So its come to this...time to examine one of the most controversial and talked about Christmas horror films of all time. A film so shocking that it was banned from the theaters by the PTA! A film so horrifying, that it's promotianal materials were banned from theaters! A film so revolting that Siskel and Ebert initiated a angry-letter-writing campaign to have it erased from all consciousness! Yes friends, I'm talking about the Santa Claus slasher...Silent Night, Deadly Night!
Ok ok, so maybe the history isn't as spectacular as all that, but it isn't far off either. The PTA did try to have it banned due to its storyline, Siskel and Ebert read the film's production credits on air and said "shame, shame", and once crowds started to protest the film, Tri-Star pulled all the promotional materials and the film itself after a while. It wasn't until the film was picked up by an independent distributor, Aquarius Films, that it received another release and its new promotion capitalized on the controversy. Not surprisingly, teen crowds showed up in droves to see the film that was 'too shocking for theaters'...and the film was a huge success (and yet people still protest things...don't they know that when you do that it just creates free publicity and makes even more people show up to see them?). Frankly, I don't see what the big deal was. It was no worse than the 4 Friday the 13ths that had been released at that time, 1984, and actually dealt with a fairly original idea at the time...which was that our main character that we start the film with as a boy, ends up becoming a ax wielding killer by the end of the film. It's rather Macbeth in a way...the tragic foil who never had a chance at redemption. But the idea of a killer in a Santa Claus suit really ticked those parents off...I guess they didn't notice the first killer-in-a-Santa-suit-movie back in 1980, Christmas Evil.
Here's the plot in a nutshell, Billy, a young boy, is driving with his parents to the nuthouse on Christmas Eve to visit his grandfather. While there, grandpa tells the boy that Christmas Eve is the scariest night of the year and that Santa is going to punish him for being naughty. On their way home, the family happens to run afoul of a criminal dressed as Santa Claus who murders the parents and severely traumatizes poor Billy. Years and years later, after living in an orphanage and being abused by the Mother Superior constantly, Billy (now 18 and huge) begins work at a toy store. All seems to be going well and Billy appears to be doing great at his job and with his co-workers...that is, until Christmas rolls around. When the store Santa calls in sick on Christmas Eve, Billy is placed in the suit. Little do they know about Billy's morbid fear of anything Christmas or Santa related and it isn't long before the poor boy snaps and kills everyone in the store...and then heads off on a murder spree with the intent of returning to the orphanage to kill the Mother Superior.
Sounds like a bloody good time no? Actually it ends up being a fairly average film that really doesn't earn its controversial reputation, but that's not to say that its not a good time for someone who enjoys horror. You could do a lot worse as far as horror goes, especially Christmas horror (the remake of Black Christmas springs to mind). For the rest of you...those of you who don't like horror...I give you permission to steer clear of this one (unlike the original Black Christmas, which is a great chiller for everyone). Its gory, foul, and mean-spirited and sure to ruin your holiday cheer. For you people like me, who like a little horror with their peace on Earth, I give this one a hearty thumbs up. Enjoy the trailer below, if you DARE (BWA-HA-HA).