This blog is devoted to all those pieces of 20th century culture too often pooh-pooh'ed by the so called 'high brow' crowd. The stuff that conjoures words like 'vibrant', 'garish' and 'lurid'. Cheap paperbacks, b-movies, exploitation, fantasy, horror and hokey sci-fi - all have a place on this blog where the trash of yesterday is recognised as the classics of today.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Movie Review: Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

It seems like only last week that I was doing posts on Halloween, and yet here comes Christmas already. I'm still kind of in 'horror movie mode' and so what better way to make the transition than with Silent Night, Deadly Night?

Released the same month as A Nightmare on Elm Street, this less influential slasher flick was understandably overshadowed by Wes Craven's more inventive project. But Silent Night, Deadly Night outdid Freddie Kruger in one respect - parents and religious organisations really hated it! The idea of Santa Claus going on a killing spree was not one relished by many and the film was banned for a good while.

The story revolves around a youngster called Billy who, after a Christmas visit to his senile old grandpa (who warns him that Santa punishes naughty children) sees the murder of his parents by a felon dressed as the jolly man in red. Understandably this traumatises him no end, a fact that has little effect on the iron-handed Mother Superior of the orphanage he winds up in - a woman whose method of raising kids is thrashing the living daylights out of them with a leather belt.



Flash forward a few years and Billy is all grown up and working in a toy store. Things are going well for him until Christmas time comes around and he is asked to suit up in the dreaded red costume and be nice to kids. At an after hours party in the store, Billy (still in his Santa suit) sees the female co-worker he has a crush on getting manhandled by a fellow employee. This pushes him over the edge and he kills them both before embarking on a rampage across town that will eventually lead him back to the orphanage for a confrontation with the old Mother Superior.

I can't not mention the toy store in this movie which is a great snapshot of 1980s childhood. Many people have spotted treasured items from their own past on the shelves in the background and I'm no different. Jabba the Hutt action figures! He-Man and Battle-cat (on some sort of kite)!



Anyway, back to the movie. What makes this one different from most other slashers is that it is played out from the point of view of the killer. Most entries in this genre begin by establishing a group of teenagers who will eventually be picked off, one by one by a masked killer as the film progresses. Silent Night, Deadly Night spends the first half of its running time establishing the killer! In fact, I can't really remember any of the victims, except the ways in which they are killed. And there are some great ways including impalement by deer's antlers, strangulation by fairy lights and my personal favorite - a swinging chop of an axe that decapitates some young miscreant as he hurtles down a slope in his sleigh (incidentally the film's working title was 'Slay Ride').

But the 45 minutes spent setting up the killer's motive still doesn't quite warrant his sudden turn into a zombie-like killer of all 'naughty children'. Sure, he's got more motive than the likes of Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees, but the film still falls into the trap of almost every slasher - there is never enough credibility to make us believe that somebody would really go out and do this stuff. But never mind. A noble and entertaining entry in the genre nevertheless.

1 comment:

Backpacking Hawaii said...

Good acting, worth the rental. The wood chipper scene was a little over the top, but it's a horror film, right?