Starring: Lilyan Chauvin, Robert Brian Wilson, Linnea Quigley, Danny Wagner, and Will Hare

Written by: Paul Caimi (story)
Michael Hickey

Directed by: Charles E. Sellier Jr.

“You’ve made it through Halloween, now try and survive Christmas!”

So reads the tagline for Silent Night, Deadly Night. The movie caused an angry uproar upon its release in December of 1984, when parents groups, who thought the film depicted jolly old St. Nick as a homicidal maniac, picketed theaters. These groups obviously never saw the film, but their crusade was a success. Cinemas across the country pulled the flick from their screens within a week. In the summer of 1985, the film appeared on VHS, but by that point, it had been heavily edited. And then it was gone, stuck in moratorium; an all-but-forgotten bit of Slasher films past.

Until now.

Thanks to the merry elves at Anchor Bay and Starz Home Entertainment, we can celebrate this holiday season with the release of a new uncut and uncensored edition of arguably the best Christmas-themed horror movie ever made.


The film opens with young Billy Chapman (Danny Wagner) on a road trip with his parents to visit Grandpa (Will Hare) in the local insane asylum. Grandpa appears to be catatonic, totally unaware of the world around him. When the doctors take Mom and Dad aside to discuss a plan of care, Grandpa suddenly snaps out of his trance and talks to Billy.

“You scared, ain’t ya? You should be! Christmas Eve is the scariest damn night of the year!”

Grandpa goes on to tell little Billy that Santa only brings presents to children who haven’t had a single naughty moment all year long. The rest of the boys and girls out there…he punishes.

“You see Santa Claus tonight you better run boy, you better run for ya life!”

(Author’s side note: If you happen to be surfing the net some night, look up “Robert Rodriguez & Quentin Tarantino do Silent Night, Deadly Night,” and you will see the directors act out this classic scene before a live audience!)

On the way home, Billy’s parents stop to help a stranded motorist dressed in a Santa suit. Unfortunately, this is a crook who just knocked over a gas station and shot the clerk. The crook kills Billy’s father, then rapes and murders Billy’s mother right before the boy’s tender young eyes.


Billy is sent to an orphanage, where a caring nun wants to get the boy psychiatric help, but the sadistic Mother Superior (Lilyan Chauvin) will have none of it. When the boy has nightmares about the night his parents were killed, she ties him to the bed to keep him in his room, and when Billy catches two teenagers having sex, he watches as the Mother Superior beats them with a belt.

“What they were doing was naughty,” she tells him. “They thought they could do it without being caught. But when we do something naughty, we are always caught. Then, we are punished. Punishment is absolute. Punishment is good.”

Now 18, Billy is given a job at the local toy store. There, he dreams about one of the cashiers and is plagued by guilty nightmares where Santa kills him as punishment for his secret desires. But all is well and good until Christmas rolls around again. As fate would have it, the man playing Santa is out sick on Christmas Eve, and Billy’s boss drafts him to fill the boots. This leads to a complete mental breakdown where Billy thinks he is Santa, and he spends the night doing what Santa does: punishing people with box cutters, arrows, axes, and in one famous scene, impaling a naked young woman (scream queen Linnea Quigley) on reindeer antlers.


This is quintessential grindhouse cinema. Anchor Bay has used all the footage it could find to reconstruct the print, and some of it was in better shape than others. This leads to bright, colorful shots being intercut with dark, grainy frames, but it gives us, for the first time, the entire film as it was originally envisioned. Like the picture, the acting runs the spectrum from horrible (any of the bit players and victims) to downright brilliant (Chauvin and Hare), and the direction is all over the map. Many scenes are filmed with a camera mounted on a tripod, zooming in from a great distance on points of interest, other shots show more of a visual flair, with cameras peeking through keyholes and rushing down stairs. And the screenplay by Michael Hickey, for all of its flaws (and there are many), succeeds in showing how a sweet little boy’s psyche could be shattered enough to turn him into a cold-blooded killer. It’s the same tale Rob Zombie tried to tell with his re-imagined Halloween. The difference is that Silent Night, Deadly Night works.

If you are feeling nostalgic this holiday, or perhaps more than a little bit naughty, this is the film for you!

4 out of 5 stars.