DVDSleuth.com is your source for daily Blu-ray Disc & DVD news and reviews
Silent Night, Deadly Night
(1984)/Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (1987)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
DVD Released: 12/4/2012
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/3/2012; Updated 9/24/2013
Either American's have become far more jaded than we suspect or distributors have gotten very savvy, but I don't hear much about people protesting against movies these days. In decades past, it seemed that movies were always creating a stir and being picketed, none more notorious than 1984's Silent Night, Deadly Night. As soon as the commercials featuring a murderous Santa Claus hit the airwaves, parents and community groups began to boycott the film. Of course, all that this controversy did was create free publicity for a movie which wasn't very good to begin with.
Silent Night, Deadly Night opens in 1971, where we see a family on a Christmas Eve outing to visit grandpa in a mental institution. Following this, Mom and Dad are killed by a thief in a Santa Claus costume, leaving young Billy and infant Ricky alive. The two are sent to an orphanage, and having witnessed the crimes, Billy is a troubled boy who gets very disruptive at Christmastime. It doesn't help that Mother Superior (Lilyan Chauvin) tries to force Billy to sit on Santa's lap. The story then jumps ahead to 1984. Billy has left the orphanage and with Sister Margaret's (Gilmer McCormick) help, gets a job in the stockroom of a toy store. He adjusts well to the position and even flirts with a co-worker (Toni Nero). However, things go sour when the store's Santa calls in sick and Billy's manager, Mr. Sims (Britt Leach) has Billy take over the role. Donning the suit brings back all of the pain and horror from the night his parents were killed and Billy goes on a killing spree of his own.
In the proper hands, a movie about a rampaging murderer dressed as Santa Claus could be very chilling and traumatic. If you think about it, the whole idea of Santa is creepy enough (a man who has easy access to your house?), so adding homicidal impulses to that idea has the potential to be frightening. Unfortunately, Silent Night, Deadly Night is not in the proper hands and the final result is a cheesy and hackneyed movie.
Once you get past the "gimmick" -- a killer dressed as Santa Claus -- Silent Night, Deadly Night has nothing else to offer us. When viewed as a straight horror film, the movie is just another slasher movie from the early 80s. (Actually, it was a little late to the party, as the slahser craze had been going on for over 5 years at that point.) Director Charles Sellier, Jr. and Writer Michael Hickey bring us the basic trauma from the past creates a killer in the present plot. The only difference from the other films of this particular era is that Silent Night, Deadly Night isn't a murder-mystery. We know that Billy is the killer and we spend most of the first half of the movie waiting for him to snap. Once he does (in a contrived manner), then the movie simply turns into a few scenes of Billy attacking random people and then the inevitable finale occurs. The movie contains some mild gore and the expected amount of T&A from a movie of this era. (Of course, getting Linnea Quigley to take her shirt off is no challenge.) There is no suspense here and the ending shows no creativity.
Now, if you want to watch Silent Night, Deadly Night as a retro-camp romp, that is a different story. This movie is tailor-made for a Mystery Science Theater 3000 ribbing, right from the opening scene where Mom is over-dressed for the visit to the institution. The brain-dead motivations of the plot, combined with the lackluster editing make this a movie which is begging to be harassed. And then we have the toy store where Billy works. In line with classic low-budget movie making, all sorts of trademarked and familiar names are visible in the background, making this a treat for Generation X'ers. I'm not a Star Wars geek, but as someone who knows the values of collectibles, I would love to have the "Jabba the Hut" and "At-At" sets which we can see on the shelves.
Looking back, it's very easy to see why Silent Night, Deadly Night would have caused controversy if the TV commercials were aired at a time when children could have been watching. But, as a movie, there's nothing to get upset about, unless of course you were looking for a good movie. This is a silly slasher movie, which really hits rock bottom once you notice that only one Santa suit was used throughout the shoot.
Silent Night, Deadly Night needs to be punished on DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks OK, given the film's budget and age. Overall, the movie has a dark look, but the picture is never overly dark. The colors look fairly good, most notably the reds, with only some scenes looking washed out. This particular cut of the film is comprised of materials from various sources, and some shots do look notably soft and show more defects. Otherwise, the black dots on the image are kept to a minimum. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital mono audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The music and screams never overwhelm the dialogue and the track shows no signs of hisses or pops.
The Silent Night, Deadly Night DVD has just a smattering of extras. We get an "Audio Interview" with Director Charles E. Sellier, Jr. (35 minutes). There's no date on this, but we know it isn't modern, as Sellier died in 2011. (And it's interesting to note that he produced religious movies for the last 15 years of his career.) He discusses how the movie came about and the controversy. There is a POSTER & STILL GALLERY which offers lobby cards, newspaper ads, and home video boxes. "Santa's Stocking of Outrage" contains press clippings which have quotes from concerned citizens, including Mickey Rooney, and critical blurbs.
Given the notoriety of Silent Night, Deadly Night, it's surprising to note that it took three years for a sequel to arrive. This may have something to do with the fact that Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 comes from a completely different group. Or, it could be a by-product of the fact that no one could come up with a good idea for a sequel. Trust me, no one could come up with a good idea for the sequel.
Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 focuses on Ricky (Eric Freeman), the little brother of Billy, the killer from the first film. As the movie opens, Ricky is in a room (in what is presumably a prison) and he's being interviewed by Dr. Bloom (James Newman). Ricky tells his life story, beginning with the murder of his parents. From there, we learn that Ricky was adopted as a 12-year old, and attempted to have a normal adolescence. However, the death of his stepfather made his rage begin to boil and Ricky began to commit murders. He calmed down some when he got a girlfriend (Elizabeth Cayton), but when that soured, the killing began again.
I don't have a list of the worst sequels handy, but I do know that The Hills Have Eyes Part II just called and said that it feels a great sense of relief knowing that something like Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 exists. I will do my best to describe just how ludicrously bad this movie is. First of all, most of the first half of the movie is comprised of footage from Silent Night, Deadly Night. Now, reading that, you may get an idea of flashbacks occurring, but that doesn't scratch the surface of how wholesale chunks of the first movie are presented as Ricky's flashbacks. This includes the opening scene from Silent Night, Deadly Night. Keep in mind, the Ricky character was merely an infant in that scene, and he was in a car seat where he couldn't see what was happening outside (even if he could comprehend it). Yet, Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 wants us to believe that adult Ricky can clearly recall the events of that night.
Once the "flashbacks" finally end, the "new" story begins, but things don't get any better. This is mainly due to the acting of Eric Freeman as Ricky. To say that his behavior is exaggerated would be a vast understatement and his bulging eyes and ridiculous maniacal laughter are simply ridiculous and scream of someone who graduated from a class on stage acting for the nearsighted. These issues are further compounded by the fact that there's basically no story here. It takes nearly an hour for a Santa suit to appear in the present and Ricky's killing spree really is random until the finale, where we learn that having a stroke will cause boils to appear on your face. Director Lee Harry also edited the film and he makes too many quick cuts within scenes. The movie reaches its low point (and trust me, that's not easy to judge) when Ricky takes Jennifer to the movies and the movie playing is Silent Night, Deadly Night. How cheap can you get?
Despite the fact that I tore through many video stores horror sections in the 80s, I'd never seen either of these Silent Night, Deadly Night movies until now. I always saw them on the shelf, but they simply held no interest for me. Now that I've seen them both, I know that I wasn't missing anything. Silent Night, Deadly Night is a terrible movie, but would be fun to watch with the right group of friends. But, if you watch Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 immediately after, as I did, you'll be fast-forwarding through the flashbacks.
Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 shows that its fans have really blown the whole "garbage day" thing out of proportion on DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. With the new footage, the image is sharp and clear, showing some mild grain and miniscule defects from the source material. The colors look good and the image doesn't show the darkness present in the first film (especially in that well-lit movie theater). The image is also fairly stable, as it doesn't go soft too much. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital mono audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The dialogue is audible and there is no distortion to the sound. The volume-level remains constant and the music doesn't drown out the dialogue.
The Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 DVD contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writer/Director Lee Harry, Writer Joseph H. Earle, and actor James Newman. The original TRAILER for the film is included here, as well as a POSTER & STILL GALLERY which shows on-set photos, storyboards, special effects makeup examples, and newspaper ads. Finally, one can put the DVD into their computer and read the screenplay for the film. I didn't do this, but I can only imagine that it says, "Go watch first movie" over and over.
On September 16, 2014, Anchor Bay released Silent Night, Deadly Night on Blu-ray Disc. (And just Silent Night, Deadly Night. This isn't a double-feature like the DVD.) The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The Blu-ray is a slight step up from the DVD, and it's obvious that the same transfer was used, as the "unrated" footage still looks very different from the rest of the movie. Therefore, the transfer vacillates greatly in quality. Jump to Chapter 5 and you'll see that the image is fairly sharp and clear, and shows good colors. However, some other scenes are darker and reveal scratches from the source materials. The Blu-ray Disc isn't great, but it is crisper than the DVD. I've seen some comments on-line condemning this release, but I've seen worse. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.0 Mbps. I don't know why people are complaining about the video on this release, as it's the audio which is a disappointment. This doesn't sound anything like a 5.1 track. It sounds much closer to the Mono track on the DVD release. I didn't not any surround or subwoofer effects and the sound is very tinny, most notably the songs in the movie.
The extras on the Silent Night, Deadly Night Blu-ray Disc are the same as those found on the DVD, plus Anchor Bay has added an AUDIO COMMENTARY featuring Writer Michael Hickey, Composer Perry Botkin, Editor/2nd Unit Director Michael Spence, and Co-Executive Producer Scott J. Schneid.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2012/2014.