If you’re on Santa’s naughty list, you’re in for a lot more than a lump of coal in Steven C. Miller’s liberal remake of the scandalous 80s slasher, Silent Night, Deadly Night. While Silent Night does not add anything new to the subgenre, it delivers the ho ho horror with its spectacular kills and tongue-in-cheek humor. This is a fun film that is bound to spread some holiday cheer in the hearts’ of slasher fans.
Of the countless slashers I’ve seen, the 1984 Silent Night, Deadly Night is one that has stuck with me through the years. Santa Claus is the epitome of all that is joyful and good during the holiday season. The idea of turning Santa into a murderous creature of retribution is nothing if not twisted. The original film took the holiday joy and spun it into a darkly funny, sadistic legacy of a slasher film. While Silent Night, Deadly Night may not hold the same gravitas as films like Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Friday the 13th, Steven C. Miller had quite the job ahead of him with this remake.
Silent Night is very, very loosely based on the 1984 film, which works wholly to its advantage. Rather than playing within the confines of the original, it takes it’s own, rather simple, approach to vengeful Santa. In a small off-the-map town, several morally inept citizens find themselves on slasher Santa’s naughty list. Their brutally slaughtered bodies turn up one by one, leaving a messy trail for the local police. On the case are the irrational Sheriff (Malcolm Mcdowell) and his shrewd but tentative deputy (Jamie King). The plot is bare bones, but it works as a suitable backdrop for Santa’s spectacular kills.
From the get go Santa’s rampage is dirty, violent, and gruesome, which most of you should appreciate. He employs a wide range of weapons to ensure that each murder is as amusing as it is bloody. The kills come non-stop, and are ultimately what drive the film forward.
What I like most about the kills is that Miller doesn’t waste time setting up unnecessary relationships between characters in an attempt to make you feel empathy. Every character that dies ultimately deserves it. The Fargo-esque woodchopper kill alone makes the film worth watching. But my favorite kill involves a bratty thirteen-year-old yelling, “Fuck church!” only to be callously killed moments later.
Silent Night undertakes the same comically bleak tone of the original, while managing to be cleverly self-reflexive. Steven C. Miller has an obvious affection for 80s horror, but understands modern audiences demand moments of cheeky humor and awe-inducing gore. The dialogue is often ridiculous, hitting the comedic mark it shoots for. Malcolm Mcdowell is especially good as the dimwitted and pompous sheriff, ensuring that even the most serious of viewers will let out a chuckle.
I imagine some will say that the film takes on a similar aesthetic to a lot of horror remakes but I beg to differ. For a moderately low-budget film, Miller manages to make it look massive in scope. Silent Night offers interesting shot composition and framing techniques that give it a gritty, yet oddly beautiful edge. Miller makes splendid use of the holiday color scheme, employing an abundance of bright red, green, and blue lights to create a candy-coated aesthetic to contrast with the bloodshed. The practical effects work is top notch without relying on digital enhancement for shock factor.
Silent Night has its shortcomings beyond the simple plot. Because the film jumps right into the kills without any exposition, there is no real sense of mystery throughout the film. The reveal of the Santa’s identity falls a flat as a result. The replay factor comes only from the kills, and if you’re looking for something more mentally substantial, you’ll have to look elsewhere this holiday season.
Silent Night is a modern slasher with its heart in the 80s. As a remake, it maintains the same level of cheese, dark humor, and seduction as the original Silent Night, Deadly Night. Thanks to Miller’s artistic eye, the film look far better than most studio remakes, and it’s way more fun. Silent Night is gorily entertaining from start to finish, making it a worthwhile holiday horror flick.