Retrospective: Silent Night Deadly Night – A Look Back on the Classic Seasonal Slasher By Jesse Striewski

Christmas horror films were not an entirely new concept by the time Silent Night Deadly Night was released on November 9, 1984. Yet judging by the public reaction and outcry from parents across the country over the film, you would think the world had never seen anything like it before.

In the ’70s, …And All Through the House, a short film about an escaped homicidal manic dressed in Santa garb, crept it’s way into the 1972 anthology flick Tales From the Crypt. And 1974’s Black Christmas (which has since been remade twice) about a group of college girls being offed one by one on Christmas Eve and starring Hollywood stars such as Olivia Hussey and Margot Kidder, became a surprise hit. By the early ’80s, it almost seemed like the norm in its own, odd way; Christmas Evil and To All a Goodnight were both released in 1980 with similar concepts of a killer in Santa gear.

Yet those films were largely ignored in comparison to Silent Night Deadly Night. Before it was even released, parents were shocked by the TV ads being shown in between “family” programming that were scaring their children. Protests were held at theaters and malls across America, and critics largely denounced the film. In a recent interview, scream queen Linnea Quigley, who played a victim in the film named Denise, spoke to Rewind It Magazine regarding her thoughts on the film’s controversy. Quigley says; “I thought it was great! I loved how everyone was so up in arms over it, and Siskel & Ebert were plugging it even though they thought it was horrible! Everyone was saying how terrible it was, which of course made people only want to see it more (Laughs)!”

Silent Night Deadly Night followed the story of Billy Chapman (played by Robert Brian Wilson), a teenage orphan who, after witnessing his parents brutality murdered at a young age by a man in a Santa suit, snaps and goes on a killing spree, shortly after he takes his first job at a department store and is asked to act as the store Santa. Needless to say, plenty of grisly carnage and gratuitous sex quickly ensues. At times the tone of the film ranges from hilarious (the scene where the sled rider is decapitated is still definitely worth a laugh!), to dark and demented (Billy’s transformation into a killer is nothing short of disturbing).

The film was the brainchild of TriStar Pictures, who, after seeing the power (and profit) being generated from slasher flicks at the time, quickly wanted to jump on the bandwagon. The studio chose Michael Hickey to write the script, and Charles E. Sellier, Jr. was given directorial duties. To get a more “authentic” feel, it was shot in the dead of winter in Utah in the frigid cold. After it’s release, the film was well on it’s way to becoming a success, earning over $2 million within it’s first week of release (against a budget of $750,000), before ultimately being pulled from theaters just ten days after it’s release.

Since it’s original run, Silent Night Deadly Night has spawned four sequels, starting with Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2 in 1987 (which will forever be remembered for the famous line/catchphrase, “Garbage day!”), and a loose remake in 2012. These days, Christmas horror films have become a dime a dozen, with Krampus (2015), A Christmas Horror Story (2015), Red Christmas (2016) just a few titles leading the way. Still, if not for the controversy of the original Silent Night Dead Night, the holidays would be just a little less bright. You ‘better watch out’ for our full interview with actress Linnea Quigley to post soon…and by all means, be careful if Santa really does drop down your chimney tonight! Season’s slayings…

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