Silent Night Deadly Night 1 & 2
By: Michael Helms on May 31, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
MRA (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0 165 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director:Charles E. Sellier Jr / Lee Harry
Starring:Lilyan Chauvin, Gilmer McCormick, Britt Leach, Charles Dierkop, Robert Brian Wilson, Tara Buckman, Toni Nero, Linnea Quigley, Eric Freeman, James L. Newton, Elizabeth Cayton, Jean Miller
Screenplay: Paul Caimi (original story), Michael Hickey
Music: Perry Botkin / Michael Armstrong
Tagline: You've Made It Through Halloween. Now Try And Survive Christmas
Country: USA
Year: 1984 / 1987
Although an axe weilding Santa did make an appearance in the original Tales from the Crypt and Christmas had been the backdrop for Bob Clark's early model slasher flick Black Christmas, it was Silent Night, Deadly Night that drew all the angst and protestors when it was released around the world in the mid-80s. Today it still warrants attention but only as a well -made example of psycho cinema that actually delivers the goods in both areas of sex and violence, sometimes and mostly, within the same frame.

The perversion of the image of Santa that was carefully created by the Coca Cola company begins immediately in Silent Night, Deadly Night when a supposedly comatose grandfather snaps out of his vegetative state to personally scare little Billy with the threat that Santa actually punishes all the naughty kids. A comment that echoes what his Mum had told him a few hours before. Simultaneously, a man dressed as Santa robs a shopkeeper of $31.00 and shoots him three times leaving him with the perrenial season's greeting, "Merry fucking Christmas". It's not long before Billy and his family meet up with this real bad Santa who's car has broken down by the side of the road. Shooting at them and forcing them off the road Santa soon rips off Mum's top (Tara Buckman) and slits her throat. He also kills Dad as Billy watches from the bushes. Four years later Billy is in an orphanage where he's getting in trouble from the nuns who run the place for drawing gory Santa pictures. On his way back from punishment he spies a couple having sex who are caught out themselves and rewarded with their own version of nun vengeance. Billy is also punished again. Billy keeps having recurring nightmares so the nuns tie him to the bed. Come Christmas time Billy is forced to sit on Santa's knee which only forces him to punch Santa. Ten years later Billy is a seemingly well-adjusted teen working in a toy store until the owner unrolls a Santa banner which makes Billy visibly sick. Later, Billy fantasizes about his workmates getting naked only to be slashed by Santa. What pushes Billy over the edge though is when his boss makes him fill in as the shop Santa. More top popping sends Billy on a rampage with a large axe dressed as Santa. Billy leaves a trail of mayhem as he works his way towards Mother Superior's house. Billy performs a neat beheading of his friend who happens to be riding a toboggan down a hill and impales a topless Linnea Quigley on a set of antlers just before the cops catch him about to take a swing with his weapon at Mother Superior.

Regional filmmaker Charles E. Sellier Jr. who kicked on to helm the violent (and recommended) 'Nam vet's revenge saga The Annihilators in 1985, was an exploitation veteran by the time he directed Silent Night, Deadly Night. His expertise was developed in the world of re-cycled films that included Encounter With Disaster, In Search of Noah's Ark, and perhaps In Search of Historic Jesus, but nowhere is such craftsmanship more evident than in Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 which spends the first 38 minutes of it's running time regurgitating the best scenes from the first film. Unless he was hiding behind a psuedonym Sellier didn't stick around to direct what amounts to wraparound footage. But what we have with Silent Night Deadly Night 2 is some highly effective wraparound footage that very cleverly integrates new material into the old as it plays out like Silence of the Lambs or The Ugly, this time with Billy's younger brother Ricky in the killer position.

After most of the old footage is out of the way (there is a slight return with it being shown in a cinema where Ricky goes on a date, where he beats a loudmouth patron to death during a screening) the story of Ricky is taken up properly to reveal that he has the same murderous tendencies and insane grin as his older brother. Ricky demonstrates dexterity with novel weaponry including an umbrella and an alligator clip before donning the Santa costume to head off and hunt down the retired, horribly scarred and wheelchair bound Mother Superior.
Video
Silent Night, Deadly Night has quite a few daylight scenes and shot against the backdrop of Utah it looks like few other slasher films. The widescreen presentation shows off it's exterior location work in the best way possible and is also perfect for more intimate scenes featuring a maniac weilding his weapon of choice a long-handled axe. The transfer holds the colours together well throwing some grain into the mix that gives both films an almost documentary reality.
Audio
The stereo mix holds no surprises and allows all the Christmas songs (including one from the co-producer) to come to the fore when neccassary as it does Perry Botkin's keyboard heavy score. The synth freak-out that accompanies the introduction of the DEADLY NIGHT title will get you every time. The music in the second film is much more subdued.
Extra Features
Trailer for 2 on 1 and nothing on disc 2.
The Verdict
Both films seem to be universally bagged for not doing anything more subversive with the concept of a psychotic Santa other than having them clock up a kill count. But there's a lot of creative death going on in both films and to my mind you can't really go much further with the concept. Personally, I'd completely forgotten how much I'd liked both films, the first for it's balance of innocence and crime, and the second for it's balls to recycle so much of the first film and actually intensify and build upon what had gone before it. Until a special edition emerges locally I highly recommend this plain two disc set.
Movie Score
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