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Film / Silent Night, Deadly Night

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GARBAGE DAY!... wait, it's Christmas?
"Santa's watching, Santa's waiting..."

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.

After being in Development Hell for years, a loose remake simply called Silent Night (2012) was completed in 2012; it stars Malcolm McDowell, Jaime King, Donal Logue, and Ellen Wong. Another remake was set for release in 2022, but never ended up being made.

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.
  • Anti-Villain: Billy was the witness to extreme trauma that would make anyone snap - witnessing the deaths of his parents (and the attempted rape of his mother), and then being subjected to years of torture and abuse in a Boarding School of Horrors. Even after going insane he seems to genuinely think he’s punishing the naughty.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • In the prologue in 1971, the convenience store advertises MasterCard and Visa. The former was Master Charge until 1979, and the latter was BankAmericard until 1976.
    • The prices advertised in the store are also far too high than they would have been in 1971.
  • 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.
  • Bad Santa:
    • The robber Santa.
    • Billy becomes one when he goes over the edge.
  • Being Tortured Makes You Evil: Already traumatized by his parents' murder, Mother Superior's iron-fisted approach in tending to Billy is what completely turned him into a Bad Santa Serial Killer.
  • Being Watched: One of the sledders feels Billy watching them before the bullies show up.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Mother Superior and Billy. While Billy is the one who goes on a killing spree in the second half of the film, Mother Superior is the main villain of the first half and the one primarily responsible for him going insane in the first place. She is more mellow in the second half however.
  • Big "OMG!": Bob is heard screaming this after seeing what happened to Mac.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: After losing his mind, Billy’s idea of what is and isn’t naughty is very… odd to say the least.
  • Catapult Nightmare:
    • During his time in the orphanage, Billy has a nightmare about what happened to his parents, causing him to wake up screaming in the middle of the night.
    • As an adult, Billy has another one of these when he has a nightmare that ends with Pamela being stabbed.
  • Catchphrase: When Billy kills someone, he yells either "Punish!" or "Naughty!"
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Billy is unusually strong which explains the ease of some of his kills. Best demonstrated when knocks a Santa on his ass with one punch as a child.
  • Children Are Innocent: Cindy is a wide-eyed tyke who just wants to stay up to see Santa in-person. Luckily for her, Billy believes her when she says she's been good.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Getting impaled on the pair of antlers hanging over your fireplace probably isn’t the most pleasant way to die.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Aside from his first victim, Billy kills people for slapping him, having him wear a Santa costume, having sex, and stealing a sled.
  • Downer Ending: Billy is completely lost to his madness, and is gunned down by the police. His death is played for pathos as he tells the children that they're safe now as Santa Claus is dead, but his younger brother then says his Madness Mantra.
  • Drop the Hammer: Billy stabs Mr. Sims in the head with a claw hammer.
  • The End... Or Is It?: The killer is gunned down by the police, but his younger brother repeats his Madness Mantra, implying he'll follow the same path.
  • Erotic Dream: Billy tries to have one involving Pamela, but it turns into a nightmare when Santa appears and attacks him.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Mother Superior is a very harsh and unempathetic disciplinarian but when Billy goes insane, she tries to keep him from killing the children under her care.
  • Exposed to the Elements: Despite the radio claiming the temperatures are extremely low in the prologue, none of the Chapmans are wearing winter clothes.
  • 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.
  • Fanservice: The main reason Billy apparently sleeps shirtless in the middle of winter. His salary must be going towards a hefty heating bill...
  • Final Girl: Subverted! Pamela looks like she might be one - brunette, sympathetic to Billy and a wholesome personality. But then she becomes the second victim!
  • 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.
    • Barnes commits Accidental Murder in front of a group of orphanage children that he thought he was protecting. They go through this again soon after when Billy is killed. One of the kids turns out to be Ricky.
  • Hate Sink:
    • The unnamed Santa robber executes a store clerk for fighting back against him, gets pissed when he learns he only got 30 dollars, kills Billy's parents, and tries to rape his mother. He's also indirectly responsible for the entire plot, being why Billy has a fear of Santa Claus.
    • The Mother Superior of the orphanage the Chapmans live in is an abusive fanatic who refuses to try and help Billy's PTSD, believing punishment will make it resolve itself. Her stringent nature is why Billy gets the urge to punish the naughty. Played with at the end, where she does her best to protect the children in her care from an adult Billy.
    • Andy, Billy's supervisor, is a belligerent asshole who does nothing but berate Billy for any lapse in his work, and attempts to rape his girlfriend when she refuses his advances. It's also worth noting that his final horrific crime is what causes Billy to finally snap and go on a killing spree.
  • Hollywood Nuns: Subverted. The nuns don't have the traditional penguin habits, not a single male saint's name or Sister Mary in the bunch.
  • Hope Spot:
    • Apart from having a jerk for a supervisor, the sequence with Billy working at the toy store makes it seem like he's finally beginning to overcome the scars his childhood carved into him and have a chance at a normal life...of course, it doesn't last.
    • When Barnes shoots a guy dressed as Santa dead, Richards consoles Sister Margaret and says it's at least over. One of the men at the station then reports that the height and age don't match what they were told about Billy, leading to the reveal that it was actually Father O'Brien who died.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Mother Superior insists Billy doesn't remember witnessing his parents' deaths. Mother Superior seems to be under the impression that 5-year-olds have the memory of a goldfish.
    • The family that decided to celebrate Christmas by having the father go through his child's second story bedroom window dressed as Santa. Even if there wasn't a homicidal maniac dressed as Santa running around, that still looks incredibly suspicious. It's no wonder that the cops pull their guns on him.
  • Improbable Infant Survival:
    • 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.
  • Insane Equals Violent: Billy goes insane and immediately starts killing people.
  • 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.
    • Mother Superior insists that Billy doesn’t remember his parent’s murder, despite glaring evidence otherwise, dishes out lashings with little hesitation, and drags Billy kicking and screaming to a guy dressed as Santa despite his obvious phobia.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Mother Superior is a very unkind and abusive woman, but she genuinely tries to protect the children when push comes to shove and Billy poses a threat to the lives of the children under her care.
  • Karma Houdini:
  • Knight Templar:
    • Mother Superior is horribly abusive to kids under her care but thinks that she’s in the right.
    • Billy kills people in cold blood for being “naughty”.
  • No Sympathy: Following a Flashback Nightmare, Billy wakes up screaming in the middle of the night and makes a run for it. Mother Superior (who, mind you, knows full well about what happened to him) disciplines him by tying him to his bed.
  • Noodle Incident: Following the Time Skip, it's not known how Mother Superior ended up in a wheelchair.
  • Nun Too Holy: Mother Superior is an abusive Jerkass who tries to punish Billy's PTSD away.
  • 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.
    • When Richards suggests she should be able to figure out the next move, Sister Margaret has another one of these moments when she realizes Billy's going back to the orphanage.
  • 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 is killed by Billy shortly afterwards. But Captain Richards does take Billy down in the end, though.
  • Properly Paranoid:
    • Billy appeared quite nervous over being left alone with his grandfather. His mother assured him he had nothing to worry about, but she was very wrong.
    • After the incident with the drawing, Sister Margaret tries to warn Mother Superior about Billy's very obvious issues and how they have to handle this properly and delicately now while he can still be helped. Mother Superior ignores her, being doubtful Billy remembers what happened and opting instead to treat him like any other child.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: The first half of the movie is dedicated to showing the traumatic series of events that leads to Billy becoming a mass murderer.
  • Pun-Based Title: It’s original name, Slay Ride, was one too.
  • Sequel Hook: The film ends with a note that Billy's brother has adopted his doctrine. Garbage Day will never be the same again.
  • Sex Signals Death: Denise and Tommy have sex. Both die horribly at Billy’s hands as a result.
  • Shout-Out:
    • One of the film's taglines: "You've made it through Halloween, now try and survive Christmas."
    • A serial killer at Christmas is called Billy. The original was even given the title Silent Night, Evil Night in its initial American release.
    • The scene where Billy pretends to be Santa to keep Cindy oblivious is an Homage to the scene in How the Grinch Stole Christmas! where the Grinch pulls the same trick on Cindy Lou Who.
  • 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.
  • There Are No Therapists: The movie would most likely have about 9 fewer dead people in it if Billy got therapy. While justified when living under Mother Superior, who adamantly refuses to believe that Billy remembers his parent’s deaths, one has to wonder why he never went to a therapist after moving out and getting a job.
  • Time Skip: Two. The movie starts in 1971 and, after the death of the boys' parents, skips to 1974 for scenes at the orphanage. After Billy punches the visiting Santa, the movie skips to 1984 when Billy gets his store job.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: While it doesn't excuse her actions against Billy and would possibly qualify her as a Retired Monster, 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 in the second half of the film, albeit a tragic one.
  • Wham Line: After the case of Accidental Murder, one boy is standing close to the body and just staring in shock. A line directed at him reveals he's not just any random child.
    Nun: Ricky, come away from there!
  • Wham Shot: When Barnes is checking out the orphanage grounds, we briefly see a door that's been chained shut. After Barnes checks around a corner, however, we see the same door has been opened.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Billy. He becomes a deranged mass murderer but only due being put through profound mental trauma for his entire life.
  • 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...
  • Younger Than They Look: Billy is initially turned down for work in the toy store because the boss hears he's only eighteen and assumes he's a gangly kid. Then he sees Billy's Heroic Build and immediately hires him.