Throwback Thursday Review: “Silent Night, Deadly Night” (1984)



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Posted December 14, 2016 by

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I love movie lists, and naturally, my favorite of these tend to arise from my genre of choice, Horror. Recently I happened upon a list in which Horror movie expert Mark H Harris offered up his opinions regarding the top 25 best Slasher flicks ever made. Upon examining it, I had a wonderful time reminiscing about some of my favorite films.  What struck me the most about this macabre collection? More than half of the movies mentioned were released in the 1980’s! Mildly curious, I did some additional research and discovered a similar article at, in which a whopping 31 of the top 50 films referenced were from the 1980’s as well. Needless to say, Slasher films are as much a part of the eighties as Santa Claus is to Christmas. Not coincidentally, Santa Claus also plays a prominent role in the movie “Silent Night, Deadly Night”, the subject of today’s throwback review.

The theatrical release of this feature went anything but smoothly. Parents, teachers, and anyone else with an ax to grind called for an all-out boycott of the film, and movie theaters everywhere were picketed nationwide. I remember watching a news segment where one concerned women’s sign read; “Santa doesn’t slay”, which I still find hilarious to this day. Ironically, the children they were seeking to protect from all of this would have been too young to watch the movie anyway. It is also worth noting that this was not the first Christmas-themed Horror flick to emerge. “Black Christmas”, a far more disturbing and controversial film, was released way back in 1974, and without incident. Ultimately the protests were successful, and after a promising opening-day weekend, the picture was abruptly pulled from the theaters. What was the effect of all of this controversy? The film garnered a lot more attention than it would have otherwise received, and was practically guaranteed to become an instant cult classic.

The plot is simple, but effective. Billy’s happy childhood is about to be turned upside down this Christmas season. First, his creepy Grandfather warns him that Santa will punish those who have not been good during the year. Next up, he witnesses his parents being brutally murdered by a man wearing a Santa outfit. This leads to an extended stay in an orphanage, where he is physically and psychologically abused by the nun who runs the facility (Chauvin). Eventually, after turning eighteen, Billy (Wilson) is released, and finds employment at a local toy store. All is well until Billy is asked by the shopkeeper to play Santa Clause, and all hell begins to break loose. The rest of the movie plays like a very formulaic 80’s-style Slasher film, which is a good thing because 80’s-style Slasher films are generally a lot of fun to watch.

The picture celebrates nearly every convention one could expect from a B-style Horror film of this time period; plenty of gore, plenty of nudity, bad acting, campy dialogue, and even an appearance by perennially topless scream-queen Linnea Quigley! What more could you possibly want for Christmas? As can be expected, the film did not win any awards, but it looks surprisingly good despite having only a shoe-string budget to work with. The death scenes are well-staged, and the practical effects are for the most part, pretty convincing. A special mention also goes out to Lilyan Chauvin, who delivers quite a memorable performance as the cruel Mother Superior. She comes off as a lot more terrifying than the deranged killer, which is actually saying something.

With all of the 80’s Slasher films vying for one’s attention, “Silent Night, Deadly Night” does an admirable job of setting itself apart from the crowd. Despite it’s extremely short theatrical run, it managed to spawn four sequels, and a semi-remake in 2012. It’s a movie that knows better than to take itself too seriously, and has loads of fun in the process. So pour yourself some eggnog, and enjoy this holiday treat. You might not be frightened, but you will definitely be entertained.




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