Ho, ho, ho-ly shit.
In the history of movies that cross the genres of holiday films and slasher films, there’s a lot of crap to dredge up. 1997’s “Jack Frost” is a perennial favorite, with the infamous snowman assault scene. But in the history of bizarre, unlikely crossovers, nothing tops the “Silent Night, Deadly Night” movies.
Following a pair of serial killer brothers, each in a different movie, these films are the epitome of 80’s B-movie schlock. Starring nobody you’ve ever heard of, and apparently filmed on a camcorder, these movies are just enjoyably bad. The kills border on “Final Destination” levels of ridiculous, from hanging a co-worker with Christmas lights in the first film, to the infamous “garbage day” kill:
The films follow two brothers — Billy in the first film and Ricky in the second — and their murderous quests, the result of seeing their parents murdered in front of them as children and their ensuing traumatic stay in an orphanage. Both of their ultimate goals are to kill the hard-edge disciplinarian Mother Superior, who at best is markedly similar to Nurse Ratched from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” and at worst is totally a rip-off of her. Since she doesn’t actually die until the end of the second movie, much of the three hours of ridiculous murders and bad acting is just the plot chasing its own tail.
Unlike certain other films we’ve looked at, “Silent Night, Deadly Night” is at least watchable in its awfulness. It’s schlock, of course, but the B-movie cheesiness allows for a certain amount of leeway. It’s pretty clear that nobody at any point in the production had any idea what they were doing, but what’s also clear is that everyone was trying.
The serial killer brothers are played by people so anonymous that only one of them has a Wikipedia page. And as you can see in the above clip, Eric Freeman, who plays Ricky in the second film, is not exactly a Juilliard-level talent.
But this film is more tolerable than certain other holiday films discussed recently here because it’s trying to be an actual slasher film. While “Thankskilling” is actively trying to be “so bad it’s good,” the “Silent Night, Deadly Night” duology attempts to be a Christmas companion to “Halloween.” It fails massively and it’s awful, but it’s like watching a puppy piss on itself. It’s tragically adorable but just a little bit sad.
Of course, being watchably terrible is by no means a completely redeeming factor. The plot is still nonsensical, the acting is still painful and the camera work is worse than a hungover freshman film student. “Garbage day” is just one of many examples of entertaining, terrible one-liners, with other such gems as “it’s good to be naughty” and “you’re safe now, Santa Claus is gone.”
In the admittedly small catalog of Christmas horror films, the “Silent Night, Deadly Night” films relax at the bottom of the heap. Though after such atrocities as “Thankskilling” and “Birdemic” which are not so much movies as an affront to cinema itself, I’m inclined to look on it more kindly.
It’s amazing what a full year of watching pure garbage does to a person.