The series that we’re talking about today is not the first slasher film centered around the Christmas holiday season. That honor goes to goes to 1974’s Black Christmas. Oddly enough, Black Christmas was also one of the first slasher movies, released the same month as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I didn’t mention Black Christmas earlier because it was one of those horror films that never got a sequel. It did get a remake in 2007, and to this day I have no idea why.
The reason I’m talking about that film now is because that film has some parallels to 1984’s Silent Night, Deadly Night. There aren’t a lot of parallels to be sure, but both films feature a man named Billy that kills people around Christmas time. To be fair, we never find out if “Billy” is the real name of the killer in Black Christmas, mostly because the killer in that film is never shown on screen.
We do see the killer in Silent Night, Deadly Night though. In fact, we see a lot of him. The film starts with young Billy Chapman seeing his parents killed by a mugger wearing a Santa Claus outfit. Billy and his brother Ricky are then raised by a group of abusive nuns. When Billy is an adult, he gets a job at a toy store. All seems well until Billy’s boss forces him to dress up as Santa on Christmas Eve.
Billy snaps and goes on a rampage, murdering a bunch of people while dressed like Santa. In the climax of the film, he tries to murder the Mother Superior of the order that raised him, but is shot by a police officer. The film ends with the “subtle” hint that Ricky may become a killer as well.
This is one of those films where everyone is a jerk. The nuns, the toy store employees, and even the police officers are completely unlikable. I’ve always hated those kinds of films, partly because it’s unrealistic, and partly because I hate movies where there are no likable characters. I had the same problem with the movie Being John Malkovich, where the only likable character in the film (John Malkovich) has his mind overwritten by a bunch of jerks that are trying to prolong their own lives.
Apparently I’m in the minority on this, because this film was popular enough to get a sequel. 1987’s Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 picks up with Ricky already in a mental asylum after having murdered a bunch of people. The bulk of the movie is told in flashback, as Ricky explains the events of the first movie as well as his own murder spree.
For those of you that are wondering, this movie is where that clip of the guy shouting “Garbage Day!” and shooting someone comes from. Bet you never thought that came from a Christmas related film, did you?
After Ricky finishes telling his story, he escapes the mental hospital and steals a Santa suit. He tracks down the Mother Superior from the first film and manages to kill her before being shot by the police. The film ends with the reveal that Ricky survived, because otherwise the filmmakers wouldn’t be able to make a sequel.
1989’s Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out! changed the ending of the second movie slightly. While the second movie had Ricky more-or-less unfazed with having been shot multiple times, the third film reveals that Ricky has been in a coma for six years. The doctors that were treating Ricky also put a transparent dome on his head, and no one know why.
This film adds a supernatural element in the way of Laura, a young woman that somehow forms a psychic link with Ricky. When Ricky is woken from his coma by a drunk dressed like Santa, Ricky proceeds to murder Laura’s friends and family for no reason. At least no reason that I can tell.
The next two films in the series have no connection to the story of the Chapman brothers at all. 1990’s Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation tells the story of a coven of witches that are planning on performing a dark ritual on Christmas Eve, and 1991’s Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker is basically the story of Pinocchio if both Gepetto and Pinocchio were evil and insane. I’m not sure what the Christmas connection is supposed to be with that last one, unless the writers were just thinking “eh, just throw together some plot with toys”.
The last film (so far) was 2012’s Silent Night. This film was marketed as a remake of the 1984 film, but the plot and characters are different enough that I feel it should count as a different movie altogether. This film has a mysterious man dressed like Santa murdering the inhabitants of a small town in Wisconsin. For most of the film, the audience has no idea who this killer is, until it is revealed that the killer is the owner of a chimney cleaning company named Ronald Jones Jr. The reason that he was killing people was because the police killed his father when he was a kid, and he only dressed like Santa to disguise his identity.
It’s hard to say why there are so many horror movies centered around Christmas. If I had to guess, I would say that these films are a rejection of the traditional happy and sentimental films that are normally associated with Christmas. Either that, or it could be an acknowledgment that scary things can happen at any time of the year, even on a day we traditionally think of as happy and safe.
That closes the book on the longest running series of Christmas horror films (that I know of). Tomorrow, we’re going to discuss a monster that has been in traditional monster horror and slasher films, the Boogeyman!
Yes, I know that’s an odd topic to write an article about, but I promise it will make at least a little sense.