Silent Night, Deadly Night is a controversial 1984 horror movie distributed by TriStar Pictures. It stars Lilyan Chauvin as Mother Superior, Gilmer McCormick as Sister Margaret, Toni Nero as Pamela, Robert Brian Wilson as Billy Chapman (age 18), and Britt Leach as Mr. Sims. The writers are Paul Caimi (Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2) and Michael Hickey (Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2). The director is Charles E. Sellier Jr. (The Annihilators).
The film opens with the Chapman family heading to the mental hospital to see their catatonic grandfather. As his parents and younger brother go off to view records with the doctor, five-year-old Billy Chapman is left alone with Grandpa. He comes out of his catatonic state and tells little Billy about how Santa doesn’t just give presents to the good children, but also punishes the bad. The little boy gets scared and doesn’t want Santa to come. On the way home, a man wearing a Santa suit flags down the Chapman’s car. Thinking he is having car trouble, the family stops for him. He then pulls a gun on them. His father tries to pull away but the man shoots him in the head. The killer Santa next grabs Billy’s mom out of the car as Billy sneaks out and hides in the nearby woods, all the while his brother Ricky is crying his eyes out. The creep attempts to rape Billy’s mom but she slaps him. He slaps back and slits her throat, all while the boy watches from the woods. Three years later, Ricky and Billy are in an orphanage where a ruthless Mother Superior rules with an iron fist. She orders Billy to his room after he draws a graphic Christmas picture. Some time later, Sister Margaret invites him to come out and play. But as he walks down the hall, he peeks in on a couple having sex. Mother Superior sees it as well and shoves the little boy out of the way as she forces the door open. She then proceeds to beat the couple with a belt. Afterward, she goes after Billy with the belt for leaving his room. Later that night, the boy has nightmares and runs out of his room and into Mother Superior who ties him to his bed. She later forces him to sit on Santa’s lap. He punches out the Santa and goes to his room to hide. Ten years later, Billy is now 18 and Sister Margaret gets him a job at a local toy store. Things are going quite well until Christmastime. As fate would have it, the regular Santa injures himself and only Billy is left to fill in. After the store closes for the evening, the young man and his coworkers celebrate. Billy follows his crush Pamela and coworker Andy to the backroom where Andy attempts to rape her. The “new Santa” now realizes who he is and, therefore, has the power to punish naughty people. He kills Andy and, after Pamela tells him to leave, also kills her. After taking out the remaining staff of the store, Billy goes around town killing anyone who is being naughty.
When this film first came out, it generated an unusual amount of controversy. In fact, there was so much outrage from families that the film’s TV ads had to be pulled just days after the release. Soon after that, the film itself was pulled. Siskel and Ebert, the well-known movie critics of the time, condemned everyone who worked in the film. “Blood money” was what they called the profits being made off this film. But, in my opinion, who are they to judge? Yeah, it’s a slasher film set during Christmastime which is a very passionate and peaceful holiday for many people. But, it’s only a film. People have to realize that everything in the story was pure fiction and no malice was intended towards the holiday by the filmmakers, at least none that I could detect. They do make a valid point that this film is clearly not for children to watch.
One of the most unlikeable characters in Silent Night, Deadly Night is obviously Mother Superior. Her “dictatorship”-style of running the orphanage is not what a traumatized boy, who just saw his parents murdered, needs. She sees herself as morally perfect and everyone else as completely imperfect. Mother Superior tolerates no disagreement from the children or the other nuns, especially Sister Margaret. She sees the world as black-and-white with no gray. Either something is right or it is sinful and must be severely punished. To her, there is no in-between.
To wrap, if you’re looking for a slasher film set around Christmastime with some pretty strong violence, then Silent Night, Deadly Night would be right for you!