- Category: Movie Reviews
- Written by SuperNova
- Published on Saturday, 14 February 2009 01:15
Silent Night, Deadly Night Collection DVD Review
Written by SuperNova
DVD released by AnchorBay Entertainment
Silent Night, Deadly Night
Directed by Charles E. Sellier, Jr.
Written by Michael Hickey
1984, Region 1 (NTCS), 85 minutes, Unrated
Robert Brian Wilson as Billy
Silent Night, Deadly Night Part Two
Directed by Lee Harry
1987, Region 1 (NTSC), 88 minutes, Rated R
DVD released on October 7th, 2003
James L. Newman
It‘s said that when a film strikes a nerve with an audience and is able to connect with them on many different levels, that the given movie and the people behind it have done something truly right. But when a film manages to offend a certain individual or a specific group, it then becomes controversial and frowned upon. But if we live in a world where shock and awe are common campaign features presented throughout live televised news, and are something highly anticipated, then I ask what‘s the difference between portraying real images of controversy and berating fictitious ones?
Silent Night, Deadly Night begins with a bleak and somber tone as the Chapman family is visiting young Billy’s (Jonathan Best) grandfather in a nursing home. Mr. Chapman (Will Hare) hasn’t spoke in years due to a constricting illness, all the more peculiar that once Billy’s parents leave the room to examine paper work, Mr. Chapman begins to engage in a conversation with Billy. Somewhat anesthetic and delusional, Billy’s grandpa begins to tell of past memoirs of what Santa does to all the naughty people who have misbehaved during the past eleven months. This encounter leaves Billy addled about Santa, as he begins to recall the past year and the terrible things he’s done and the naughty things Santa would surely punish him for.
Coincidentally on their drive back home, the Chapman family encounters a man who seems to be having some car trouble. Dressed in a Santa Claus outfit and looking as jolly as one can be, the man (Charles Dierkop) motions for the approaching car to slow down. As little Billy awakes from his sleep, his eyes are greeted by an awkward fear of a man dressed in red. As Santa approaches the car, Billy grows uneasy and pleads to his parents to drive on, that he doesn’t want to see Santa. Oblivious to his intentions, they laugh at his resentment and offer the stranger in red some assistance. When asked what seems to be the trouble, the friendly approach turns drastically upside down as Santa reaches for a gun inside his pocket and fires away into the car. Before coming to a quick halt after being struck by a bullet, Mr. Chapman manages to drive the car a few feet away.
Fearing for his life, Billy exits the car leaving his mother to fend for herself. The situation grows intense as Mrs. Chapman (Tara Buckman) is pulled from the car and brutally raped, as young Billy watches on. Time would pass and several years later we would meet up with (Danny Wagner) Billy again, this time around he would be staying at an orphanage, organized by a harsh and intolerable nun by the name of Mother Superior (Lilyan Chauvin). The seasons would come and go, and each year around the Christmas holiday, Billy would remember what took place in his life several years back. Mother Superior being the medium that would break Billy’s confinement from Santa, forced vigorous moments of torture upon Billy, and even on one occasion made him sit uncomfortably on Santa’s lap. Years would go by again and Mother Superiors task would seem to have grabbed a hold of Billy’s inner demons. No longer a child, and no longer constrained, Billy (Robert Brian Wilson) finds himself a job working for a local store in the back stock room.
On one particular morning, Billy is asked to assume the role of Santa Claus, it seems the man who was portraying him had an accident and is required to sit it out this year. Billy reluctantly agrees and thus kicks off the madness. It isn’t before long that the flashbacks of a red-suited gentlemen reeking carnage upon Billy’s family become too real to imagine. Envisioning himself as Santa, Billy now has the long and dirty task of punishing all those who have been naughty.
Silent Night, Deadly Night Part Two opens with a grown Richard 'Ricky' Caldwell (Eric Freeman) retelling the story of the original Silent Night, Deadly Night. During recorded sessions with a psychiatrist Dr. Henry Bloom (James Newman), Ricky recalls his past life after witnessing his brother’s brutal and bloody death before his eyes. Mother Superior fearing for his retaliation sets Ricky up with a new family the Rosenberg’s for him to stay with. After the passing of his stepfather Ricky falls into a state of depression until one day while on a walk a couple mingling in an open field intrigues him. After observing a drunk by the name of Eddie (Randy Baughman) beating his girlfriend Paula (Joanne White) just to force her to have sex with him, Ricky (Darrel Guilbeau) loses it and kills the man.
Incidents like these occur throughout Ricky’s traumatic life until he bumps into a beautiful girl named Jennifer Statson (Elizabeth Kaitan). Constantly harassed by her ex-boyfriend Chip, Jennifer looks for Ricky as her protector, only she didn’t imagine Ricky would have killed him. Angered, Jennifer insults Ricky by claiming she never wants to see or speak to him again, his retaliation is quite simple as he strangles her to death. The result of this emotional breakup turns even more deadly as Ricky begins to stroll right down the middle of a street in broad daylight firing a gun at anyone who gets in his way. After dozens of bodies lie in puddles of blood, Ricky is finally apprehended. The conclusion to his story isn’t over just yet, as Ricky manages to escape from the ward and is looking to punish those who have been naughty, but more importantly, Mother Superior, the very woman responsible for his brother’s untimely death.
There’s something I find odd about the human mind and how we seem to be attracted to the strange and unusual. Christmas is a wonderful holiday that celebrates the birth of Christ, and every year families get together to celebrate the joy of giving gifts to each other, and spending a few precious moments with their loved ones. It’s a momentous holiday and the thought of being angry throughout this time is almost redundant, so when someone decides to mess with Christmas and Santa Claus, well the result can be less than merry. When I was younger I use to roam the video store, scouring the long walkways and the big metal racks that housed dozens upon dozens of VHS tapes. I found myself trolling through the horror section as most kids did my age, it’s a phase I guess, one I was supposed to outgrow. I remember seeing a big goofy box cover the kind they don’t make anymore with the picture of what appeared to be Santa descending down into a chimney with an ax in his right hand. For years I’ve wanted to rent this movie, but my mother would never allow her child to do any such thing.
As I got older and my taste became less conventional and more so acquired I was discouraged to seek out Silent Night, Deadly Night, for anything I associated with Christmas was a happy time and surely didn’t want to see some slasher movie about a guy dressed up as Santa going around killing people. Ah, but my curiosity got the best of me and it wasn’t long before I was reading up on this film and the rough road it had. Being a simple human, and one who craves knowledge I had to find this tape and find out why it was so controversial. Well it never happened, not until Anchor Bay took the time to restore it and released it on DVD with its brother sequel. I spent a Saturday night watching this horror Christmas epic and my mind couldn’t convince the frown that was left upon my face as the credits rolled that this was a good movie. Let me back track if I may, when I first read about this film, I remembered the plot vaguely, but I always heard about how contentious this film was. I lead myself astray believing this film was going to take a killer Santa to the extreme, but in actuality, it doesn’t.
Take for example the rape scene, I was expecting some exposed breast (hey I’m not a pervert, I’m just being realistic here.) Which we got, but very little of. Next thing I’m thinking, okay the clothes are coming off and we are about to witness some pelvis thrusting action, but it doesn’t happen, instead Tara Buckman’s character is stabbed by a knife and the scene ends with the stranger in red yelling for Billy to come out from hiding. Maybe I’m too grown for this light hearted approach, but perhaps the fact that any man dressed as Santa Claus would kill someone was unsettling enough for most, but not me. There was no rape, which leads me to wonder why it’s even put in the plot of the story, furthermore the rape sequence is supposed to serve as the backbone for young Billy’s hatred toward Santa, but Will Hare does a much better job convincing me that Santa isn’t a good person. I know I’ve done reviews before where I sit here and defend bad movies, even though to me they aren’t bad, but that’s not the case. I use my wisdom to convince the reader as to why they should give a certain film another chance or a viewing, but sadly I am unable to do that with this picture.
I’m not somebody who frowns upon society for expressing themselves, and I certainly wouldn’t protest the freedom of expression, and again that’s not the case here. See, Silent Night Deadly Night is a bad movie, because it’s a bad movie. The recipe for a killer Santa sounds like one swell picture and granted, the film has it’s moments of humor and great cut-em-up scenes, but the overall story lacks any decency. As a civilized human and honest to God reviewer, I watched Silent Night Deadly Night with an open mind, sure I wasn’t revolted by it, but I was turned off during some scenes where children were around a sadistic man wearing a red suit. But as I write this I laugh because the film does exactly what it sets out to do, making the viewer uncomfortable in this situation. We think of Christmas as a splendid time, the time of giving and sharing, but in this film it’s the exact opposite. It seeps with dread, and instead of portraying Santa as a fat jolly character, this film portrays him as a man who punished those who weren’t good all year long. Obviously it made a lot of people angry and rightfully so, everyone is brought up to think Santa is a heart warming man who brings presents to children, not a killer at all.
A case could be made for those who decide to protest this picture and who have, but the bottom line here is the fact that Santa regardless of what anyone says is a mythical character who doesn’t really exist. And the same could be said about the film, it’s fictitious and further more Santa Claus isn’t doing the killing, if you actually took the time to watch it, you’d see that it was a regular man who was wearing the iconic red and white outfit. It’s times like these that I question the reality of the world we live in, and how we can respect and praise one thing, but shun another. Overall the first film is somewhat sloppy. The lead character Billy is played by three young men. Jonathan Best plays a very young Billy Chapman, around five years of age during the opening of the film. This was probably the most troublesome for me, watching this adorable little kid react to the mythos of good old Saint Nick. Danny Wagner plays Billy Chapman around eight years old, this is the time when he’s staying at the orphanage. You can’t really ask much from an eight-year-old child, so watching him perform was kind of dull, the emotions seemed off, and he appeared to be trying too hard. And finally Robert Brian Wilson assumes the eighteen-year-old role of Billy. I don’t know how to put this, but it worked. Robert has a soap opera look to him, and it fit’s the character quite well. When he snaps and goes into his killing spree, you’ll find it quite humorous when Mr. Wilson yells, “PUNISH!!!” every time he comes upon a naughty individual.
The acting in this film is way below key level, so I won’t be commenting on whom does a great job, because most is just plain awful. It could have been the dialogue, the actors didn’t have much to work with. Now don’t be fooled, yes Linnea Quigley is in this movie, but it’s more so a cameo. She’s there for one reason and one reason only, and if you don’t know what that is, than go rent her other ninety-nine B movies and you’ll understand. Basically Linnea is here to flash her breast and look good for the camera. I’m not complaining, she’s a great scream queen and rightfully deserving of her title, but sadly she’s way underused and remains in this picture for about three minutes. The rest of the cast is dispensable, Lilyan Chauvin who portrays Mother Superior is your generic nun whose obedient ways will always prevail. As for Silent Night, Deadly Night Part Two, well the film was originally intended to be re-cut and put out as a sequel using the footage from the first film. Instead the writers decided to make their own film, but used flashbacks to retell what happened in the original. That being said, the film is still quite terrible. The deaths are mostly amateurish, the acting is about as stale as a piece of bread left out all night, and the story just like the first film is inconsistent. Given the budget of the second movie, it actually could have turned out a lot worse. It’s more humorous this time around, but even those parts fall flat. Eric Freeman is thoroughly enjoyable, but he becomes apparently annoying as the film progresses.
Video and Audio:
The film opens with a disclaimer of sorts, telling the viewer that the print presented before them is the most apparent and consistent cut of this movie. That being said, it’s noted that some scenes had to be taken from unreliable prints to offer the movie in it’s most completed form. When you watch the film, you’ll notice these ‘inserted’ scenes right away. They aren’t distracting, but they do take away from the overall transfer of the picture. Speaking of the transfer, this is without a doubt the best these films have ever looked. Both movies are presented here in an enhanced 16x9 gorgeous widescreen (1.85:1) print. The colors are rich and jolly, and nicely saturated. Flesh tones are accurate and the blood oozes quite invariably. As for the ‘inserted’ scenes, they appear to be quite grainy, the source is sometimes bad in contrast mixing a lot of yellow into the shots, they come off abruptly bad, but it’s acceptable.
Both movies are presented here in mono tracks. It’s okay seeing as there’s not much in the way of surround sound, perhaps the hacking of limbs, and the constant rambling of “punish”, but other than that the mono track is a nice welcome. I should point out that Morgan Ames wrote most of the songs, which you hear throughout the first film. There’s a holiday ballad if you’ve ever heard of such a thing called “The Warm Side of The Door.” You know it if you’ve seen the film. It’s actually not too bad, and quite catchy if I may say so myself, but the interesting thing about it, is what goes on during the movie when this song plays. You’ll be both completely confused and feel oddly uneasy, or you’ll just be annoyed. I felt quite uneasy because it was so strange and the dissimilarity between the music and the movie was way out of left field that you almost forgot it was a horror film.
- Audio Interview with Director Charles E. Sellier, Jr. (SN,DN)
- Poster and Still gallery ( SN,DN & SN,DN 2)
- Theatrical Trailer (SN,DN 2)
- Santa’s Stocking of Outrage (SN,DN)
- Original Screenplay (SN,DN 2)
- Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Lee Harry, Writer Joseph H. Earle and actor James Newman (SN,DN 2)
For those looking for this disc to be filled with stocking stuffing special features you’ll be sadly disappointed. Amongst the list we have your standard poster and still gallery, which is included on both film’s extras. The second film includes on the set photos, and storyboards, which are fairly interesting.
There’s an audio interview with the director of the original Silent Night Deadly Night, Charles E. Sellier, Jr. It’s quite long and runs around thirty five minutes. It’s really informative if you are looking for more depth about the movie, most of which is covered in the liner notes inside the DVD case, but this phone conversation adds upon that. After all these years Charles still regrets doing the movie, and I don’t see why, I doubt he puts the film on his resume and furthermore I certainly don’t believe anyone is going to question him about it. It’s directors like these who ruin genres, it’s these kinds of directors that I, as an aspiring director mind you, will never understand. Why agree to make a movie, granted, he didn’t write the screenplay, but he did shoot the film, but why agree to make a movie and then disown it once it’s released. Don’t tell me it’s because you got older and give me some run around, the truth is you made this film because you knew it was going to be controversial and you knew it’d make some serious money, but what you didn’t realize was that you’d be risking your career, and instead of fighting for this film that you directed, you turned your back on it. It’s funny because I know dozens upon dozens of people who have been to college and studied filmmaking, but yet they have never been able to make a film or get their first break, and perhaps that break will never come, but it’s their undying will to never give up that makes me proud, and to think when I see directors succeed only to throw it all away, it makes me angry, because the time you wasted could have been filled by someone who had an appreciation and understanding of the certain picture or genre it was being shot for.
"Santa’s Stocking of Outrage" is a collection of article clippings eradicating the movie for it’s tarnishing of Christmas and everything merry about it. Some of the readings are quite amusing, most of which come from idiotic people who fail to see the film as anything more than a taboo. Some of the critics offer up some extraordinarily harsh reviews, but are unable to make any rational sense with failed excuses and pitiful analogies, making them appear as dumb as the people who protested this film. The trailer for the second movie is the only theatrical trailer presented here. You get the best of both worlds as the second trailer mostly shows clips of the first movie and very little of what happens in the second, it’s fitting though seeing as the sequel is two thirds of the original movie. Lastly there’s the original screenplay for Silent Night, Deadly Night Part Two and a commentary track with Writer and Director Lee Harry, Writer Joseph H. Earle and actor James New Man. I’m a big fan of the C.H.U.D. DVD commentary because while the cast and crew aren’t keen on making the film seem intelligent, they are keen on making the viewer laugh right along with them as they poke fun of the movie. It’s so enjoyable to listen to people make remarks and hysterical comments about a film that they obviously know is bad, instead of trying to defend it in a whining sort of way. I’m the kind of guy who likes commentaries to be pure and real, notes don’t have to be prepared, and you don’t have to pour an onslaught of information into my lap, all you have to do is be yourself and show interest in the given film. So with that said, I thoroughly enjoyed the Silent Night, Deadly Night Part Two commentary.
I feel after viewing a film I tend to come away with a better understanding and more often than not a new found respect. This review will most likely appear negative, but I’m the kind of guy who likes to do things straightforward. I won't promote a film I do not like just so a company can make a few extra dollars and keep putting out more movies. I won’t lie and tell you something is good and to go out and to buy it, if I don’t feel it’s worth your money, and so that leaves me with one question that needs to be answered. Is the Silent Night, Deadly Night Collection worth a purchase? Well it depends, if you’re looking for a smart horror film, then obviously you need to focus your attention elsewhere. If you haven’t seen the movie or it’s countless sequels, than perhaps this would be an okay blind buy. I don’t regret picking this DVD up, fifteen dollars is fairly cheap, and I finally got to see the movie, so I didn’t lose out too bad. In all honesty, I can’t recommend the movie, but with that said I can’t say it’s not worth a viewing either. It really all boils down to you as a viewer and your taste. All I ask is that you understand the movie you are buying before you place your money down onto the counter, and for my sake, let’s hope this review accomplished that.
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