting punished. On Christmas morning, the orphanage has a man in a Santa Claus suit come by, and of course Billy is terrified of him. Mother Superior drags him kicking and screaming to Santa until Billy punches the Santa in the face and runs back to his room.

Ten years later, 18-year-old Billy leaves the orphanage in hopes of finding a normal life. He gets a job as a stock boy at a local toy store. He has a crush on his coworker Pamela, but his thoughts of having sex with her are often interrupted by morbid visions of his parents' murderer. Steadily growing unstable, Billy is volunteered by force to dress up as Santa Claus for the store on Christmas Eve. Shortly after the store closes and everyone parties with alcohol, he happens upon Pamela almost being raped by another coworker Andy. Turning insane, Billy hangs him with a string of Christmas lights and kills Pamela with a utility knife uttering that punishment is good. His boss Mr. Sims, comes in and is killed by a hammer. After Mrs. Randall discovers Billy's grisly work, is attacked and killed with a arrow after attempting to escape. Sister Margaret discovers the carnage and runs back to the orphanage for help on the telephone. Meanwhile, Billy breaks into a house and kills two unmarried young adults Denise and Tommy, who are having sex. Denise is impaled on a set of deer antlers while Tommy is thrown through a window. Tommy's little girl (who was told to gte in bed minutes before by her dad's girlfriend) interrupts him and he asks her if she's been naughty or nice; he smiles and warmly gives her the utility knife used earlier. Witnessing bullies picking on two teenage boys while they are sledding, Billy decapitates one of the bullies, causing the other bully to flee. Meanwhile, the authorities are still investigating with the aid of Sister Margaret, who assuming that Billy is the killer and postulates that he is making his way back to the orphanage.

The next morning, a man dressed in a Santa Claus outfit approaches the orphanage. Officer Barnes warns to stop (who refuses), where he is forced to shoot. He discovers that the killed Santa was Father O'Brien, a deaf pastor on his way to the orphanage. Billy is nearby and kills a distraught Barnes with a double-bit axe. Later, Billy arrives at the orphanage and is allowed to come in as the children believe him to be Santa. Mother Superior, now in a wheelchair, disbelieves in Santa Claus. Billy raises his axe to kill her and yells out "Naughty!", before Captain Richards arrives and shoots Billy in the back. A collapsed Billy looks at the children and says "You're safe now, Santa Claus is gone" before succumbing to his wounds. As the children gather around, an attending Ricky, coldly stares at Mother Superior before eerily uttering "Naughty".



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 film was released theatrically in the United States by TriStar Pictures on November 9, 1984.[3] 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.[4]

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.[5]

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.[6] The second release was in 2007.[7] 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".[8]

The film was re-released on December 12, 2009 in the Brattle Theatre as a double feature with Black Christmas.[9]

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.[10]

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.[citation needed]

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 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.[11] 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.[12]

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.[13] The UK DVD was released on November 23, 2009.

Related Works[edit]


Years after its release, the film had spawned spawned four sequels.


A loose remake of the film, entitled 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.[14]


External links[edit]