Thursday, December 23, 2010

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

Looking for some horror for the holidays? You can't go wrong with Silent Night, Deadly Night! Slashers are a dime a dozen, but just because the format has been overdone, that doesn't mean there aren't good titles to look out for. And this one honestly impressed me, being both intelligent (within the bounds of slasherdom) and entertaining.

This movie takes as its central theme the thought that we all too quickly brush aside - that Santa Claus is a really creepy guy. After all, he goes around sneaking into people's homes, watching children sleep. We tend to focus on the good side - that he rewards good kids with presents on Christmas. But there is a dark side there, too - the side that punishes those who have been naughty.

"I don't bring toys to naughty children. I punish them. Severely."

For a slasher, I was also impressed with the balance between sex/nudity and violence in this one. Sex and nudity are integral parts of the slasher formula, but often the sex is implied and the nudity is brief (while the violence has a tendency to be ultra gruesome - more so nowadays). Here, the sex - while still avoiding being explicit - manages to be erotic, and the nudity is a lot less self-conscious than what I am used to seeing.

"Cindy, if you don't go back to bed, Santa won't come!"
"(He's not the only one...)"

And there is some treatment of the slasher trope often taken for granted - that sex must be punished. Here, that idea is planted within the context of a Catholic orphanage, where the Mother Superior preaches the naughtiness of sex, with an emphasis on the necessity of punishment. In the case of this one boy, it's no surprise at all why sex should become so confused with violence. Really, there are much healthier methods of education about our carnal desires.

I would rate this movie as one of the essential classics of the slasher subgenre. Pair it with the equally good Black Christmas (the original version from 1974) for a holiday-themed double feature that is bound to be great fun.

"Christmas Eve - it's the scariest damn night of the year. You see Santa Claus tonight you better run, boy. You better run for your life!"

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