31 Days of Horror: Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

silent night deadly night

Halloween (1978) was such a huge success that it essentially ignited the 1980s slasher craze and spawned a whole slew of holiday-themed knock-offs. Naturally, it didn’t take too long for someone to make a Christmas-themed slasher. Although, if you want to get technical, Black Christmas (1974) was the first Christmas-themed slasher and it came out four years before Halloween hit theaters (though it is now considered a classic of the genre, Black Christmas was a bit of a dud at the box-office which is why Halloween gets all the accolades for kicking off the slasher crazy).

While I am clearly still a horror fan, I am less and less interested in the gore aspects of the genre. As a younger lad, I used to seek out the most controversial, the most gore-soaked films I could find. Fans of horror often talk about the kills in the films. We look for how many people are violently murdered and hope for interesting ways in which they reach their demise. There is a whole psychological essay one could write about why we like this stuff (from the thrill of being scared to the technical aspects of filming the stunts and practical aspects of created gore) but I’ll leave that to someone else.

As I get older I find the violence less interesting, but still enjoy the thrill of being scared, the filmmaking techniques, and the more suspenseful aspects of the genre. A good horror film can create a mood, an eeriness that I still find quite wonderful.

Silent Night, Deadly Night is a nasty piece of work. The plot begins with a young boy who watches his father and mother get murdered by a man in a Santa suit. He’s sent to a strict Catholic orphanage where the sadistic Mother Superior beats him for the simplest of errors. When he’s all grown up he’s sent into a long killing spree over one Christmas holiday.

While there is plenty of violence, it isn’t that much more than I’ve seen in a million other slashers. It is a very low budget film and that actually gives it a bit of charm. But I think what made me rather hate this film is that there are no heroes. There was no one to root for. Now I have no problem with anti-heroes, and I don’t think every film needs to have a full-fledged hero or a white knight. I am completely down with ambiguous morality in a film.

But with a film like this, where we follow a boy as he gets traumatized as a boy and then turns into a crazed killer but we never really get to know him, or anybody else. Anti-heroes like Tony Soprano or Walter White, both are terrible humans, but they are also incredibly charismatic. We get to know them throughout their respective television series. They aren’t people we’d root for in real life, but within the context of the series, we are interested in the plights.

The main character in this film is just generic. We never spend enough time with him to really care about what is happening to him psychologically. And so when he starts to kill it is just nameless slaughter.

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