Thursday, 17 December 2015
Christmassacre Three – Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
Silent Night, Deadly Night was perhaps the most controversial slasher film in 80's America, it never did see a cinema or video release here in the UK until 2009 but we had our own share of film controversy with the Video Nasties. The thing about the Video Nasties is a lot of them are bad films and if it was not for the controversy surrounding them they would probably have been forgotten. Is this the same case for Silent Night, Deadly Night? Well I'm glad to say it is not, in fact this might be one of the best slasher film's I've seen.
Unlike most slashers we don't follow the soon to become victims of a mass killer, instead we see the life of the slasher and the events that drive him to kill. One Christmas Eve Billy Chapman (Jonathan Best) get's freaked out by his grandfather (Will Hare) who tells him Santa Clause punishes children who haven't been good one-hundred percent of the year, Billy been a normal kid knows he has been naughts sometimes so starts to dread Santa coming, despite his parents (Tara Buckman and Jeff Hansen) protests that his grandpa was wrong. That same night he witnesses a criminal in a Santa outfit (Charles Dierkop) kill his father and attempt to rape his mother before killing her too, leaving just Billy and his baby brother Richy alive. From here we detail Billy's live as he grown up in a orphanage run by an evil Mother Superior (Lilyan Chauvi), the kind of woman who is so set in her methods of raising and punishing the children she doesn’t even see the damage she is causing to Billy’s mind. Also forcing him to sit on Santa's lap despite knowing what he lived through really helped mess him up, in other words the blood of what he will do latter in life is on this woman’s hands!
Despite all this Billy seems to grow into a nice young man, at least this is how he appears on the outside, getting a job in a toy store he does well until Christmas comes around and he is made to fill in for the stores Santa on Christmas Eve, he finally snaps after seeing the attempted rape of his crush, flashing back to his parents deaths. And so he sets out to punish the naughty.
What I find most interesting about this film is its format, sure I've seen other slasher films that show the killers backstory but this is the first one I know of that actually follows the killers story for most of the film, it isn't until the third act that focus switches to the police hunting Billy. We really get a sense of what he has gone through and most of the film is dedicated to his character development, he really is a sympathetic character, we can't blame him for what he does as we know the trauma he went through and that he never got the help he needed.
The latter half of the film detailing the rampage is great two, it's set up so we'll go to a scene with new characters only for Billy to burst in and kill them, yeah we don't get to see much about these characters except some are bullier and others like to screw on pool tables but it really feels like these a scenes right out of another slasher, like you could have made an alternative film to this where we follow these characters but know nothing about Billy. This is Billy's story so he is the focus so we don't need to know as much about these other characters but if you are a fan of slashers like me you already have an idea what they are like. Though I did feel that having Billy repeat 'Punish!' over and over sounded a little silly, at least to me.
I also have to say some of the kills here are pretty creative, yes we have our standard axe swings to the gut and hammer blows to the head but by far the most iconic of the film is when the lovely Linnea Quigley is impaled on the antlers of a mounted deer head, giving a whole new meaning to horny teenager. Even when a guy is thrown out a window it's a bit more creative when we see massive shards of glass sticking out of him. The blood and gore effects in the film, it must be said, are very good.
Other than Linnea Quigley there are probably few actors you will recognise here, but thats not to say any of the cast were bad, though some of the smaller roles and the kids at the orphanage may not be the best acting, the main cast give good performances throughout, especially Lilyan Chauvin as the Mother Superior who really sells her part, you just want to reach into the screen and deck this woman!
This is one of the slasher classics, though I'm sure I don't need to tell any of you that, if you haven't see this one I highly recommend it. The film also sets it self up nicely for a sequel, how did that go? Well, maybe we'll talk about it another time.