December 3, 2018 The Anatomy of a Remake: Silent Night, Deadly Night
Halloween season is not the only time one can enjoy a Slasher film. The holiday season may be the most wonderful time of the year, but you better watch out… Santa Claus is coming to town, and he is armed with axes and flamethrowers. Horror/Holiday crossover film Silent Night, Deadly Night somehow became a cult classic after its controversial, but moderately successful release in 1984. The film tells the tale of Billy, who suffers from untreated PSTD after witnessing his parent’s murder by a man dressed as Santa. Silent Night, Deadly Night has inspired a mind-boggling six sequels and spin-offs, including the very loosely based 2012 remake Silent Night. If you have not found yourself able to get into the holiday spirit this season, then perhaps one of these films is for you.
If campy movies are your thing, then check out Billy’s holly jolly murder spree in Silent Night, Deadly Night. Directed by Charles E. Sellier Jr. (Hangar 18 1980, Snowballing 1984), the film actually premiered on the same day as A Nightmare on Elm Street, but was quickly pulled from theaters due to controversy surrounding its marketing. This helped cement this off-kilter film as a cult classic.
Following Billy Chapman (Robert Brian Wilson: Thirtysomething series, Santa Barbara series), the main focus was forced to grow up in an abusive Catholic orphanage after his parents were brutally murdered one Christmas Eve night by a rogue criminal in a Santa outfit.
Now burdened with a sackful of untreated trauma and a skewed sense of naughty and nice, Billy completely snaps at a work Christmas party after witnessing an attempted sexual assault on his female co-worker. However, instead of rescuing her, Billy instead decides to pass judgement on all those on his naughty list, resulting in some unforgettable Christmas-themed murders.
The acting is terrible, the plot is thin, the cinematography is lacking, but all that put together results in an unforgettable Slasher film that is so bad, it might just be good. Silent Night, directed by Stephen C. Miller, attempts to take a “bad” ’80s film and turn it into a “good” piece of modern Horror. The plot is completely different, instead focusing on Deputy Aubrey Bradimore (Jaime King: Sin City 2005, My Bloody Valentine 3D 2009), as she attempts to solve a series of gruesome murders perpetrated by a masked Santa Claus.
Silent Night makes the odd choice to hide the identity of the ho-ho-homicidal killer until the very end, and attempt to make him much scarier, seeming to draw inspiration from iconic masked characters like Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees. Attempting to rely on dark humor, Silent Night fails to capture the campy weirdness of the original, instead leaning too far into the gritty Horror genre. The plot, acting, and cinematography are miles ahead of its inspiration, and without the original as a point of comparison, there would be plenty to like about Silent Night. However, it falls flat and feels entirely forgettable.
To call Silent Night a true remake of Silent Night, Deadly Night would be a fallacy. The two have very little in common save a murderous Old Saint Nick. While Silent Night tosses in a few callbacks to the Silent Night, Deadly Night such as a Christmas Eve warning from a catatonic grandpa, a half-naked woman being impaled on a pair of antlers (originally played by iconic Scream Queen Linnea Quigley), the overall structure, plot, and cinematography share no commonalities unless you count the unnecessary amount of female nudity.
Cult classics attract such a following because they give viewers memorable scenes and lines that can be enjoyed endlessly. Silent Night, Deadly Night has sleigh-fulls of that, whether it be the questionable acting, off-beat line delivery, holly jolly murders, or “plot.” Once this film has been seen, it cannot be unseen. For better or for worse, this one is sticking with you. Silent Night, on the other hand, offers none of those quirky, unforgettable moments. Silent Night is a “better” movie, sure, but by taking away all that is “bad” about the original, all character is scrubbed away. What is left is a serviceable-but-forgettable Slasher with no spirit. So anyone looking to curl up by the fire with some hot cocoa and cookies with a warped little Christmas Horror flick, look no further than the original Silent Night, Deadly Night.