Both prominently featured the colors red and green!
In his must-read The Slasher Movie Book, author J.R. Kerswell pinpoints the years between 1978 and 1984 as being the “golden age” for slasher cinema. John Carpenter’s Halloween no doubt kick-started the sub-genre proper (even if it was very much inspired by Black Christmas, released four years prior), taken to a gory new level with Friday the 13th in 1980 and then, well, run into the ground over the subsequent years by countless imitators.
But though 1984 may have been the end of the so-called “golden age,” it was a year that gave us two of the most unique and successful slasher films of the entire decade.
I’m of course referring to Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street and Charles E. Sellier Jr’s Silent Night, Deadly Night, both released on November 9, 1984.
It was on that day that Elm Street arrived in 165 theaters, ahead of a wider release the following week, while the Christmas-themed slasher made its way into 398 theaters. Granted, it’s not fair to compare given one was released into half as many theaters as the other, but it’s interesting to note that SNDN did out-gross Elm Street in their shared opening weekend.
Silent Night, Deadly Night had an opening weekend gross of $1,432,800, coming in #8 at the box office, topping Elm Street‘s 10th place arrival with $1,271,100.
Of course, A Nightmare on Elm Street went on to enjoy big time box office success, while the controversial Silent Night was pulled from theaters after its second week.
True, 1984 may have overall represented the decline of the slasher sub-genre, but one could say that even the sub-genre’s worst year was capped off with two of its best films. With A Nightmare on Elm Street, Wes Craven introduced the most iconic slasher villain of all time in Freddy Krueger, blending dreams with reality to inject new life into the tired body count formula. While most slashers in the wake of Friday the 13th were little more than Friday the 13th knockoffs, Elm Street was boldly original, changing the game entirely.
And let’s not discredit Silent Night, Deadly Night, which also spawned a long-running franchise and similarly brought freshness to the slasher sub-genre. Rather than simply copying the tried and true slasher formula, the filmmakers instead decided to go in a wholly different direction, presenting the gory slayings in a way that set SNDN apart from the pack.
“We agreed that the most interesting and fun way to do it would be to examine the sequence of events that lead, like dominoes falling, to Billy-as-Santa’s ultimate Christmas eve killing spree,” writer Michael Hickey explained to me during a chat back in 2014, “rather than following the usual approach of focusing on the victims.”
Together, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Silent Night, Deadly Night make a damn good case for November 9th being one of the most important dates in the history of the slasher film. One brought mainstream success to the table, while the other brought mainstream press and notoriety to the widely disregarded sub-genre.
Anyone up for a double feature tonight?