Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) Review: PTSD and Presents
“He knows when you’ve been naughty”
Synopsis: After his parents are murdered, a tormented teenager goes on a murderous rampage dressed as Santa, due to his stay at an orphanage where he was abused by the Mother Superior.
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Silent Night, Deadly Night is a classic “how dare you ruin Christmas” movie from the ’80s. It holds up surprisingly well even in today’s age of underplanned and overpolished slashers for several reasons, but the most important is the story.
This flick is one of a select group that not only try to give the psychopathic killer a backstory, but also make him sympathetic and (dare I say it) relatable. Of this small brotherhood of movies, most focus on following the killer’s point of view in the present time, and don’t delve too deeply into why he became what he did. Silent Night, Deadly Night breaks that mold, and does it so well that this could almost just be a movie about PTSD and not holiday horror.
The story follows Billy through his troubled childhood, starting from a frightening incident with his grandfather, through his parents’ murder by a transient dressed as Santa Claus, to abuse in the orphanage, all the way until he turns 18. As a troubled young man still trying to cope with the trauma in his past, Billy finally snaps one Christmas and begins to “punish” those he finds naughty.*
Though the movie suffers at times due to quality issues with both the camera work and the acting, it’s generally pretty solid. The story is engaging, the music is on point, and there are enough interesting angles to make the cinematography worthy of note. While the cast is mainly unknowns, you may recognize Linnea Quigley and Lilyan Chauvin. Most of Billy’s murders seem fairly boring by today’s standards, but they are somewhat creative. As an added bonus, Silent Night, Deadly Night overwhelmingly meets Codex Mortis’ boobs requirement – the boobs are plentiful, good-looking, and relevant to the story. (A boob trifecta, if you will.)
Even after thirty years, this is still one of the better Christmas horror flicks out there. It doesn’t shy away from the difficult subject matter, and actually makes you feel for the murderer – not an easy task. Silent Night, Deadly Night is both sad and satisfying, and deserves a place in your holiday horror cabinet.
*Side note: anyone else feel like Billy is the ’80s predecessor of Futurama’s Santa Claus?
Calamity Brains’ Rating: B
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