Silent Night, Deadly Night is a 1984 Slasher Movie.
On the way home from visiting his institutionalized grandfather (who warns him that Santa punishes naughty children severely), little Billy Chapman witnesses his father being shot to death by a drunken criminal dressed as Santa, who kills Mrs. Chapman by slitting her throat after trying to rape her moments later. Placed in an abusive orphanage with his younger brother, Billy has puritanical morals drilled into him by the tyrannical mother superior. Growing up, Billy eventually gets a job at a toy store but, when the Christmas season comes roaring in, he ultimately snaps and, believing himself to be jolly old Saint Nick, goes around murdering people he deems naughty (essentially everyone).
Despite there being several Christmas-themed horror films released before, Silent Night, Deadly Night was the one that caused the Moral Guardians to froth at the mouth in rage over the film depicting Santa Claus as a villain. The film was pulled from theatres quickly, but found a cult following on home video and was followed by four sequels: Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 in 1987, Silent Night, Deadly Night III: Better Watch Out! in 1989, Initiation: Silent Night, Deadly Night 4 in 1990, and Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker in 1991.
This film provides examples of:
- Accidental Murder: Officer Barnes shoots a man in a Santa suit he thought was Billy when the Santa fails to back off from the orphanage children when Barnes yells at him to. Turns out the Santa was Father O'Brien, who was deaf.
- Alas, Poor Villain: Sister Margaret's reaction to Billy's death at the end of the film.
- Asshole Victim: Andy and Mac.
- Attempted Rape: Andy's rape attempt on Pamela later is the final straw that makes Billy snap.
- Also, the Santa Gunman at the beginning of the film looked like he was setting up to rape Billy's mom.
- An Axe to Grind: Billy's main weapon after he becomes "Santa".
- Bad Santa:
- The robber Santa.
- Billy becomes one when he goes over the edge.
- Being Watched: One of the sledders feels Billy watching them before the bullies show up.
- Catch-Phrase: When Billy kills someone, he yells "Punish!"
- Death by Sex: Denise and Tommy.
- Drop the Hammer: Billy stabs Mr. Sims in the head with a claw hammer.
- Erotic Dream: Billy tries to have one involving Pamela, but it turns into a nightmare when Santa appears and attacks him.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Billy goes to extremes to to punish the naughty, but leaves those alone who have been good.
- Face Death with Dignity: Mother Superior simply closes her eyes, while she doesn't beg or panic as Billy prepares to strike with his axe before he is gunned down.
- Fan Disservice: All the female victims (apart from the middle-aged Mrs. Randall) die topless.
- Flashback Nightmare: Billy suffers from these as a kid.
- Gory Discretion Shot: Mr. Sims being stabbed in the head with a claw hammer.
- Groin Attack: Tommy manages to kick Billy in the crotch while they're fighting.
- Hard-Work Montage: Shown when Billy's working at the toy store.
- Harmful to Minors: Billy witnessing the deaths of his parents.
- Infant Immortality:
- The Santa criminal goes looking for Billy after killing the Chapman parents but he doesn't bother with baby Ricky, who's crying in the car.
- Later, Billy at first looks like he's going to kill Cindy, but leaves her alone when she claims she was good all year.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Denise being impaled on the antlers of a mounted deer head.
- Ironic Nursery Tune: "Santa's Watching".Santa's watching, Santa's creeping
Now you're nodding, now you're sleeping
Were you good for Mom and Dad?
Santa knows when you've been bad...
- Jerkass: Grandpa Chapman. It got him on I-Mockery's "Favorite Christmas Movie Assholes" list.
- Karma Houdini: The guy who killed the store clerk and the Chapman parents, plus Mother Superior (at least until the sequel).
- Knight Templar: Mother Superior. She is a "good" version, as she tells the cop that the first priority is that kids should not be harmed.
- Off with His Head!: Mac gets his head chopped off while sledding.
- Oh, Crap!: Sister Margaret silently hangs up on someone, with a shocked look on her face, when told that Billy was working as a department store Santa.
- Pet the Dog: The scene between Billy and Cindy. Sure, he gives her a bloody box cutter as a gift, but the look on both their faces (beaming joy and utter befuddlement) is priceless.
- Also, during the finale when Billy comes into the orphanage with an axe, Mother Superior shields the little girl to protect her.
- Police are Useless: Averted for the most part. One cop kills the wrong Santa by accident, and another gets killed by Billy sometime afterwards. But Captain Richards does take Billy down in the end, though.
- Pun-Based Title
- Sequel Hook: The film ends with a note that Billy's brother has adopted his doctrine.
- Shout-Out: One of the film's taglines: "You've made it through Halloween, now try and survive Christmas."
- Slashed Throat: Mrs. Chapman has her throat slit.
- That Man Is Dead: A variation: After being mortally wounded, Billy tries to comfort the children around him the only way he knows how — by reassuring them that Santa Claus isn't going to haunt anyone anymore. Given Billy's "upbringing" with Mother Superior's Knight Templar brand of morality, this comes out also as another kind of epithet.
- Took a Level in Kindness: While it doesn't excuse her actions against Billy, Mother Superior is notably more harmless, kinder and not as abusive that she was to Billy after being confined to a wheelchair, likely due to pragmatism as being confined to a wheelchair limits her from having to perform physical punishments that she had done to Billy.
- Trauma Conga Line: Billy's status as a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds (see below) owes much to his traumatic background, wherein his deranged grandfather ruined his impression of Santa Claus shortly before a criminal masquerading as Santa ruthlessly shot his father and slit his mother's throat after attempting to rape her right in front of him, after which point Billy and his younger brother were consigned to an orphanage run by a Nun Too Holy Mother Superior that instilled Billy with an obsession regarding punishment. Being forced to wear a Santa suit by the toy store he worked for and then witnessing the near-rape of one of his co-workers was The Last Straw for Billy's fragile sanity.
- Villain Protagonist: Billy.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Both Billy and Mother Superior. Despite their rather... extreme methods, they both seem to genuinely believe that they're doing the right thing.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Billy. A lot of factors drove him batshit crazy over the course of the film.
- Yank the Dog's Chain: For a moment, it looks as though Billy's going to make it through his outing as a department store Santa more-or-less all right. Then he walks in on Andy raping Pamela as they're closing up for the night...