In the pantheon of Christmas set slasher films, none are as notorious as Charles E. Sellier Jr’s Silent Night, Deadly Night. Released in 1984 to outcries from parents and critics, due largely in part to its theatrical marketing campaign featuring an ax clutching Santa, the film didn’t hit many screens and became more synonymous with controversy than highly regarded – even within its genre. But more than 30 years later and Silent Night, Deadly Night still reigns supreme when it comes to holiday horror and now it gets the deluxe treatment from Scream Factory.
Watching Silent Night, Deadly Night in 2017 feels fairly innocuous. Sure, the opening Santa attack wherein a child watches his parents violently murdered, can still make even the more jaded genre viewer raise an eyebrow but that quickly gives way to routine slasher antics. The kills are well played and some are legitimately memorable, perhaps borderline iconic (the antlers skewering in particular), but it’s hard to see what got everyone so riled up in 1984. Since the release of Silent Night, Deadly Night cinema has been inundated with Christmas set horror including its four DTV sequels plus the likes of Elves (1989), Jack Frost (1996), Santa’s Slay (2005), the Black Christmas remake (2006), Rare Exports (2010) and even a Silent Night, Deadly Night remake in the more succinctly titled Silent Night (2011). Santa, and Christmas itself, hardly feels like the consecrated territory it did over 30 years ago – maybe it’s the “War on Christmas”, but Sellier Jr’s film doesn’t pack quite the punch it once did. That doesn’t keep it from being consistently entertaining though.
It may not shock viewers in 2017, but Silent Night, Deadly Night is still plenty of fun. Its low budget shows, especially in this newly minted transfer, and some of its eccentricities can be grating (I never want to hear someone bellow “naughty” again) but Sellier Jr knew how to please a crowd and that’s the best possible way to experience Silent Night, Deadly Night. Once it picks up, the kills are frequent and gruesome and nearly everything else happening on screen is in poor taste, at best. It’s an efficient 82 minute ride that never wears out its welcome and 100% commits to what it is doing. Whether or not that’s what you’re looking for, that’s a different story.
Shout Factory have brought Silent Night, Deadly Night to Blu-ray for the second time following 2014’s Anchor Bay release which was not well received. The good news is that this release is a huge step up from that one and is easily the best presentation of the film yet on home video, and I can’t imagine it getting any better than this. The transfer is sourced from a new 4K scan of the original camera negative and the results are pretty staggering. Colors pop, especially those Santa reds and snow whites, and a nice layer of grain is present throughout. The clarity here definitely allows some of the budgetary constraints to be apparent but this is a gift for fans. An unrated version is also included, sourced from the same 4K scan, but with much lower quality video footage included for the newly added bits. It’s worth the minor distraction to have the film available complete and I can’t imagine that fans would find it that troublesome – especially considering how this film has looked for years prior on home video. Audio is DTS HD MA 2.0 and it’s a solid track, with effects and dialogue remaining balanced and no issues present.
If the new transfer and inclusion of the unrated cut weren’t enough, Scream Factory have pulled out all of the stops for this Collector’s Edition release which more than earns it’s title. The unrated version is accompanied by two commentary tracks: the first is with lead actor Robert Brian Wilson and producer Scott Schneid. This is a lively, informative track that goes through production and release, including plenty of struggles with both. It’s clear that these two care about the film. The second track is more technical, with Schneid being joined by screenwriter Michael Hickey, composer Perry Botkin and editor Michael Spence. This track is still full of great info but it’s less fun than the first one. Still a great listen for fans, but more casual viewers should stick to the first track.
The next major extra is the 45 minute documentary “Slay Bells Ringing” which includes new interviews with all of those involved in the above commentary tracks. This is a ton of fun to watch with plenty of anecdotes shared and it seems that everyone is fond of the experience of making the film and its long life (but maybe not the film itself). Next up is “Oh, Deer”, an older interview with Linnea Quigley where she discusses her role and the controversy of the film. She’s a great interview subject, as always, but this feels very dated compared to what else is on here. “Christmas In July” is a visit to the sets in current day, it’s a fun watch and doesn’t overstay its welcome. A nearly hour long interview with Sellier Jr – who passed away in 2011 – is also included, which touches on plenty of production and controversy elements. One of the best old features returns “Santa’s Stocking of Outrage”, a five minute compilation of upset parents and public figures regarding the film’s advertising at the time of release. Trailers, TV spots and stills are also included.
It’s hard to imagine a Silent Night, Deadly Night fan who won’t be overjoyed with Shout Factory’s exhaustive Collector’s Edition release. The movie has tamed over the years but still remains a fun entry into the slasher genre and arguably the best (or at least most popular) of the Santa slashers. The new 4K transfer is a revelation and the extras package is as good as it gets. Highly Recommended.