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Silent Night, Deadly Night – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

It would be an understatement to say that a brand new Blu-ray release of Silent Night, Deadly Night wasn’t something that was overdue. A 30th anniversary edition was lazily put out by Anchor Bay three years ago. It was ripped to shreds by Blu-ray enthusiasts and fans, but I found it to be “fine” (I was just happy the damn thing was FINALLY out). But, even I was ecstatic that people who really do give a damn about the “naughty” rampage of Santa Billy got ahold of the film to do a new release. Those people being Scream Factory and Justin Beahm’s Reverend Entertainment. FINALLY this movie was in some great hands. Beyond this 2-disc set, they also offered a limited edition with a Billy NECA figurine to go with it which, if you hurry, you can STILL nab yourself one (CLICK HERE).  Fans should be excited that its a new transfer (Something fans wanted) and the usual brand new retrospective documentaries and interviews. A must have for the holidays!

Film 

Sorry for the reruns, but I’ve written and discussed Silent Night, Deadly Night quite a bit over the years. In fact, just last year on my podcast, Cult Cinema Cavalcade, we dedicated an episode to this movie and our guest was Justin Beahm who went on to produce the bonus material for THIS release. You can listen to that by clicking HERE.

The following written review was originally posted on Naptown Nerd August 28th, 2014:

Silent Night, Deadly Night is the heartwarming story of little Billy Chapman who was traumatized by his parents’ Christmas Eve murder, then brutalized by sadistic orphanage nuns. But when grown-up Billy is to dress as jolly St. Nick, he goes on a yuletide rampage to “punish the naughty!” Santa Claus is coming to town … and this time he’s got an axe!

Silent Night Deadly Night may be a forgotten entity outside of its cult status, but it was actually one of the most controversial films of the 1980s.  It’s legacy is likely more tied to the outcry it caused with the public than the actual film itself.  With the film’s release came extreme protests from parents and religious groups over its “supposed” subject matter.  One such protester was actor Mickey Rooney who wrote a heated letter to the producers condemning the film.  In a funny twist of fate, Rooney would later star in Silent Night Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker.  Not helping the fact were critics absolutely slamming it as filth, even to the extent that Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert read aloud all the production credits on their show shaming everyone who worked on the film.  The extremely vocal protests worked, as Tri-Star Pictures pulled all advertisements for the film after six days into the theatrical run, and then pulled the film entirely from theaters after two weeks.

What was it about this film that was so terrible, so vile that it should never have been release, let alone made?  This is another one of those cases of people protesting and screaming out against something they’ve never even seen.  When you watch the movie today you’ll be scratching your head and wondering what exactly caused such a national stir.  Basically, people thought the film featured Santa Claus as a serial killer and likely sneaking down chimneys and hacking away at innocent little children.  If you’ve seen the film or even the trailer you know this couldn’t be further from the truth.  In fact, the only way you could falsely assume such a thing is if you judge this movie on the poster alone.  Leonard Maltin only fueled the fire with his negative review when he said something along the lines of “What’s next? The Easter Bunny as a child molester?”

All of this outrage and gathered protests of a film that merely was your average early 1980s teen slasher film that featured the killer wearing a mall Santa Claus outfit.  The Golden Era of slashers on its last leg by 1984, only to be given a second wind that same opening weekend with a film opening opposite Silent Night Deadly Night called A Nightmare On Elm Street.  In the first run of the slashers (1980-84), a killer usually was defined by a simple mask or costume.  A lot of them tried to use something relate-able with a scary twist for their killers.  The Prowler used a vintage military outfit, My Blood Valentine used a gas masked coal miner outfit and of course we all know Jason Voorhees donned the iconic hockey mask in Friday The 13th Part 3-D Silent Night Deadly Night was naturally only taking the same step as those other films.  However, people felt that fictional Santa Claus was such a sacred being that he could not be tarnished and treated like that for the sake of the children.  But, Silent Night Deadly Night was a rated R horror/slasher film.  What overprotective parent protesting was taking their kid to this movie in the first place?  Its not like they were tricking people and putting this out as PG.  Ideally, with that rating the film should be inaccessible to children under the age of 17.  Any protest here is null and void.  What it all amounted to was a lot of nonsense and harming a film’s financial intake.

These protesters look like even bigger hypocrites because Silent Night Deadly Night wasn’t actually the first film to feature a mass murderer in Santa’s clothing.  They totally missed that four years earlier, a horror film came and went called You Better Watch Out (now known as Christmas Evil).  In that film its a guy at a toy factory who loses it and goes killing.  It wasn’t as big a release or maybe as commercial a film as Silent Night Deadly Night, but it did play in theaters and no one said a thing about it or even thought to make a sign in aggression toward it.  As I always say with these people outraged over these movies, its fiction, its not real and nobody is making you watch it.  Today, Silent Night Deadly Night would come and go without even a peep.  Heck, there was a remake back in 2012, which did play to limited release, and nobody really even seemed to care.

All this and we haven’t even talked about the film itself.  Silent Night Deadly Night is a rather slow moving traditional slasher film, taking its time to build the case for its killer’s motivations.  Some notable events, such as the shocking murder of Billy’s parents and his super creepy institutionalized grandfather make for good material.  But a lot of the Catholic upbringing sequence and Billy’s starting out working at the toy store drag quite a bit and try to hammer home the values and ideals that will later set Billy off.  Once he does get going though, the movie starts working a lot better.  While Billy’s killing spree is rather disjointed and pretty much random, it does lend to some fun moments and great kills.  Of those kills is a pretty iconic one featuring Linnea Quigley in an early role (and yes fellas, she is pretty much topless the whole time).  Our killer takes Linnea, hoists her up and impales her on some deer antlers from a deer head on the wall.  Its quite the spectacle and probably the most memorable thing to people when it comes to the film itself.  While not up there with that one, the decapitation of a kid while sledding down a hill is a hoot too.  The gore effects in the film are rock solid too, so its an extra treat.

One aspect that I think the film shines on that no one really credits it for is the music.  Silent Night Deadly Night used no actual Christmas songs or music for the film.  They actually wrote all the music themselves.  To their biggest credit, you can’t tell at all or won’t notice.  The songs in the movie sound like actual “timeless classics” Christmas songs that have been around for ages.  Its never really been talked about before with the music of the film before, but you could actually play the soundtrack around the holidays (not winter 1984 though!) and people would probably dig it.  Plus it’d be a change of pace from all the stuff that overplays and overplays and OVERPLAYS that time of year.  Horror fans, let Silent Night Deadly Night‘s songs ring in your bloody cheer for Christmas time this year!

Despite being pulled after 2 weeks, the film actually managed to rake in over triple its budget.  That may indeed be part of the reason why Tri-Star was ok with calling it a day and “giving in” to the protesters after 2 weeks.  They had indeed already “won”.  Also of note, the Silent Night Deadly Night actually topped A Nightmare On Elm Street at the box office on their opening weekend.  We know the latter became legendary and insanely iconic, but it was Silent Night Deadly Night people were more excited for that weekend.  Who knows what would have happened had Silent Night Deadly Night been allowed to make a normal healthy run at the box office and not had so much push back.  It was the biggest thing standing in Freddy’s way and cleared out almost instantly allowing the Springwood Slasher to take in all possible box office successes.

Silent Night Deadly Night was later resurrected in 1986 in theaters by a new distributor.  It featured a new ad campaign focusing on Billy and not Santa as much as it could.  In 1987, some people were hired to re-edit the film and shoot a few new scenes to try and sell it off as a sequel or a new film.  The people involved got a bit into the new scenes they were shooting and wound up kind of doing a half and half.  The became Silent Night Deadly Night – Part 2, which may be what is more famous in our current atmosphere as it featured the super internet famous “Garbage Day” scene.  In fact, I honestly recommend 2 over the first one if you haven’t seen either.  Part 2 includes pretty much all the good stuff from the first movie and itself falls into one of those crazy “so bad its good” midnight movies that is infinitely more enjoyable than some of the boredom that befalls the original film.  And trust me if you’re worried about missing the first film, Part 2 includes 45-50 minutes of it.  So the original film has sort of been released many times and has been included in 2 movies.

The legacy of Silent Night Deadly Night has been a fading one.  It did have a nationwide theatrical rerelease last winter, but I’m not sure how successful that run went.  It is a key player in the annals of horror history when it comes to the slasher films.  And the film did spawn 4 sequels (that get quite bizarre as you keep going) and a remake.  This film was as controversial in the 1980s as The Last Temptation Of Christ if you’ll believe it.  The film was a household name due to its “supposed” vile content.  Today however, its a has been and maybe isn’t even all the well known outside of its own fan base and retro horror nerds like myself.  When you look at it, maybe people want to forget the protesting as its actually quite embarrassing to think that this film caused all sort of a stink after you actually view the film and see what it really is.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p (Inserts for unrated material are in standard definition)

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: This new transfer of Silent Night, Deadly Night comes from a new 4K scan of the original camera negative. Before the film plays on the Unrated Version, it is noted that the uncut footage is missing. Sony searched the vault for the footage but came up empty (Not gone forever, just “missing”). They have used the same video footage of the unrated material as before but did their best to match the color on the video footage to the new transfer as best they could.  Yes, they are noticeable, but I’d rather have them than not have them. And I’d rather have a version of the film I can watch with them included than just added as deleted scenes. If they bother you that much, remember, this release includes the standard theatrical cut. Just go ahead and watch that and save the negative energy. One day maybe this footage gets found, maybe it doesn’t. Its not as if people aren’t and haven’t been trying. If you want the film uncut, this is the best there is for now.

With that little caveat on inserts out of the way, the new 4K transfer from the original camera negative is a f***ing revelation. I had low expectations on this because of how lackluster the previous edition was that maybe the source materials just weren’t the greatest. NOT SO! This think looks wicked crisp and clear. The movie is all of a sudden spacey, well rounded, rich and bold in its look. Details are rampant. You can see every bit of fabric and texture on clothes, every step and touch on the snow, smudges and dirt on car windows, dirty chalk boards and chipped paint with scratches on desks, text on toy packaging in the background (I can see more information on Krull: The Board Game than ever before!). The on screen text designating a time and place are even rich, sharp and glowing like they were finished in today’s film climate rather than 1984’s. I’m rather blown away by this new transfer. It argues to be the best ever from Scream Factory, reminding me very much of the incredible work that Grindhouse Releasing did on Pieces last year.

Depth:  This movie all of a sudden now is spacey, free and very three dimensional in its appearance. Foreground, middle and background all feel a good push back and distance from one another. Movements are smooth, natural, cinematic and feature no issues with jitter/blurring on rapid moving sequences.

Black Levels: Blacks come much deeper, natural and feature some excellent saturation. Dark sequences in this film look beautiful and the darkness and shadows still manage to capture loads of detail. There are many levels of tints and shades here, having dark hair, clothes and surfaces still looking well defined. No crushing witnessed during this viewing for the review.

Color Reproduction: Colors appear very strong now and natural. Reds of course come on incredibly strong and have a nice palette with pop whether it be blood or Billy’s outfit. Yellows are rather strong too. Blues look good, especially when they are in a lighter tone. The toy store probably gives us our best eye candy and production of color in the movie.  Christmas lights give us a really nice, charming glow in the image.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent, keeping the same tones throughout the entirety of the film. Medium and close ups really shine with details like freckles, scars, wrinkles, stubble, blemishes, lip texture and more.  Its like looking through a window…and this is a dirt cheap slasher film from 1984.

Noise/Artifacts: This features a little bit of specs/dirt and fine, welcomed grain. It all added to the charm of the film.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Mono 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: In its previous release, Silent Night, Deadly Night sported a subpar 5.1 track. Here it opts to just go for its original mono track and the change is a much better improvement. The opening credits is a little too deep, but after that things go rather dandy. In moments a bit of the analog sourcing is evident, but other than that, for a little mono track, this one proves very impressive. Its very balanced and loose. Another enjoyable aspect is how it can fill a room, especially with the Christmas music.  “Warm Side of the Door” has never sounded so intricate, concert-like and beautiful before.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is clear, clean and pretty much crisp all the way through. I was surprised at how well rounded it was and that much of the actors’ diction was kept intact.

Extras 

Silent Night, Deadly Night – Collector’s Edition is a 2-Blu-ray Disc set that features a reversible cover sporting the original theatrical poster. Disc 1 has the Theatrical Version of the film and Disc 2 has the Unrated Version. New bonus materials were produced by Justin Beahm’s Reverend Entertainment.

Disc 1: Theatrical Version

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:34) – “You’ve made it through Halloween, now try and survive Christmas”

TV Spots (SD, 1:26) – “The movie that outraged America,…frightened the government”

VHS Trailer (SD, :30) – “If Nightmare on Elms Street gave them sleepless nights”

Radio Spot (HD, :36) – “His suit is red, his beard is white, but something about him is a little strange”

Disc 2: Unrated Version

Audio Commentary

  • With Actor Robert Brian Wilson and Executive Producer Scott J. Schneid
  • By Michael Hickey, Perry Botkin Jr., Scott J. Schneid and Michael Spence

Slay Bells Ring: The Story Of Silent Night, Deadly Night (HD, 45:51) – This meaty and rich retrospective documentary features interviews with writer Michael Hickey, co-executive producers Scott J. Schneid and Dennis Whitehead, editor/second unit director Michael Spence, composer Perry Botkin and actor Robert Brian Wilson. These guys start with the earliest roots (“Slayride”) all the way to the controversial release and legacy of the film. Every little aspect you’d want to know is covered, from acting choices to scrapping the entire first edit and going from scratch. The talking heads here are extremely honest, holding nothing back, but also very positive and jovial about their experience and where they are today with the film. And thank you for setting the end credits of this to “Warm Side of the Door” as well as it making a brief appearance during the music discussion!

Oh Deer! An Interview With Linnea Quigley (HD & SD, 21:50) – The interview looks like it may have been taped remotely, as the quality looks very home video-ish and she answers written questions.  Linnea isn’t just limited to her work on this film, she’s covers her start in the industry as she was brought into the model/actress industry by two girls at a health spa (Involving Jack Palance trying to take her for a helicopter ride that she refused) and wanting to get every part she could.  The bulk of the interview is indeed revolving around the film to which Linnea answers questions colorfully on every possibly aspect you’d want her to cover (Including a funny take a Siskel & Ebert’s thoughts on the film).

Christmas In July: Silent Night, Deadly Night Locations Then and Now (HD, 10:00) – Taken in July 2017, this video shows us pretty much every location used in the film in its 2017-current form. The video does comparisons between the new footage and the movie and is accompanied by the score of the film and subtitles.

Audio Interview With Director Charles E. Sellier Jr. (HD, 58:11) – Originally was included on the Anchor Bay release, but at around 35 minutes in length. This is about an hours’ worth interview from an episode of Deadpit Radio where the director goes over the making of Silent Night, Deadly Night. He goes over getting funding for the film, the shoot, the controversy, all the important topics. I’m sure some will be disappointed its not video, but its an hours worth of material from a deceased director, it worth it and only makes this release that much greater.

Santa’s Stocking Of Outrage (HD, 4:31) – Carried over from the Anchor Bay release, a collection of the angry letters submitted in protest of the film back in 1984 (Includes, Silent Night, Deadly Night 5 star, Mickey Rooney’s).

Poster and Still Gallery (HD, :58)

Summary 

Silent Night, Deadly Night has been a holiday classic for 33 years going strong. Its a better film than it may have had any business being and one of the strongest slashers of the big boom. Though I still say, the best of both worlds comes when you watch the 2nd one (“Garbage Day”). This new Blu-ray is the definitive edition of the film and really probably is the be-all end-all for Silent Night, Deadly Night releases. Scream Factory’s release features an insanely improved picture quality (I cannot stress how incredible this movie looks) with the original mono track that sounds loads better too. I don’t need to tell you that the bonus materials here are awesome, but they really are worth owning the release for on their own.  This is a MUST OWN title or one to make sure is in someone who’s been “naughty” or nice’s stocking this holiday season.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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