When viewing Silent Night, Deadly Night today, it’s hard to figure out what all the fuss was about at the time of the film’s release. The movie caused all kinds of trouble when it came out in , inciting protests and boycotts from offended parents and social groups opposed to the idea of a killer in a Santa suit (interestingly, none of them seemed to have a problem with You Better Watch Out [aka Christmas Evil], a killer Santa flick that came out four whole years before Silent Night, Deadly Night). The movie was even banned in some areas, and publications refused to advertise it. These days, however, one has a lot of trouble believing these things were all caused by such an uneventful, mediocre film.
Breaking from the mold of the day (the popular whodunnit-style slasher made common by Friday the th and the like), Silent Night, Deadly Night comes right out and tells you who the killer is. In fact, the first half to he film is told almost entirely from the point-of-view of Billy, the little boy who will grow up to become a stalker in a Santa suit. The film shows us Billy’s childhood and the traumas and abuses he is forced to endure, then skips ahead around the -minute mark to the ‘present’ day, where Billy gets a job at a local toy store. Things seem to be looking up for the mentally disturbed teen until the manager dresses him up in a Santa suit, prompting Billy to snap and go on a murder spree, killing anyone he deems to be ‘naughty.’
Silent Night, Deadly Night is a B-movie in the purest sense of the term, and it wears that badge proudly. EVERYTHING in the film is gratuitous, from the plot itself (this kid has about the worst childhood in history) to the killings (mostly done with an axe) to the numerous displays of nudity throughout the film (it seems like none of the women in Billy’s town wear bras). The problem with the film is that none of these elements are very fulfilling. The story is obviously somewhat profane and twisted, but it drags all over the place. The killings are blatant, but with hardly any style (suspense) or substance (gore). Much of the slasher appeal is lost by knowing the killer’s identity, and Billy’s character is so uninteresting that you find yourself hoping that there is really someone else doing the killing and he’ll show up and take Billy’s place.
True, Silent Night, Deadly Night isn’t a total loss. Some might actually find some merit in the psychological storyline or its dated cheesiness. Others might get a kick out of scream queen Linnea Quigley’s appearance (naked, of course). But ultimately the film suffers from the same problem as its Christmas-themed slasher peers: it’s boring. Bits and pieces are okay, but the overall product fails to satisfy, even on the most basic B-grade levels.
Though it certainly caused a stir in , this story of a sicko in a Santa suit never manages to be more than mediocre. Santa should cross the makers of Silent Night, Deadly Night off his ‘nice’ list.