Today’s feature is perhaps the most infamous Christmas-themed horror movie: Silent Night, Deadly Night.
Silent Night, Deadly Night was written by Paul Caimi and Michael Hickey, neither of whom have any other listed writing credits on IMDb, outside of character credits on the sequel, Silent Night, Deadly Night 2.
The director on Silent Night, Deadly Night was Charles E. Sellier Jr., who has spent the vast majority of his career producing documentaries like Apocalypse And The End Times, The Search For Heaven, Evidence of Heaven, The Incredible Discovery of Noah’s Ark, and The Case For Christ’s Resurrection.
The cinematographer on Silent Night, Deadly Night was Henning Schellerup, who was a camera operator on movies like Maniac Cop, Suburban Commando, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Death Race 2000, and The Incredible Melting Man.
The editor for the film was Michael Spence, whose other credits included The Dread and One Dark Night.
The effects work on Silent Night, Deadly Night was done by a team that included Karl Wesson (Van Helsing, Blow), Richard N. McGuire (Re-Animator, Critters), Susan Reyes (Halloween 4), Judee Guilmette (Hider In The House), Rick Josephsen (Cujo, Fright Night Part 2), and G. Lynn Maughan (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, Cujo).
The cast of Silent Night, Deadly Night includes Linnea Quigley (Return of the Living Dead, Fatal Games, Night of the Demons, Pumpkinhead II), Lilyan Chauvin (Predator 2, Catch Me If You Can), Charles Dierkop (Police Woman), Gilmer McCormick (Slaughterhouse-Five), and Britt Leach (Weird Science).
The plot of Silent Night, Deadly Night is summarized on IMDb as follows:
After his parents are murdered, a young tormented teenager goes on a murderous rampage dressed as Santa, due to his stay at an orphanage where he was abused by the Mother Superior.
Silent Night, Deadly Night spawned an entire franchise of films, which encompassed four sequels (Silent Night, Deadly Night 2, Silent Night Deadly Night III: Better Watch Out!, Initiation: Silent Night, Deadly Night 4, and Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker) and a 2012 remake called Silent Night.
Extreme controversy surrounded the release of Silent Night, Deadly Night, specifically because of the film’s advertising campaign, which emphasized the killer being Santa Claus. The violent portrayal of the beloved character sparked boycotts and protests across the United States, leading to the suspension of the advertising campaign, and eventually the withdrawal of the movie from theaters just two weeks after its release.
Adding to the litany of issues with the film’s release, Silent Night Deadly Night also shared an opening weekend as Wes Craven’s A Nightmare On Elm Street, one of the most influential modern horror films.
Reportedly, a number of the more violent scenes in the movie were ghost directed by the film’s editor, Michael Spence, because director Charles E. Sellier Jr. wasn’t comfortable shooting the graphic sequences.
Silent Night, Deadly Night was initially created under the production title of Slayride, which is a pun which would be used years later in the comedy-horror film Santa’s Slay.
A number of other directors were reportedly considered to helm Silent Night, Deadly Night, including Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead, The Evil Dead II, Drag Me To Hell, Army of Darkness, A Simple Plan, The Quick And The Dead, Darkman), Albert Magnoli (Purple Rain, Tango & Cash), and Ken Kwapis (The Larry Sanders Show, Malcolm In The Middle, The Bernie Mac Show, The Office).
Silent Night, Deadly Night bears some striking similarities to a number of previous horror movies that also featured killers dressed as Santa Claus, most notably Christmas Evil from 1980 and the Tales From The Crypt anthology film from 1972. However, neither of those films met with the same extreme backlash faced by Silent Night, Deadly Night.
In 2013, the horror publication Fangoria sponsored a re-release of Silent Night, Deadly Night in select theaters for the holiday season.
Silent Night, Deadly Night was made on a production budget of just over $1 million, and grossed roughly $2.5 million in its brief theatrical run before being pulled. At least partially fueled by the boycotts and protests, critics were particularly cold in their receptions of the movie: Siskel and Ebert went so far as to publicly shame the production companies and the crew for their involvement with the movie. However, in part due to that response, Silent Night, Deadly Night is now cemented as a cult horror movie, and is a seasonal staple for many horror fans.
Personally, when it comes to Christmas-themed Santa Claus slasher movies, I’m a bigger fan of Christmas Evil than I am of Silent Night, Deadly Night. However, there are definitely some enjoyable aspects to Silent Night, Deadly Night, and the swirl of controversy that surrounded it essentially immortalized it for horror fans, and has made it essential viewing as a result. Beneath that, however, Silent Night, Deadly Night is just a pretty generic slasher that only has the Santa Claus gimmick to set it apart, and, as mentioned earlier, that was a path that had already been tread. The flick has its place in movie history due to the protests and boycotts, which is the best reason to hunt it down and give it a watch each holiday season for horror fans. The fact that is has a fun, campy sensibility is lagniappe.