Looking for that extra special gift that keeps on giving? Look no further than Silent Night, Deadly Night. For one thing, it spawned 4, count ’em 4 sequels. But put that checkbook away–there’s more! If you act right now, we’ll throw in a 2012 remake! That’s right, six holiday themed horror movies! Cancel at any time, but keep the free Santa hat as our gift.
Silent Night, Deadly Night is some quintessential slashy, gratuitously bare-breasted 80s bloodletting. 1971, and a thief in a Santa suit kills a store clerk. Cut to 5-year-old Billy and his family returning from visiting Grandpa in a nursing home.
They happen upon the evil Santa who has pulled over like he’s having car trouble, and Billy’s dad stops to help. The thief shoots both parents, but Billy and his infant brother, Ricky, are spared.
Three years later, Billy and Ricky are being raised in an orphanage. Billy draws a graphic holiday picture in class and gets sent to Mother Superior. Apparently he has a pattern of acting out severely every christmas then calming down when the holiday passes. Sister Margaret suggests he needs some kind of help, but Mother Superior is not having it. Jump ahead to 1984, and Sister Margaret, gets Billy, now 18, a job at a toy store.
As christmas rolls around, Billy gets increasingly uncomfortable (nobody saw this coming?) but manages to contain himself. The breaking point comes when he is badgered into playing Santa on christmas eve. Even then, he manages to maintain control. At closing time, everyone stays for a small party. Now it all goes sideways, starting with Andy and Pamela making out in the storeroom. When Billy comes in to find Andy attempting to rape Pamela, Billy strangles him with a string of christmas lights.
And so it begins.
You’d think at this point I’d have something to say about the demonizing of mental illness again, and sure there’s a degree to which that does happen. But in this case, you feel kinda bad for Billy. This is clearly a PTSD issue that he never gets help for. Quite the opposite–he’s brought up in a strict catholic orphanage headed by an abusive, authoritarian nun with zero interest in therapy or sparing the rod. She fairly well drills into Billy’s psyche that the “naughty” get punished, the good rewarded, and that “Punishment is good.”
Okay, “catholic” probably summed it all up.
Yeah, I said what I said. I went to catholic school for a while; don’t come at me. In fact, this Mother Superior character reminds me an awful lot of my principal, Sister Marita. My friend Ronny and I once dropped a loaded bookbag down a stairwell cuz of the loud noise we knew it would make. When we ended up in her office, she asked why we did it. I said, “Cuz it was funny.”
Zero sense of humor, that woman.
There is a warped rationale to Billy’s actions. All the victims have been “naughty” in some way or other. Some of these infractions are fairly minor, such as sex (it is, after all, a 1984 movie), bullying, and drinking. But ya gotta hand it to the lad. He is consistent. We see this when he gives a little girl a present (okay, it’s a box cutter, but he gives her something).
And of course, there’s the jaunty little song that pops up several times. Contextually the lyrics are, well, foreboding: “Santa’s watching. Santa’s waiting,” “Christmas won’t be fun and games for naughty girls and boys,” and, “If you do your best this year…too late now ’cause Santa’s here.” Dark, yeah?
I saved the best one for last: “Santa’s watching. Santa’s creeping.”
Creeping? Yeah. Creeping. Geez.
13 onscreen including one defenestration
(a great word–using it cuz I can)
1 unaccounted for bully