Silent Night Deadly Night DVD Review
Written by Daniel Benson
DVD released by Arrow Video
Directed by Charles E. Sellier Jr.
Written by Paul Caimi and Michael Hickey
1984, Region 2 (PAL), 81 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD released on 23rd November 2009
Lilyan Chauvin as Mother Superior
Gilmer McCormick as Sister Margaret
Toni Nero as Pamela
Robert Brian Wilson as Billy Chapman (age 18)
Britt Leach as Ira Sims
Nancy Borgenicht as Mrs. Randall
H.E.D. Redford as Captain Richards
Danny Wagner as Billy Chapman (age 8)
Linnea Quigley as Denise
1980s horror movies fall into two categories: instant classics that stand the test of time (think Re-Animator, Day of the Dead and A Nightmare on Elm Street) and those that end up being like a truckload of boobies — they put all the best bits in the trailer. Most of them hide behind wonderfully lurid cover art, yet the quality of this artwork bears no correlation to the quality of the film it promotes.
This brings us neatly to the subject in hand, Arrow Video’s forthcoming release of Silent Night Deadly Night, a low budget slasher from a decade that spawned so many memorable films. Complete with brand new cover art created specially for the first ever UK release. The publicity notes would have you believe that it has been previously banned on this side of the pond as this is “the first time it has been granted a certificate” in the UK. First time because it has never been submitted for certification, not because it was too grisly for our scissor-happy censors to certify in the first place. Trivia Buffs may like to take note: SNDN2 was submitted for certification in 1987 and rejected by the BBFC.
The film concerns young Billy Chapman who, as a young child, witnesses the murder of his parents at the hands of a psychopath dressed as Santa Claus. As if this wasn’t enough to fuck up his young mind, the authorities decide that the best place to send him for care is an orphanage run by nuns, overseen by a violently abusive Mother Superior. Yeah, that’ll fix the boy good.
By the time Billy is 18 he still gets twitchy round Christmas time so maybe a toy store, complete with meet-and-greet Santa and sleigh isn’t the wisest choice for part-time work. Even less-wise is the store owner’s decision to force Billy to don the red suit and beard when their festive front-of-houseman goes sick. It’s all too much for him, so he grabs a fire axe and embarks on a spree to punish anyone he deems “naughty”. Naturally this includes semi-naked teens who have sex with their pants on and anyone that tries to stop Santa’s slay ride. Linnea Quigley makes a breasts-exposed appearance, but then isn’t that all Linnea Quigley does?
These are just a distraction on the way to Billy’s endgame, to take his revenge on the cruel Mother Superior at the orphanage when he grew up. This is where the movie is weakest, as the majority of Billy’s victims have never appeared in the story until a few minutes before they buy the farm. So you have a decent story of trauma and abuse causing a psychopathic episode, with about 45 minutes of padding consisting of random characters being killed. While there’s nothing wrong with gratuitous killings in a slasher movie, it’s a mistake not to at least give the viewer some reason to feel anything for the victims.
It was a controversial movie in the early '80s, no surprise given the subject matter, but by today’s standards it’s pretty tame stuff. There are some reasonably inventive kills based around the holiday season (strangulation with Christmas lights, impalement on reindeer horns) but not much to really get the excitement up. It’s not that it’s a bad movie per se, just plainly obvious that it was a cheap cash-in on the popular slasher genre of its age.
Video and Audio:
For the most part the video is clear and free from problems. In certain scenes there has obviously been a different source used, as these sequences have noticeably darker and more muted colours as well as a drop in quality. The scenes in question look to be those that would have been edited out to achieve an ‘R’ rating for the USA release as most of them show lingering detail or increase the impact of the suffering during the kill scenes.
Sound is analogue 2-Channel and does nothing more or less than is expected. Dialogue is clear and the sound levels are constant, requiring no adjustment during the movie.
There’s an unrated trailer (see ‘Truckload of boobies’ above), and an audio interview with director Charles E. Sellier Jr that plays over scenes from the movie. Although not included with the review screener, the final package promises a reversible cover featuring the new artwork and the original cover image (of Santa disappearing down a chimney with fire axe in hand), a poster and a booklet featuring “Deadly Director: Charles Sellier interviewed by Calum Waddell” and “Silent Night, Sex Night: The Slice and Times of Linnea Quigley”.