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DVD Review

DVD cover

Silent Night, Deadly Night


Starring (voice): Lilyan Chauvin, Gilmer McCormick, Toni Nero and Robert Brian Wilson
Arrow Video
RRP: £15.99
Certificate: 18
Available 23 November 2009

A day in the young life of Billy Chapman has traumatised him forever. When visiting his granddad in a psychiatric hospital, his unhinged relative asks if he has been good all year, because if he hasn't Santa Claus will come and punish him. The experience severely frightens him. The situation is exacerbated when, on the journey home, their family car is held-up by a killer dressed as Santa Claus. Convinced he is going to be punished, Billy flees to a hiding place at the side of the road, where he witnesses the fatal shooting of his father and the rape and killing of his mother. Brought up in an orphanage by a strict Mother Superior, where he learns that copulation is a wicked, wicked act, Billy retains a distinct fear of Christmas and the arrival of the man in the red suit. Years later, aged 18, he secures work at a toy store. All goes well until the store Santa sustains an injury and the manager asks Billy to don the outfit and step in. Suppressed memories come flooding back, and when another employee forces himself on a young woman he likes, it sets Billy off on a killing spree. Have you been good...?

On the back of the commercial success of certain 1980s slasher movies such as Friday 13th, Tri-Star wanted to tap into the market. Director Charles Sellier was given the task of adapting the book Slay Ride for film. He certainly made an impact with the $750,000 budget. Upon its release in 1984, although successfully garnering around-the-block queues, Silent Night Deadly Night gained a certain notoriety with its depiction of Father Christmas. Tri-Star pulled the movie for corporate reasons, contrary to the backlash of do-gooders (it is an adult film, after all!) complaining of the violent manipulation of the benign name of Santa Claus. Nevertheless, the film spawned three (pretty bad) sequels.

Admittedly, there are a couple of cringe-worthy moments, but on the whole the story is enjoyable. The young Billy is convincingly wide-eyed and anxious, and the pre-computer age effects work pretty well, particularly when a scantily clad young woman is lifted on to the horns of an antelope head mounted on the wall. The structure pretty closely follows the format of John Carpenter's Halloween, with the psychiatric hospital and the killer seen as boy and adult, as well as a person following his case study through the years. However, it still manages to be its own film.

The most inspired scene is when a little girl wanders out of her bedroom and spots Billy in the Santa Claus outfit. He asks the little girl if she has been good all year. When she replies "Yes," he takes the knife he was going to 'punish' her with and instead offers it to her as a gift.


Ty Power

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