FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Dec 23, 2005

Santa's Sack o' Rage and Pain

Can a horror fan's holiday season be truly complete without the obligatory viewing of the 1984 schlockfest Silent Night, Deadly Night? I say thee, nay! NAY! It's compulsive viewing this time of the year, no matter how many times you've managed to actually sit through it before. Think of it like an audio/video fruitcake- it only comes around in December, no one really wants it, but there it sits on the table, as essential to Christmas as is that manger baby.

Silent Night, Deadly Night
is one of the most controversial horror flicks ever released. The uproar and protests caused the film to be pulled from theatres but a few weeks into its run- in fact, it never made it to the screen at all on the west coast. There's actually very little gore, and there's no more nudity than some bare what's so offensive? Santa Claus 'punishing' naughty boys and girls with his axe, that's what. Not 'boys and girls' as in 'children', however- although that would cause quite a stir, now, wouldn't it? The movie, you see, is "insensitive to the spirit of Christmas", according to a letter written by one of the film's detractors. Included in the 'extras' section on the DVD are such letters and scathing reviews from viewers, critics, and the such. I love the letter from Mickey Rooney- yes! gasp! THE Mickey Rooney- who begins his missive of outrage thusly:

How dare they! I'm all for the first amendment, but...

My favorite letter was the one that asked "What's next? A rampaging turkey for Thanksgiving?". I read that and immediately thought...please, please god...please let someone make that movie. I may just have to do it myself.

I'll admit, Silent Night, Deadly Night is pretty sleazy. I'm not a big Christmas nut, but I can see how Santa getting blown away by the cops (TWO Santas, in fact!) in front of a bunch of kids might be considered tasteless. But it's the kind of tasteless I find pretty amusing, right down to the blackest pit of my cold, cold heart!

The movie begins with a happy little family- mom, dad, baby, young son- driving to visit Grandpa on Christmas Eve. They're not driving to Grandpa's house or some old folks home, however...oh no. Grandpa lives at the UTAH MENTAL FACILITY. Visiting with clinically insane relatives at the holidays can be such a drag, but our plucky family doesn't seem to mind. It seems like a wasted trip, though, because Grandpa is somewhat catatonic. He simply sits in a chair, staring straight ahead, not responding to anyone or anything. Bor-ring! After a few minutes, mom and dad take off with a doctor to go over some files or something, leaving young Billy to have a staring contest with Grandpa. As soon as the parents leave the room, Crazy Ol' Gramps snaps out of it! He begins talking like a one-toothed old miner 49er, telling poor Billy that Christmas is "the scariest time of the year" because Santa Claus punishes all the bad children. Billy's crying hysterically, but Gramps goes on: "You see Santa, boy, run for your life! Cackle cackle crazy cackle!". Then Billy's parents return, and Gramps snaps back into a Slim, sorry- I mean catatonia.

"Dagummit boy, Santa's gunna gitcha!"

Well, it's nighttime now, and after blowing an entire day on the 'visit', our happy family is heading home. Billy has a newfound SantaPhobia- he no longer wants Santa to come visit or come anywhere near him whatsoever. Mom tells Billy that Gramps was just talking crazy old man talk- and Billy warns her that talking smack like that will only lead to punishment from Santa.

And in a way...he's right. You see, elsewhere an enterprising robber has donned a Santa outfit and shot a store clerk dead. On Christmas Eve! The nerve! Had he waited a few days, well, I guess it would still be bad to shoot the clerk...but on Christmas Eve? Now that'sa cold hearted snake! After leaving the store, the robber either fakes car problems or actually has car problems- either way, he flags down the happy family. When they pull over, the original Bad Santa shoots dad right in the forehead! Billy makes a mad dash for some bushes across the street and hides. Bad Santa drags mom out of the car, throws her down, rips her shirt open (exposing mom boobs), and slits her throat. Then, holding the blood-covered knife, Bad Santa tells Billy he's comin' to get him! Not cool at all.

"I SAID...Santa's gonna gitcha!"

Billy stays hidden, and eventually he and his baby brother end up at your sterotypical orphanage, run by the Evil Mother Superior. It's Christmastime again, and for some reason Billy always acts so strange around the holidays- drawing pictures of Santa looking like a bloody pincushion, drawing pictures of chopped-up reindeer...what on earth could be causing such anger and general oddness? Sister Mary Nice (that's what I called her- I have no idea what her name was) has it figured out- it's, you know, witnessing his parents get slaughtered by Santa 3 years earlier that's got his panties in a twist! Who'd-a thunk it? Not Evil Mother Superior, for one- she flat out denies that Billy saw anything, and asserts that he simply needs to straighten up and fly right. Gotta love that Catholic Church and their denials! Surely tying Billy to his bed will get him to cut the shit, right? And when Santa comes to visit the poor little orphaned children, forcing Billy to sit on Santa's lap will be extremely helpful in gettng through to him! Oh, Evil Mother're so very, very wrong in all your mean, stern-faced righteousness. Yes, reader, her little 'face your fears, dammit!" approach (or would that be "sit on your fears"?) fails miserably when Billy punches Santa Claus right in the face, knocking him out of his chair. Billy runs away, but Evil Mother Superior catches him...and then it's time for punishment! Poor little Billy. If only Angelina Jolie had been around to whisk him away from the orphanage, to let him become another stripe in her rainbow of children. Alas, alack...he done got a whuppin' instead.

Actually, no one ends up adopting Billy. We last saw him quivering before the mighty strap of Evil Mother Superior, but now it's 10 years later and Billy is a strapping young lad, ready to strike out on his own. Sister Mary Nice helps him get a job in the stockroom at a toy store, and everything seems to be going so well for Billy at last. There's an excellent music montage, showing Billy hard at work: punching the time clock, opening boxes, helping a little girl reach a toy on a high shelf, putting together a Mr. Potato Head...yes, it's bliss. But then (cue ominous music)'s Christmas time again. When the regular store Santa breaks his ankle, Billy is asked to step in. Reluctantly, he dons the costume and climbs into the chair. He threatens the fussy children with punishment, which actually gets them to shut up. I like that style!

At long last, the day is over and Billy managed to keep it together. He even gets blitzed at the employee Christmas party, just like a normal person. But then, he sees a male co-worker he really dislikes take a female co-worker he really likes (and yes, I mean 'like' like) into the stockroom for some 'Christmas Cheer'. Billy follows them in, and watches as Male Co-Worker refuses to understand that no actually does mean no- and rips open Female Co-Worker's shirt, exposing her boobs! Gah! See, Santa Claus and Christmas get Billy all wound up...but boobs, my friends...boobs are the trigger, the last straw, the lines- nay, the circles in the sand (Omigod, is that what Belinda Carlisle was talking about?!). Billy flips out (we can tell because he's sweaty)- "At fucking last!" I think as I watch- and strings up Male Co-Worker by some blinky Christmas lights. "PUNISH!" Psycho Santa intones as he deals out the pain. Female Co-Worker gets killed with a box cutter, and it's game time. Billy finishes off the rest of the store staff with a claw hammer and a bow & arrow, grabs a fire axe and hits the streets looking for naughty boys and girls.

The first naughty girl he comes across is- of course- Linnea Quigley. She's the slutty babysitter, gettin' it on with her boyfriend on a pool table in the rec room ("Two ball in the corner pocket!" is a sweet sweet nothing). Soon, however, there's coitus interruptus as Linnea goes to let the cat in the front door...and she makes the terrible mistake of putting on shorts but not a shirt. Yes, she answers the door topless, and her boobs are like beacons for the vengeful Santa. At this point in my life, I think I may be more familiar with Linnea Quigley's boobs than I am with my own. Maybe I should take some kind of Pepsi Challenge to find out. Anyway, Linnea and her boobs end up impaled on the antlers of a mounted deer head. Her boyfriend comes upstairs to find her, engages in fisticuffs with Billy, and gets himself defenestrated.

He's not as concerned with the the fact that Linnea Quigley is hanging there as he is with the fact that Cher may be lurking in the background...

Billy moves on and 'punishes' some bullies who steal sleds- and I must say, the shot of the headless bully sledding down a hill (with his head bouncing along behind) might just be worth the ticket price.

Sister Mary Nice has figured out that Billy's on a rampage and has rightly notified the cops. She's also figured out Billy's next move- the 'punishment' of Evil Mother Superior! To the orphanage! You know, methinks I should've called her Sister Mary Columbo.

It turns out that Evil Mother Superior is still a twat....but now she's a wheelchair-bound twat. Despite the warnings, she refuses to put a halt to the planned holiday activities, which, naturally, include a visit from Santa Claus. The cops are now patrolling the orphanage grounds, on the lookout for someone in a Santa suit, and...yep, you got it. There goes Santa, headed for the children! Oopsie! Poor old deaf Father O'Santa is mistaken for Billy and winds up with a few slugs in his back, shot dead in front of the orphans. Finally Evil Mother Superior concedes that there could be danger afoot, and she and the children gather to wait things out. Billy walks right in the front door, yells "PUNISH!", raises his axe high over Evil Mother Superior's head, and...winds up with a few slugs in his back, shot dead in front of all the orphans. Phew! It's over! But what's this? Billy's little brother, still a poor orphan, just saw his brother get swiss-cheese-ified! Oh no! Little Brother turns to Evil Mother Superior and declares her... naughty. Say, I smell Part 2!

You know, if young Billy was more like a young Bruce Wayne, witnessing the brutal murder of his parents might have inspired him to dress up in a crazy costume and punish evildoers...hey, wait! Wow! This movie is just like Batman! Except it's different. Close, though.

Yeah, this movie is pretty bad- but don't you think it sort of had to be made? It was only a matter of time before we got an axe-wielding Santa Claus on the screen. At any rate, the headless sledder scene elevates this flick to a rating of 4-and-a-half out of 10 HOs. If by some chance you want more info, visit Ryan Burgos' The Silent Night, Deadly Night Resource. I'm sure I'll watch this movie again next year...but until then, I'm holding out for a rampaging turkey.


Anonymous said...

You only give it 4 1/2 HO's... True it's not the bloodiest slasher flick, but I give it at least 6 HO's for the psychological problems it gives misguided youths who sneak it out of their parents old VHS stash.

Since you brought it up...I think a psycho Pilgrim would be really cool...Just think of the possibilities for Thanksgiving "dinner"....

Des said...

I too would be terrified of Cher - or even Tina Turner - lurking in the backround.

Jimmy said...

I remember the hoopla over this movie. My mother was pissed at the TV spots they ran for it, and I also remember Siskel and Ebert railing against it on their show. Siskel named the names of everyone involved in the production and said they were earning nothing but "blood money."
I just couldn't stop thinking that I've gotta see this movie!!

warrenzone said...

A good review, for a pretty good movie, but I like Christmas Evil better.

Anonymous said...

OK, Grandpa is a hoot! That's my favorite scene. That face was made to scare the beejeezus outta kids.

I love the nasty spirit of this movie and I LOVE Billy. No really, he's hot and I dig a man in uniform.

Amanda By Night

Anonymous said...

I read about it and knew I HAD to see it. Of course, it got yanked out of theaters before I could sneak in. A few months later I bought this on tape through a catalog since the video store refused to stock it. I spent $35 for a movie that...really wasn't worth $35 (and that's in 1985 dollars might I add)

Anonymous said...

I truly think the wrong element got upset over this film...being Catholic, I don't like someone who thinks they're doing God's work when they're not at all being in charge. And hell, she is partly to blame for this mess. If I ever get to see that sequel, I'd be cheering for her to die. Yes, not very Christian of me, but if she was going to be a hardass, she should've been rejected by the convent.

BUT, Sr. Margaret (Yep, that's the one that wanted to help Billy), was played by Gilmer McCormick, who played Gilmer in the movie "Godspell". The one with the tiger puppet.

Man, I miss that puppet.

(BTW, it's still Joanna, I'm going by my LJ name now.)

Shane said...

The makers of this movie really had a dark sense of humor, and there is a lot of mean-spiritedness to it. But I think its one of the better mid-80's slasher film. They found lots of great footage out in Utah where it was filmed.