It was on the shelf of every video store I ever worked at. The 1984 slasher flick titled Silent Night, Deadly Night had always been waiting. Much like the doomed fate of Billy (Robert Brian Wilson), it was something I could not escape. I knew that one day I would have to watch this film.
Silent Night, Deadly Night starts off with a serene setting of a Christmas Eve drive to see Grandpa (Will Hare). Grandpa is catatonic and in a special home, so what better cheer than a visit from his family? After the nurse calls little Billy’s parents away for a private conversation, Grandpa snaps out of it and warns Billy that if he’s been naughty, Santa will punish him. That’s what he does to the naughty children. He punishes them.
These words linger with Billy and, in all practicality, scare the hell out of him. Billy becomes so frightened that when his Dad (Geoff Hansen) is driving back and sees a stranded man dressed as Santa, Billy wishes to continue on. Thinking that “Santa” needs help, Billy’s Dad pulls over. The next few horrific moments shape Billy’s future in more ways than one.
Billy and his little brother end up in an orphanage where a certain Mother Superior (Lilyan Chauvin) rules with an iron fist. The orphanage is not a dark or horrible place. Billy’s horrific past is just brushed aside and never dealt with. So, when Santa shows up at Christmas, Billy rebels and gets himself into more trouble. The word “naughty” is used a lot adding to Billy’s issues. Years pass and we see Billy age to an 18 year old. In this incredibly predictable plot, Billy gets a job working at the local toy store over the holidays and ends up filling in for the store’s Santa. At the holiday Christmas party, the girl Billy is sweet on ends up in the back room with a jerk of co-worker. Dressed as Santa, Billy goes too far in saving her and thus becomes the thing he feared his whole life, Santa.
I found the lengths which writers Michael Hickey and Paul Caimi went to establish Billy’s descent into madness refreshing. Imagine getting a whole back story to Michael Meyers before he grabbed the clown mask and killed his family. What makes Silent Night, Deadly Night fail so miserably is the post-transformation of Billy. His whole mantra is to punish those that are naughty. Sure, we (the audience) see who is naughty, but Billy doesn’t. Fornicating teenagers always deserved to get punished, but how did Billy know they were (cough) doing it? The entire film comes unhinged for most of the third act and so, by its conclusion, we really don’t care about Billy or anyone else.
Several other characters are introduced way too late in the story to really make a difference. The establishment of the mad man “Billy Santa” was done almost masterfully for this type of low budget eighties film. It’s just that once the genie is out of the bottle, the rules and reasoning evaporate, too.
For the fans of the film (as there always are for these types of pictures) Anchor Bay Entertainment has included Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 with the original film. I did possess the morbid curiosity to take another descent into holiday madness, so that does say something about the first film. Low and behold, that’s exactly what I got. The first film... all over again.
Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (1987) opens with Billy’s brother, Ricky (Eric Freeman) in a holding cell being interviewed by a psychologist. The film then breaks into a flashback (by that, I mean the actual footage from Part 1) of Ricky telling Billy’s story all over again. It’s strange at first and then annoying as Ricky knows every personal detail about Billy’s life. Our suspension of disbelief turns into a horror of knowing that someone tried to pass this off as an original film.
In total, there are about 40 minutes of original footage in Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 out of the 88 minutes. If only there was a grade lower than F, Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 would deserve it.