During Christmas Eve of 1971, 5-year old Billy Chapman, his parents and his infant brother Ricky, are on their way to visit Billy’s institutionalized grandfather. At the institution, Billy’s parents review the catatonic grandfather’s records with the doctor, leaving Billy and the old man alone. With the adults gone, Grandpa suddenly becomes lucid and giddily tells Billy the terrible, secret truth about Santa, he not only gives presents to good boys and girls, he punishes the naughty ones.
Heading home, Billy and his family come upon the man dressed as Santa (his car apparently broken down on the dark, deserted road). Against Billy’s terrified objections, his father pulls up beside the stranded man, who pulls out his pistol and shoots Billy’s father. Billy runs into a field, hides and watches as the criminal drags Billy’s mother from the car and slits her throat with a switchblade, killing her.
Christmas Eve of 1974, Billy and Ricky live at St. Mary’s Orphanage. Billy (now age 8) is sent to his room for drawing a picture of a bloody Santa Claus and a decapitated reindeer. Later Billy spies on two teens having sex, as Mother Superior catches and punishes them, she then explains to Billy that punishment is neccessary, then punishing Billy for having left his room.
Ten years later, 18-year old Billy is hired as a stockboy at a Toy Store. Things go normally until the Christmas decorations begin to appear, including images of Santa Claus. Billy has a crush on co-worker Pamela, and dreams of making love to her, but disturbingly ends with Billy being punished by a switchblade. At the store, an increasingly shaky Billy is forced to play the store’s Santa Claus; he tells misbehaved children that he will punish them, terrifying them.
After the staff’s Christmas Eve party, Billy finds Pamela being raped by his fellow co-worker, Andy, while she refuses. Drunk and upset while angrily losing his temper, Billy has flashbacks to the night his parents were killed. Soon, he becomes psychotic, thinking that he can punish the naughty and resolves to “punish” his co-worker.
Billy then cuts his way across the city, slaughtering teens he catches in te middle of immortal or naughy acts, though he does “reward” good children as he stains the festive season with the blood of the wicked.
A child then lets Billy into the orphanage, while believing him to be Santa. Billy approaches the now-wheelchair bound Mother Superior raises his axe to kill Mother Superior, she closes her eyes awaiting her death. Before he can strike, the Police come in and shoots Billy twice in the back, making him collapse. Before he dies, he weakly turns his head to the horrified children and weakly says, “You’re safe now. Santa Claus is gone.”
(Paraphrashed from Wikipedia)
Now this film is a grand example of why I loved the 70’s and 80’s, anyone with a camera and an idea could make a low budget horror film, in this instance we have a serial killer Santa who went on to spawn some sort of franchise (I’ll cover this later).
A child who is traumatised further with every festive season ends up snapping and going on a rampage.
Silent Night, Deadly Night is not a smart film, it’s not a film that requires thought or care and attention, it’s a film in which a teenager goes on a rampage.
It is however, the perfect cure for the sickly sweet festive films that get pumped out on television through out December, that’s not to say I don’t love various Christmas films, but sometimes it’s nice to mix things up a little bit and a little bit of slaughter could be fun.
Silent Night, Deadly Night spawned a sequel made three years later, and in that very 80’s tradition, the sequel has an almost identical plot to the original and consists of at least a third of the film being made up from footage from the original film.
Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 takes things a little different however, with Ricky (Billy’s brother from the original film) retelling the content of the original film as a flashback, building up to his own descent into becomming the killer Santa.
Two years after that we have Silent Night, Deadly Night: Better Watch Out, in which things get a little crazy, set six years after the events of Part 2, Better Watch Out has Ricky left comatose at the end of the previous film, locked in a hospital ward in which a crazy scientist decides to use a blind girl with telepathic powers to communiate with Ricky, of course things go wrong and Ricky wakes up deciding to hunt the blind girl thanks to a psychic connection they share due to the experiments.
Then we have Silent Night, Deadly Night: Initiation, in which Clint Howard plays a creepy fellow named Ricky, however instead of a slaughter fuelled Santa, we have a coven of witches forciby recruitting a news reporter into their fold.
Apart from a scene of Better Watch Out being shown on TV and the character name of Ricky, Initiation isn’t really connected to the previous films in any way, other than being set around Christmas of course, but it’s worth watching just for Clint Howard.
Finally, taking the tradition of not being connected to the previous films, the fifth film in the series (Silent Night, Deadly Night: The Toymaker) is a twisted little tale of killer toys, of murder and suspense and a robotic maniac who wants a mother of his own.
If you thought Initiation was out there, The Toymaker will take things just that little bit further.
To me, Silent Night, Deadly Night takes the best traditions of 80’s horror films, here we have a passable film that manages to shock and horrify us, which quickly gets sequel after sequel that become more and more disconnected as time goes on.
The same laws apply to Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elmstreet and even Hellraiser, by the third film it’s pretty obvious that random scripts are getting tweaked to fit into the Silent Night, Deadly Night franchise, riding the outrage and popularity of the first film.
If you’ve only got time for a single Santa slaying his way through your night, definitely give the first film a view, but if you have the time for it this Christmas I suggest you grab some egg nog, watch your way through the entire set and see for yourself just how bad it can get out there.
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If my charming description of the films have you as eager to buy the set as a kid opening a christmas stocking, just be aware that only the first item is a PAL DVD, the second two are NTSC American imports.