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Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

I want to start by saying how extremely surprised I was by my interest and investment in this films plot. The tragedy that befalls Billy as a child and the journey he then takes into adulthood that ultimately turns him, ironically, in to the axe welding Santa Claus was one I was not expecting to have such depth. I was expecting nothing more than an 80's B-movie slasher that was set at Christmas with a very thin, if at all existent plot. The first half of this film caught me seriously off guard and it's just a shame that it didn't manage to continue that to the closing credits. The kills in this are extremely violent and blood soaked for the era this was released. The brutality of the opening kills of Billy's parents alone sets the tone right away, then along with the later antlers death and the box cutter to the stomach, it's easy to see why this has become such a fan favourite in the genre and all of the controversy that surrounded it. The cut I watched of this film did include the heavily edit sections from the theatrical cut. (This was something I only realised afterwards, when researching why it contained moments that lacked in visual quality compared to the rest of the film). This is because the cuts that were made for theatrical release were not restored to high quality. It helps to see what was cut and what wasn't but I can't say that it makes for a seamless watching experience. I must admit even though this film goes well above all expectation, I did find the score to be rather erratic and quite annoying it times. As a Carpenter fan and a Halloween fanatic, I can't help but feel something more subtle and subdued would have been a lot more suited to this film. Even something christmas themed would have work better than the intensity of the score that this film settled on. I can understand that it was aiming for maximum audience discomfort but for me I personally I just found it irritating and it pulled me out of the moment. We see three iterations of Billy throughout the course of this films run time - one at 5 years old played by Jonathan Best, one at 8 years old played by Danny Wagner and finally 18 years old Billy played by Robert Brian Wilson. Surprisingly enough, every single one of them delivers an incredible performance. Granted, 18 year old Billy feels almost possessed and wooden by the time he fully transitions into his killer Santa alter-ego but everything he did before this point felt very well delivered. We also have a brief (obviously topless) appearance from a very young Linnea Quigley, who gave a convincing enough performance with the small part she has. Other than that though, the rest of the cast deliver fairly mediocre performances. I found it particularly difficult to not empathise with Billy as a character, this is something I don't tend to usually like as a narrative in a horror film. I don't want to root for the antagonists and I don't want to feel sorry for this character when he/she meets their ultimate demise. So, for me I think the intensely deep back story element (albeit the strongest element of the film) caused some issues as a viewer in the back half of this 'christmas slasher'. This brings me to the closing act. I found it lost major momentum just over two thirds of the way through and this resulted in a slow and disappointing ending to a very intriguing plot. I can appreciate the direction it was trying to take but I just didn't feel it was necessary to return to the orphanage to seek vengeance on Mother Superior. I don't think you can consider her behavior as 'naughty' in the context of which Billy's attacks had been based on. This for me didn't resemble any of the impactful story that had come prior to these moments and caused the final moments of this film to suffer heavily for it. As a cultural phenomenon, I think it's worth ticking off the list just to appease your curiosity. Unfortunately, I can't say that I walked away from this satisfied by my experience. I felt the potential that this film showed only enhanced my disappointment by the time the credits began to roll. It's better than expected but certainly not without some glaringly obvious flaws.


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