Dec 23, 2011
In tribute to my most dreaded holiday season, I spent the last week watching a variety of Christmas-themed horror and slasher films. Although, I have (thankfully) managed to avoid a glimpse of Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer's classic peculiar proboscis during this loathsome winter holiday, I did consummate enough beautiful shimmering blood of the same color in extraordinarily festive and equally therapeutic films like Christmas Evil (1980) and Bob Clark’s Black Christmas (1974). Although Black Christmas is undoubtedly the greatest antidote to the retarded philistine joy that comes intrinsically packaged with the Christ-mass season, I found myself especially taken aback by the anti-nostalgic mayhem of Charles Sellier’s Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984); a visceral and venomous work that manages to tear to shreds -- like a homeless man opening a gift-wrapped crate of 40 oz. malt liquor -- most of the things everyone loves about Christmas. In the film, a young boy named Billy Chapman becomes victim to the ultimate life-shattering carnal Christmas; an event that leads to the death of both of his parents and virtual imprisonment in an authoritarian orphanage where he is further tortured by psychological ghosts of Christmas past. Upon reaching adulthood, Billy takes a job at a toy store as a stock-boy and is eventually coerced into dressing up as Santa Clause, henceforth sparking an eruption in his Christmas-fueled psychosis that inevitably results in a totally irrational campaign of indiscriminate merry martial murder. Needless to say, Silent Night, Deadly Night makes for a somewhat delightful Christmas film for disillusioned Christmas-suffering misanthropes, especially those who find the prospect of a Christmas thyme killer more nice than naughty.
Right from the get go, Silent Night, Deadly Night establishes itself as the definitive anti-Christmas flick. Unlike most slasher flicks, Silent Night, Deadly Night does not open with a formulaic scene of senseless murder and carnage, but, instead, features little Billy and his family visiting mostly silent and always senile Grandpa Chapman. After being left alone with Billy, thoroughly deranged Grandpa Chapman informs his harmless grandson that Santa will punish him if he has been a bad boy. Being an untainted wee lad, Billy is unable to comprehend that Grandpa is lollygagging lunatic, thus, the boy is left petrified by the very real prospect of old Saint Nick's revenge. I found this scene especially interesting as seeing mentally deteriorated family members tends to be an undesirable, guilt-driven Christmas tradition for a lot of people, yet most do their utmost to forget these painful and sometimes (especially for children) traumatizing experiences. Of course, Grandpa Chapman’s unintentionally wise words prove to be quite prophetic as Billy's mother is brutally raped and both of his parents are gutted like Christmas ham before his very weary eyes and defenseless body. After the premature death of his loving parents, Billy is placed into an orphanage and the tender scars of Billy’s childhood are once again ripped open during every Christmas season by a sadistic sexually-repressed nun who can be best described as the Catholic equivalent of the infamous Nurse Ratchet. Upon first appearing as an adult in Silent Night, Deadly Night, Billy seems like your typical all-American white boy, but beneath the phenotypic façade of his boyish good looks lies a lifetime’s worth of nursed demons who are just waiting to be exercised and fully realized by his emotionally-lobotomized mind. Billy’s boss Ira (a name probably derived from the film's producer Ira Richard Barmak), owner of Ira’s Toy Store -- who is most likely is of the Hebrew faith -- also finds the Christmas spirit to be deplorable phenomenon, but it is his capitalist greed that eventually throws his unstable employee into ecstatic bloodlust. Despite being barely an adult and far from a dirty old fat man who enjoys the warmth of small children on his lap, Billy is convinced by Ira to dress up and play Santa for the kiddies when the original pseudo-Santa working at the store is injured. Proving he is nothing short of an overachiever, Billy certifies that he is a much more proficient merry manslaughter than the highly influential psycho Santa he met as a child.
Not long after its initial holiday season release, the prissy and pissy Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) successfully had Silent Night, Deadly Night expelled from movie theaters around the country due to their very public outcry. Despite the rampant backlash against the film, Silent Night, Deadly Night still managed to outgross West Craven’s “slasher” masterpiece A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) during its opening week. To the credit of the PTA, it would probably not be a good idea to show Silent Night, Deadly Night to young children as the film is potent enough in its blasphemy to ruin Christmas for both children and other seemingly innocent beings. Silent Night, Deadly Night is also one of the “better” slasher films as it indubitably manages to do for Christmas what John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) did for Halloween. One major convention-breaking aspect of Silent Night, Deadly Night that makes it standout from most slasher swill is that by allowing the filmgoer to see how the killer “comes of age”, the film demystifies him, henceforth turning him into a somewhat tragic figure as opposed to your typical coldhearted, born-psychopath. Thus, Silent Night, Deadly Night is not merely offensive due to its figurative rape and murder of Christmas, but also due to its moral ambiguity and seemingly nihilistic stance. If you find yourself more and more disgusted by the taste of eggnog and the sight of mistletoe, and question whether or not it really is a wonderful life, Silent Night, Deadly Night, much like Black Christmas, makes for a pleasurable and somewhat liberating cinematic coal in your tattered, vintage Christmas stocking.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 11:01 PM
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