PUNISH!!!

You’ve made it through Halloween, now try and survive Christmas…

SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984)

This family favorite begins on Christmas Eve 1971. The Chapman family – Jim, his wife Ellie, and their two young sons Billy and infant Ricky are making a pilgrimage to visit Jim’s institutionalized Father. Along the way Billy asks Mommy if he can stay up to see Santa Claus but she tells him that it would be naughty to stay up past his bed time. She tells her son that Santa doesn’t bring presents to naughty children, and that Santa has a “big surprise” for him that night.

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When they get to the hospital the family is saddened to find Jim’s Father in a state of catatonia. He sits in silence, dazed and staring into space. When the Doctors and Billy’s parents leave the room to discuss his Grandfather’s condition they leave Billy alone with the “harmless” old man. That’s when the twisted old fruit (played by Will Hare of “Enter The Ninja” legend!) suddenly snaps to life to warn Billy about the dangers of Santy Claus. He asks Billy if he’s scared, and then tells the wide eyed boy that he should be because Christmas Eve is the scariest damn night of the whole year. He then informs the terrified tot that Santa only brings presents to boys and girls that have been good all year – the rest he PUNISHES! When Billy sheepishly tells his Grandpa he hasn’t been good all year the mean old bastard tells Billy if he sees Santa tonight he’d better run for his life!

When the rest of the Chapman clan returns Grandpa goes back to innocently staring into space as if nothing happened. The family leaves, and Billy promises to his Grandpa that he will be good from now on. On the long car ride home Billy reveals to his Mommy what Grandpa said about Santa Claus wanting to punish him. Mommy gets angry and calls Grandpa a “crazy old fool.” This causes Billy to gasp and warn Mommy that it’s naughty to say bad things about old people. Billy then warns his Mommy that Santa will want to punish her too.

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We then meet a two bit thief in a Santa outfit. After filling up his tank at a gas station the evil impostor Santa pulls an armed robbery that ends in murder and earns him a lousy 31 dollars. Merry fucking Christmas. Scumbag Santa’s getaway car breaks down and The Chapman’s have the misfortune of running into him on their way home. Jim pulls over to offer a little roadside assistance and gets a bullet in the head. Then the very bad Santa pulls Ellie out of the car so he can expose her breasts before slitting her throat. Little Billy runs away and watches all of this transpire as he hides in some bushes across the road.

We then flash forward three years and find Billy & Ricky attempting to adjust to life inside the Saint Mary’s Home For Orphaned Children. Billy has a profound hatred and fear of Christmas that gets worse every year. The sensitive Sister Margaret wants to get the boy professional help, but the domineering and abusive Mother Superior (Lilyan Chauvin) prefers more brutal means of keeping Billy in line. Bad little Billy gets an eyeful of sex when he sneaks a peek at a pair of orphans fucking upstairs. Mother Superior catches the kids in the act and proceeds to beat “the devils” with her large leather belt! She then turns her attention towards Billy and informs him that “when we do something naughty we must be punished. Punishment is necessary. Punishment is absolute. Punishment is good.”

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Mother Superior practices what she preaches and routinely beats Billy silly and ties him to his bed at night. Her brutal methods seem to have a calming effect on the boy, but it all unravels at the big Christmas Day bash when Mother Superior attempts to force Billy to sit on Santa’s lap. Billy freaks out and unleashes a devastating left hook that knocks the jolly old fat man on his ass! Billy runs upstairs and cowers in his room, where he awaits his inevitable punishment from Mother Superior.

We then flash forward yet again, this time several years. Sensitive Sister Margaret attempts to get the now 18 year old Billy a job at the local toy store around Halloween time. The store’s ambiguously gay owner Mr. Sims is reluctant to hire an orphan but quickly changes his mind when he gets a steaming eyeful of Billy – who has grown into a big buttery slab of blonde beefcake. Billy gets a job working in the stockroom, and we spend some quality time with him as he drinks milk, smiles, and stocks the store shelves during a delightful musical montage set to the tune of a blustery blues ballad entitled “The Warm Side Of The Door.”

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We first get a glimpse of Billy’s inner torment when the sight of a Santa Claus banner makes him cower with disgust. Billy begins slacking off at work and staring into space like a moon goon. He wrestles with the memories of his parent’s violent murders, which he fuses with his own repressed feelings of sexuality. Things go from bad to worse when Mr. Sims forces Billy to dress up as Santa when the original store Santa breaks his leg while ice fishing. The sight of himself in a full Santa Claus outfit is enough to drive the already disturbed young man completely insane!

At first, Billy seems like a natural in the role. No one suspects that Billy’s secret to keeping the kids that sit on his lap quiet is that he whispers threats of punishment into their little ears. Later that night the after hours Christmas party turns deadly when Billy stumbles upon an attempted rape in the stockroom. Billy stops the attempted rapist from jamming his yule log into the girl’s stockings by strangling him with Christmas lights. When the girl fails to show Santa the proper gratitude and calls Billy a crazy bastard instead he proceeds to gut her with a box cutter. Mr. Sims investigates and gets a hammer in his brain for his efforts. That leaves this one haggard old skank (her name escaped me) alone to repeatedly yell“MISTER SIMS?!?” over and over again until Billy shows up to chase her down with an axe and then put her out of her misery with a bow and arrow.

We are then introduced to Denise – a sexy and short lived babysitter played by the one and only Linnea Quigley (Return Of The Living Dead). Denise is nice enough to spend some quality time wandering around in only a pair of cutoff shorts before Billy punishes her for being such a naughty little slut by impaling her on the antlers of a mounted deer head in the living room! Billy then has a brief run in with Denise’s Van Patten-esque and apparently deaf (he was downstairs while the front door was smashed in and his girlfriend was being slaughtered and didn’t hear a thing!) boyfriend before sending him crashing through a window. His next victim is an obnoxious sled stealing bully that gets swiftly beheaded. His freshly decapitated corpse is enough to make his partner in crime to break down into tears and unleash some of the best male screams in all of horror history!

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As Billy’s body count increases, sensitive Sister Margaret and the cops try to track him down. An unfortunate officer shows up at the orphanage looking for Billy and accidentally shoots a deaf old man that was playing Santa for the children. The cop apologizes to Mother Superior for the mistake and warns her that a killer is on the way. He then pads out the final reel of the film by wandering around the grounds before Billy finally slams an axe into his chest. Billy then decapitates a snowman and heads inside the orphanage for a final showdown with Mother Superior. Santa’s Here!

As you can probably tell by my excessively detailed ramblings above, I am a HUGE fan of this eternally controversial 1984 effort from director Charles E. Sellier Jr! I consider SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT to be one of the all time greatest 80’s slasher flicks. Few other horror flicks from that incredible era can come close to matching this one in terms of sheer outrage and controversy. Exceptionally well shot and photographed and thoroughly disturbing from start to finish, it manages to be both polished and sleazy at the same time. And make no mistake, this is easily one of the most infamous horror films of all time.

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When originally released in December 1984, “Silent Night, Deadly Night” was met by numerous protests from angry parents. Critics like Siskel & Ebert also went out of their way to crusade against the film. It didn’t help matters that the distributors fueled the controversy by temporarily running TV spots for the film during Saturday Morning cartoon hours. The end result was some originally brisk box office before the film was quickly pulled from theaters and then shelved until the spring of 1985, when it was briefly rereleased. Despite, or more likely because of the controversy, the low budget films was still a financial success. It then went on to become a staple of the home video horror section. My first introduction to the film as a wee Brain Hammer was my father renting the unrated VHS release of the film. I was hooked from my first viewing and have been a huge fan of this flick ever since.

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That unrated VHS release proved to be a big seller, and a series of increasingly ridiculous and unrelated sequels quickly followed. The first sequel –SILENT NIGHT, DEADY NIGHT PART 2 (1987) was a complete cash-in project. The producers simply wanted a recut version of the original film to rerelease into theaters. The writers and director created the brand new wraparound footage featuring Billy’s younger brother Ricky continuing the family tradition of Christmas carnage, and pressed for a little more time and money to create a complete, stand alone sequel. The end result is about 40 minutes worth of recycled footage from “Silent Night, Deadly Night” and another 40 minutes of garbage. SND2 can be neatly summed up in two words: GARBAGE DAY! And as much as it sucks, it still somehow manages to be the best of the three SNDN sequels. It was also the last SNDN film to get a limited theatrical release. The other two SNDN flicks went straight to video, where they eventually found a cult following. I think the sequels are entertaining trash, but they don’t hold a candle to the original.

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Over the years I have watched “Silent Night, Deadly Night” more times than I could possibly count. I have the film’s dialogue committed to memory from repeat viewings. Watching it again all these years later, it still stands up to the test of time. As just a straight up 80’s slasher flick, I would have to rank this one as one of the most lurid and graphically violent. The unrated version of the film contains some absolutely savage throat slitting, stomach slashing, sledding decapitation, and of course – the notorious deer antler impalement. That scene alone earns SNDN a permanent spot in the 80’s horror hall of fame. The deranged Santa Claus killer, running around with an axe and yelling “PUNISH!” has become as legendary and iconic as any other other slasher killers of the era.

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And for my money, “Silent Night, Deadly Night” is the second greatest holiday horror flick of all time, ranking just after Bob Clark’s immortal “Black Christmas” in terms of quality and overall impact. SNDN is one of the rare Christmas horror flicks that really has a Christmas-time feeling. The snow, the Xmas lights, the cool toys in the store, the holiday music, it all combines to make movie magic. This one always puts me in the proper spirit, and I routinely watch this one every year around the holidays. It’s just not Christmas until I hear “The Warm Side Of The Door.”

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SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT has an enduring legacy as one of the all time great holiday horror flicks, and the film and it’s sequels have remained available on the home video market over the years in a variety of different releases, usually just in time to cash in for the holidays. As of December 2017, the definitive release of the original film is the collector’s edition Blu-Ray from Shout! Factory. This new high definition release features 4K scans of the film’s R rated theatrical print and an extended unrated version with standard def inserts. Both versions are far superior looking to anything that’s been released so far. As if that wasn’t enough, the package comes stuffed with exclusive bonus features, including the “Slay Bells Ring: The Story Of Silent Night, Deadly Night” retrospective. There’s also freshly recorded commentary tracks, and a new “Oh Deer!” interview with Linnea Quigley. I can’t recommend this highly enough. Don’t be NAUGHTY, buy this one immediately or be PUNISHED!

HO! HO! HO! KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

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