As a fan of slasher films, I don't know why I waited so long to see this wonderful, demented piece of slasher film history. I was also curious to see this film because of all the controversy that surrounds it even 30 years after its release, as parents and many other people denounced for not only being a Christmas-themed slasher flick, but one in which the killer was dressed as Santa Claus. Plus, having it be an 80's slasher film just sweetened the deal because I love all the glorious cheese that comes with many films of that era.
In 1971, Billy Chapman and his younger brother, became orphans after a deranged killer dressed as Santa Claus murdered their parents on a drive home on Christmas eve, which Billy had the misfortune of witnessing. It was especially traumatizing to Billy because it came just after his nutcase grandfather told him that Santa Claus punishes naughty people.
After this incident, the two boys are put into an orphanage where Billy still has recurring problems whenever Christmas comes around and is savagely punished by Mother Superior whenever he acts up during these times for several years.
At age 18, Billy gets a job working at a toy store, which goes great for awhile until Christmas comes around and his traumatic memories begin to resurface as they always do. This time, however, things become horrible when Billy is forced to dress up as Santa for the toy store, which causes him to snap when he witnesses one of his co-workers trying to rape a female co-worker, triggering memories of the killer raping his mother. From this point, Billy snaps and goes on a killing spree to punish those he deems naughty.
The plot is very over the top in a way that you would expect from an 80's slasher flick, and it also gleefully revels in its premise that it knows will piss off uptight people. For a gorehound, slasher, and B-movie fanatic, this premise is a dream come true in the best possible stupid ways. I appreciate the fact that the script created a psychology for Billy as to why he became what he did, but the script also has a habit of giving hilariously awful dialogue ("PUNISH!") and putting him into the usual slasher flick scenarios like killing off a couple having sex, chopping off a bully's head as he sleds down a hill, along with the usual tropes. Let's just say it's not up to par with the slasher film masterpiece, Black Christmas (1974 original). The script has a lot of interesting ideas, though, and there are moments of genuine intrigue that could have been made better.
The acting, as expected for not a slasher but an 80's slasher film, is pretty campy. The actors try their hardest to be super-serious, but the script simply won't let them do a particularly good job. But, they're certainly not boring, even the characters who are inevitably going to get killed off because they fall into the pigeonholes of their characters (Like the couple that gets killed after sex is interrupted. Remember the lessons slasher flicks taught us: pre-marital sex is bad because you're going to die a horrible death should you engage in it!). They made every wacky, blood-soaked scene a lot of fun to watch.
In terms of horror, there isn't much to be found. This will only be enjoyed by gorehounds and those who enjoy their slasher flicks extra trashy. There's plenty of bloody violence, shameless sexual content and nudity, a ridiculous premise, holiday cheer, and hilariously bad drama at certain points.
Silent Night, Deadly Night will never be up to par with the greats of slasher films like Black Christmas or Halloween, but it sure does provide a lot of entertainment for those who enjoy trashy, blood-soaked slasher flicks. It's a film that revels gleefully in its offensive premise and it doesn't care who it offends. I love it and I feel that I will many fun years with this one, along with anyone who enjoys these kinds of films.