Thanks to Fangoria‘s recent effort to get some lost classics back up on big screens, I got the opportunity to check out Silent Night Deadly Night at my local theater last night.
When this film released in 1984, it caused a huge controversy with it’s ad campaign. The image of Santa Claus weilding an axe scarred so many impressionable little minds upon the release.
You have to think back to the 80s (or imagine them for you youngsters) when the entertainment choices presented to you were just a fraction of what we have easily in our grasp these days. You had only a few channels on the TV to choose from, and a severely limited choice of programming on those channels.
So pretty much all of America was watching the same channel when those commercials appeared, and caused a huge uproar.
The advertising campaign was so controversial, in fact, complete with protests and picketing, that TriStar Pictures pulled all ads for the film six days after its release. And later, they pulled the film from theaters to appease angry parents.
As you might expect, the film didn’t get a ringing endorsement from other critics. It is easy to forget how slasher movies were often thought as so awful at the time as to be barely a step up from pornography. Such was the hatred of slasher movies by 1984, many local critics simply refused to review them.
Siskel & Ebert got in on the bashing of the film, calling it “sick and sleazy and mean-spirited”. They even go so far as to condemn the movie as one of the “most contemptible films ever made” and try to publicly shame all the producers involved in the making of the film, as you can see in the video below.
The film was later re-released by an independent distributor in the Spring of 1986 with an all-new ad campaign that edited out all close-up shots of Billy in the Santa suit with weapons. The new ad campaign smartly took advantage of the previous controversy, building it up as “the film they didn’t want you to see”!
Cut to 1984, and 18-year-old Billy has apparently come to grips with his demons, and gets a job in a toy store. While not exactly a well-adjusted young man, he seems to be getting by in the world, as you can see in this gloriously 80s montage, complete with the forgotten Christmas classic “The Warm side Of The Door”!
Later, during the holiday shopping season, his sleazy boss promotes Billy from stock boy to (you guessed it) department store Santa. Billy’s descent into madness is confirmed later at the toy store’s employee Christmas party. He has a few drinks and losses his shit, and the rest of the film follows Billy’s rampage through the town.
Overall, Silent Night Deadly Night is a fun slasher film, and is well-deserving of it’s re-release treatment!
If you get the chance, definitely check it out on the big screen.
Check the full listings here to see if this holiday classic will be hitting a theater near you.
If you are not lucky enough to see it in theaters, you can find a 2-pack DVD set with the film and it’s (inferior) sequel for just $8.99 here.
Fun for the whole family!