[...Day 4 of the 12 Days of Christmas review project...]
Director: Charles E. Sellier Jr.
Writer: Michael Hickey
Story: Paul Caimi
Starring: Robert Brian Wilson, Nancy Borgenicht, H.E.D. Redford, Gilmer McCormick, Lilyan Chauvin
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 85 min
Year of Release: 1984
On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… a Calvin Klein model in a Santa suit with an ax and a crazed notion that he must punish everyone. I wasn’t expecting much with Silent Night, Deadly Night and it’s a good thing I wasn’t. Maybe the low expectations helped contribute to me actually enjoying the hell out of this thing by the end.
The story is as follows: little Billy and his baby brother watch their parents get brutally murdered one evening by a guy dressed as Santa Claus in an attempt to hijack their vehicle. A few years later, living in the orphanage, he’s traumatized each year around Christmas time when Santa shows up to talk to all the boys and girls. Skip even a few more years ahead and he’s given a job at a local toy store. When the scheduled Santa calls in sick, little Billy (now not so little anymore) is called on to take over the duty. This is the final straw that causes Billy to snap and he goes on a murdering rampage in all sorts of unique and gruesome ways.
The movie starts off well enough with a good triple homicide and an attempted rape. Then for almost 45 minutes we have to suffer through crap acting and basically just watching Billy grow up. It’s actually pretty boring and fairly benign. I had a mental image of the horrible review I was going to give this thing. Even when Billy does finally start his rampage, it’s not very bloody or even interesting. In fact, it’s almost goofy as Billy looks more like the nice kid next door than a savage killer. What is the opposite of menacing? Billy.
The kills near the beginning of Billy’s rampage don’t hold a lot of interest either. The kills themselves are rather lame, but the images of the corpses after they are already dead are somewhat chilling. The way that bodies are positioned in and filmed is actually pretty well done. Still, this Christmas I want to see screams and dismemberment, not a guy getting shot with an arrow and then glimpses of the aftermath. I needn’t have worried.
For the last half hour or so, the movie really takes off. Despite Billy’s being the most unthreatening slasher villain I’ve ever seen (or heard – he constantly is mumbling “Punish… PUNISH!), he is able to find really kick ass ways of offing his victims. I don’t want to ruin things for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie, but just fast forward to the point in which Billy dons the Santa outfit. You’ll see some spectacular kill shots that involve sleds, antlers and sheets of glass.
I think the most brilliant thing I’ve ever seen in a horror film though, is when Santa is completely blown away right in front of about 30 little kids… TWICE! The look on their faces is absolutely priceless and one thing that actually made this movie worth the price of a rental.
Yeah it’s trash, yeah it’s horribly, horribly acted and yeah 2/3 of the movie is boring as hell, but the final 30 minutes or so are more than worth it. I had a blast watching this and even laughed out loud at a couple of amazing moments and it deliberately leaves the door wide open for a sequel. No it ain’t top notch cinema, but for what I was expecting, this thing is a load of fun and what Gene Siskel calls, “sick, sleazy and mean spirited.” Oh my.
Gene Siskel & Roger Ebert’s review