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For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Dec. 20, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: Filmed right in our own backyard and now notorious, this holiday slasher yarn was quite controversial upon its initial release, especially here in Utah. But the film somehow managed to spawn a cottage industry with four straight-to-video sequels and a 2012 remake. And The Shout! Factory rewarded it with a Blu-ray upgrade a couple of years ago. My review was published in the Deseret News on Sept. 21, 1985.

“Oh, you better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why … Santa Claus is dead!”

Remember that sick joke from grade school?

I have an even sicker one. Santa Claus is a killer.

That’s the storyline of you-know-what. That’s right, “Silent Night, Deadly Night.”

Actually, the Utah-made slasher film is about a killer who happens to wear a Santa suit, which is really not much different than all those other holiday horror pictures — “Halloween,” “Friday the 13th,” “New Year’s Evil,” “Happy Birthday to Me,” “My Bloody Valentine,” etc. (About the only one left is Arbor Day.)

And in fact, “Silent Night, Deadly Night” is not the first slasher film to use Christmas as a theme or a man in a Santa Claus suit as a killer. “To All a Good Night” had a Santa-clad killer in a girls dorm, “Black Christmas” was also set in a girls dorm on Christmas Eve, and “They’re Playing with Fire” had just one of its many killings done by a man in a Santa suit.

That’s not the only unoriginal aspect of “Silent Night, Deadly Night,” however. It follows the typical slasher motif right down the line.

A young boy (named Billy, of course) sees his parents killed by a man in a Santa suit and is traumatized. He goes to an orphanage and gets weird every year around Christmas time (the crazy nun who runs the orphanage doesn’t help as she tortures the child and forces him to sit on Santa’s lap).


Robert Brian Wilson, Nancy Borgenicht, 'Silent Night, Deadly Night' (1985)

Eventually he grows up and starts working in a toy store, and he’s such a true-blue boy scout type he refuses the stronger stuff and drinks milk, then upbraids a co-worker for swearing.

Then, when Santa is needed, guess who is assigned to wear the false beard and red fat-suit? That’s right, good old Billy boy. Eventually he cracks and goes on a rampage, killing everyone in sight.

And, as is required by slasher films, each killing is done in some unique fashion — a man is strangled with Christmas tree lights and another with a phone cord, another is shot with an arrow, a boy on a bobsled has his head chopped off with an ax, and so it goes.

Billy even chops off the head of a snowman! Now that’s one mean slasher. (The only thing missing was someone being impaled on a candy cane.)

One of the few surprises here is the amount of sex and nudity shown on the screen. Most slasher movies have some but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen this much in a horror movie.

Of local interest is the amount of Utah talent (with their clothes on) that gets knocked off here — Nancy Borgenicht as a worker in the toy store (she gets the arrow), Jeff Hansen as young Billy’s father (shot with a pistol), Max Robinson as a deputy sheriff (axed in the stomach), etc. (H.E.D. Redford gets to dispatch Billy in the end — he’s the sheriff here.)


Jayne Luke gets off lucky as a mother with one line … but what a line. Billy as Santa is terrorizing her daughter on his lap and mom says, “He sure knows how to handle kids!”

The photography is bland, the direction (by former family filmmaker Charles E. Sellier Jr.) is static and unimaginative, the acting is zombie-like and the songs are outrageously bad (one lyric says “It’s always Christmas on the warm side of the door,” whatever that means).

Occasionally it is so inept as to be unintentionally humorous (as when the wrong Santa is killed and we are told “It’s Father O’Brien,” who happened to be deaf and couldn’t hear the deputy shouting at him), but mostly it’s just sickening exploitation. “Silent Night, Deadly Night” really goes out of its way to earn its R rating.

And if that’s not sensational enough, the ads make up for it: “The movie that went too far!” “They tried to ban it!” “They didn’t want you to see it!” “Now you can see it uncut … in all its terrifying horror.”

Not one of Utah’s finer hours. In fact, it’s enough to make me look forward to television — and I mean the commercials. At least the local talent won’t be covered with blood there.