Anchor Bay was kind enough to send along copies of this film to me for a look, and I had to admit I was suitably intrigued, never having seen it when I was younger because horror films weren’t quite my thing yet, and of course, the whole furor over trying to get it banned (which even now, strikes me as silly).
I have to say, I was taken aback by how fun, and how good it was. As long as you know what you’re getting into it, it’s a slasher film set at Christmas. Course added to that, that I’m not really a big Xmas fan, this one was right up my alley. (My favorite holiday movies are Die Hard and Lethal Weapon, although my favorite specials are A Charlie Brown Christmas and A Muppet Family Christmas so there you are…).
The thing I found most intriguing, and would’ve been worth examining further, was the concept that the lead character, Billy (Robert Brian Wilson) was forced to become something he feared and hated and then became it completely.
That’s a concept I find fascinating.
The film opens with little Billy and his family going to visit his grandfather (Will Hare) on Christmas Eve. All well and good, until you learn grandpa lives in a mental institution, and while he’s catatonic when everyone else is about, as soon as he’s left alone with little Billy (why would you do that!?!?) he warns little Billy that if you haven’t been good all year, then Santa will punish you when he comes tonight.
Then on the way home, his parents are brutalized and murdered by someone dressed as Santa Claus.
Not exactly the best Xmas ever. The boy is scarred, perhaps not irreversibly, but deeply. With the right aid, he may have adapted. Instead, he and his wee baby brother (can you spell sequel?) are sent to an orphanage, run by a domineering Mother Superior (Lilyan Chauvin), who believes more in beating the evil out of you rather than diagnosing and curing it like her associate, Sister Margaret (Gilmer McCormick).
Sister Margaret does her best with him, and eventually gets the young man, now 18, a job at Ira’s Toys. At first he seems to fit right in, and seems to have the eye of a young co-worker, Pamela (Toni Nero), all until his boss requires him to stand-in for Santa Claus (instead of declining, “just make some excuse” was my answer).
It finally proves too much for him, he snaps, becoming the thing he hates and fears most of all, and does what he believes has to be done…
Punish the naughty.
(Which also has a great moment with the Mother Superior, in front of a room full of children proclaiming “There is no Santa Claus” over and over again).
The version Anchor Bay so kindly sent me, is apparently as uncut as it comes, and clocks in at about 85 minutes, you can tell where bits of the film have been cut in, as there is a change in film quality, but it makes for a bloody, and yes I admit it, enjoyable film. Like I said though, I would have wanted more from the idea of Billy ‘becoming’ Santa Claus.
Yes, the gore factor is at a typical 80s level, in other words, fairly benign when compared with modern-day films, but that doesn’t make it any less fun…
I actually had a lot of fun with this film, and as Billy makes his way to the orphanage where he grew up to check off the naughty and nice list, I couldn’t help but marvel at the backdrops they used, shot on location in Utah, there are some really sweeping shots of mountains and expanses of land, which does amazing work at boosting the film’s perceived production value.
It’s a truly enjoyable 80s slasher film with everything you’d expect, blood, breasts, kills, and in this case, a really interesting villain. I’m looking forward to having a look at the updated version Silent Night.
If you haven’t seen it, and are looking for something a little different for the Holiday season, have a look… If you have seen it, I’d love to hear what you thought of it!