To this day, Silent Night, Deadly Night remains one of the most controversial horror films produced. Of course, the controversy that swirled around the 1984 exploitation slasher was misguided at best. Nonetheless, the ‘Santa Claus Killer’ movie reached a similar level of infamy as the ‘Video Nasty List’ in the United Kingdom. And like many of those former ‘Video Nasties’, Silent Night, Deadly Night eventually got the remake treatment. However, the remake, Silent Night, came and went rather quietly in 2012. In this edition of Re-Animated, I take a look at whether the Silent Night remake could ‘re-gift’ an ’80’s cult classic.
Silent Night, Deadly Night is the ‘Ugly Christmas’ Sweater of 80’s Horror
Silent Night, Deadly Night is the kind of movie that makes you feel a little dirty after you watch it. It’s also a movie that only could have been made in the 1970’s and 1980’s. A mix of grindhouse exploitation and 80’s slasher movie, the Santa Claus killer flick is technically a ‘bad’ movie, but one that’s inherently watchable
Over the first 30 to 40 minutes, Silent Night, Deadly Night fancies itself a psychological character study.
First-time viewers beware. For much of the movie, Silent Night, Deadly Night avoids the traditional ‘stalk-and-slash’ approach of Friday the 13th movies. Over the first 30 to 40 minutes, Silent Night, Deadly Night fancies itself a psychological character study. Paul Haimi and Michael Hickey’s story focuses on young Billy’s slow transformation from traumatized child to damaged killer. It’s not entirely different from William Lustig’s infamous exploitation effort, Maniac. Whether the story convinces or plays as silly, it’s an admittedly different approach to the format.
Deck the Halls … With Extremely Graphic Violence
Where Silent Night, Deadly Night distinguishes itself is with its surprisingly graphic violence. Yes, the 1980’s had its fair share of horror movies that pushed boundaries. Maybe it’s the violence juxtaposed with the Santa imagery that heightens the impact of the violence. Regardless Silent Night, Deadly Night features a couple of shocking kill scenes that spare no detail in the gore department. Anyone who owns the remastered Blu-ray with all of the restored footage can attest to that statement. Scream Queen Linnea Quigley’s death scene is arguably one of the more brutal kills in slasher film history.
Silent Night Remake Is A Surprise Stocking Stuffer
Surprise, surprise. Silent Night is not a bad movie. In fact, the 2012 remake manages to maintain a somewhat similar tone despite changing much of the original’s story. And the story is significantly changed. Silent Night foregoes the original movie’s ‘making of a killer’ approach. Instead Jayson Rothwell’s screenplay opts for a mystery approach, keeping the killer’s identity hidden until the end. Aside from a couple of nods to the 1984 cult class, Silent Night just borrows the premise of a homicidal maniac killing ‘naughty’ people while dressed as Santa Claus.
Director Steven C. Miller pulls no punches with the movie’s violence.
Where the remake maintains the tradition of the original movie is with its aesthetics and tone. Like the 1984 movie, Silent Night feels like a sleazy, low-budget exploitation flick. Director Steven C. Miller pulls no punches with the movie’s violence. Even after a decade of ‘torture porn’, Silent Night has a few surprises in its stocking. A few of the kills genuinely shock. There’s a definite nasty edge to the remake’s violence that puts it in line with the original movie. One victim gets fed to a wood chipper in a Christmas tree farm. Another scene sees an obnoxious teenage girl get zapped with a cattle prod. Miller keeps his remake soaked in B-movie exploitation.
Silent Night Upgrades Its Cast
With respect to casting, Silent Night gets a significant upgrade. Recognizable and reliable character actors round out the cast, distancing the remake somewhat from its B-movie roots. Scream Queen-in-the-making Jaime King (My Bloody Valentine 3D) headlines Silent Night as a reluctant police deputy. Providing some snide comic relief and red herring distractions, the always solid Donal Logue turns up as a disgruntled store Santa.
Also on hand is B-movie master Malcom McDowell (Halloween, 31) as the small-town sheriff. While this may be an unpopular opinion, McDowell looks like he’d rather be anywhere but in this movie. For most of Silent Night, McDowell gives the same performance he did as Dr. Loomis in Halloween II. It’s the same dialogue delivery that alternates between being cantankerous and bored. At times, McDowell feels like he’s acting in a different movie.
Silent Night Works As Its Own Movie
Personal preference will ultimately dictate which ‘Santa Claus’ killer movie viewers would rather find under their Christmas tree. Silent Night, Deadly Night is a true 80’s cult-classic, complete with its own vibe. To its credit, the 2012 Silent Night achieves a remarkably similar feel while carving out its own story Like the original movie, Silent Night is far from being a technically ‘good’ movie. But it more than makes a case for its own existence. In addition, Silent Night illustrates how remakes can be done right. Perhaps the only thing missing from the remake is a reference to the now classic ‘Garbage Day’ line from Silent Night, Deadly Night 2.