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 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.


In 1971, after a visit to his institutionalized grandfather, who warned 5-year-old Billy Chapman that Santa Claus punishes the naughty, his family happens across a man in a Santa Claus outfit having car trouble. The man - actually a criminal who has just used that disguise to rob a liquor store - pulls a gun and mercilessly kills Billy's father in front of him and his infant brother Ricky. He then rapes and murders their mother by slashing her throat with a switch blade, 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 are misbehaving, considering punishment for their wicked actions as a good thing. Sister Margaret seems to be the only one who sympathises 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 they regularly end up getting punished.

Ten years later, 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 them having sex are often interrupted by the visions of the "Santa Claus" murderer who ends up slashing him in the torso with the same switch blade that ends up slashing his mother's throat thirteen years ago. 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 for the night and every one breaks out into alcohol, he happens upon Pamela being raped by another coworker named Andy, Billy snaps and hangs him with a string of Christmas lights. He then "punishes" Pamela by killing her with a box cutter. His boss, Mr. Sims, comes in to check on them and is killed by a hammer to the skull. Mrs. Randall comes in and discovers the bodies, but she is killed when an arrow in shot through her torso when she attempts to escape from Billy; after finding out his true identity. Sister Margaret discovers the carnage and runs runs back to the orphanage screaming to search for help on the telephone. Meanwhile, Billy breaks into a house and kills two teenagers, Denise and Tommy, having sex by impaling Denise on a set of deer antlers, and throwing Tommy through a window. A little girl interrupts him and he asks her if she's been naughty or nice; he smiles and warmly gives her the same box cutter that he'd used to kill Pamela with earlier. Witnessing the bullies picking on two teenage boys on a nearby hill while they are sledding, Billy decapitates the bully's head and his body with his head were discovered by the other bully who runs away screaming. Meanwhile, the authorities are still investigating with the aid of Sister Margaret, who ends up 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 the Santa to stop, but he does not respond and he is forced to shoot him. He discovers that this Santa was Father O'Brien, a deaf pastor on his way to the orphanage although the person they're really looking for is Billy, leaving Barnes on duty to find the killer. After encountering an empty basement in search of the killer, Billy then suddenly appears and axes Barnes in the chest, killing him. Later, Billy arrives at the orphanage and is still allowed to come in, the children were still, believing him to be Santa. The now-wheelchair bounding Mother Superior tells Billy that "There's no such thing as Santa Claus" and, furiously, Billy raises the axe to kill her. Mother Superior closes her eyes, but at that moment, Captain Richards bursts through the door and mortally shoots Billy in the back. Billy collapses and looks at the children, saying "You're safe now, Santa Claus is gone" as he dies of his wounds. As the children gather around on the scene; Ricky, who still lives at the orphanage stares up at Mother Superior with a cold stare before uttering "Naughty."



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]

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.[5] The second release was in 2007.[6]

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".[7]

The film was re-released on December 12, 2009 in the Brattle Theatre as a double feature with Black Christmas.[8]

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.[9]

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 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.[10] 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.[11]

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.[12] 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.[13]


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.[14]


External links[edit]