With Christmas eve only hours away, now is the perfect time to blog about one of my absolute favorite movies of all time: Silent Night Deadly Night. And it occurs to me that this Christmas season marks the 30th anniversary of this horror masterpiece.
The plot: A little boy named Billy is taken by his parents to visit his grandfather in the mental hospital. The grandfather is catatonic and seems to have lost the ability to speak, but when Billy’s parents leave him alone with the grandfather, he suddenly comes alive to warn Billy that Christmas eve is the scariest night of the year and to watch out for Santa:
In an amazing coincidence, that night Billy witnesses both parents killed by a man dressed as Santa, an experience that traumatizes him for life.
Growing up in an orphanage, he is severely punished for any behavior seen as naughty.
When Billy turns 18, he gets a job in a small toy store, and when the guy who dresses up as Santa on Christmas eve calls in sick, Billy is pressured into taking his place. Being forced to dress up as the man he thinks killed his parents is too much. Billy snaps, and begins roaming the town with an ax, dressed as Santa, looking for naughty people to punish.
This film was extremely controversial when it first came out, and was actually pulled from theaters, only to resurface years later on video. As a kid I remember waiting for everyone in my family to go to sleep on Christmas eve, and then sneaking downstairs to watch it in a dark room lit only by the multicoloured glow of the Christmas tree. It was the ultimate forbidden fruit; the film they tried to BAN:
And yet with its haunting music, small town atmosphere, nostalgic feel, and childlike story, it captures the Christmas spirit better than any movie I have ever seen. And horror has always been part of the Christmas tradition, going all the way back to Charles Dickens.
And there is HBD in this movie. Although the film plays up the idea that Billy’s psychosis was caused by his incredibly traumatic childhood, the fact that he grows up to be just like the demented grandfather he hardly knew, speaks to the power of genes.
This winter season, wait for an especially cold and snowy night, make a thick cup of homemade real hot chocolate, and watch this movie. The original 1984 classic, not the horrible 2012 remake, that follows a completely different story-line.