Why ‘Silent Night, Deadly Night’ Is The Best Christmas Horror Movie You’ve Never Seen
During the holiday season of 1984, a little horror movie called "Silent Night, Deadly Night" premiered that stirred parents into a major frenzy. It was about a *gasp* killer Santa Claus. Plus, there was nudity and profanity, but who cares about that? Jolly Old St. Nick was running around a quiet little town disturbing the peace, and that is just unacceptable.
The movie begins with five-year-old Billy Chapman having to witness his parents' brutal murder by a guy dressed in a Santa suit on Christmas Eve. Fast-forward three years later, Billy is (obviously) terrified of Santa Claus. He refuses to sit on Santa's lap at the orphanage, which is run by the ruthless Mother Superior. Seriously, Mother Superior doesn't eff around at all. She savagely beats two teens she catches having sex. Fast-forward ten years later, Billy is now an 18-year-old stud. But when he's forced to dress up as Santa at his work, he loses his sh-t and goes on a killing spree.
This B-horror film has become a cult classic amongst niche horror fans, but more people need to see it. Although there are several unnecessary scenes in the movie, including reshowing events to remind us what happened 20 minutes ago, it's still a gem. The film dared to take something seen as innocent and carefree and turn it on its head. But unlike with the Krampus/evil demon Santa mythology, "SNDN" chose the non-supernatural route, meaning something like this could actually happen.
While this kind of villain wasn't unique for its time — both "Tales from the Crypt" and "Christmas Evil" also had wicked Santas — this movie suffered a plethora of backlash from irate parents. Their anger was heavily targeted at the ads for the film, which depicted Santa swinging a bloodied ax.
According to Dread Central and IMDb, the film was pulled from various theaters shortly after its release. Despite the pull, the movie inspired several sequels and one loose remake. When you tell someone not to see something, that's all they want to see.
Producer Ira Barmak told the pissed off parents what for when he said, "People have taken offense at Santa being used in a scary context... Santa Claus is not a religious figure, he's a mythic character. I didn't deliberately ride roughshod over that sensitivity and I didn't anticipate the objection to it," according to People. It should be noted the film was rated R, so it's target audience was clearly not children.
Besides the body horror, the film explores psychological horror as well. Billy saw his father shot and his mother raped and had her throat slashed. That's traumatic for anyone, but it's especially traumatizing for a 5-year-old. (Suck on that, Batman.) Except, instead of growing up to rid the world of crime, Billy chose to add crime to it. So in a way, "SNDN" is a reversed version of the Batman saga.
But if you're still not convinced why you should dedicated 79 minutes of your life to this film, here are seven more reasons why it's worth your time.
For starters, there's a super cheerful old man who's not terrifying at all.
Will Hare's performance is definitely one of the major highlights of the movie.
It'll give you a whole new outlook on the word "naughty."
Plus, it's said like 124 times during the movie.
Eight-year-old Billy punches the sh-t out of Santa.
Kris Kringle went soarin' across the room. The kid was eight, dude. Come on.
There's also some serious sass radiating from this five-year-old Billy.
Adult Billy is actually hot — well, except for when he starts killing everyone, that is.
This song that plays throughout the entire film will change your life. (For better or worse, we can't say.)
♫ Santa's watching, Santa's creeping / Now you're nodding, now you're sleeping ♫
Those are actual lyrics, everyone.
Finally, without "Silent Night, Deadly Night 1" there would be no "Silent Night, Deadly Night 2," which means this scene wouldn't exist.
Why Eric Freeman didn't get an Oscar nom for that performance, I'll never know.