Many Americans, specifically religious or over-protective parents, view Christmas and specifically Santa Claus iconology as holy and something that should be kept innocent and “child-friendly”. So when Silent Night, Deadly Night was released in 1984 there was bound to be some controversy when a man dressed up as Santa Clause began hacking people up. Over time this film became a cult classic and this article will explain how it’s controversy became it’s greatest strength. Being that it is slowly getting closer to Christmas, why not look back at a different side of this peaceful holiday… the Morbidly Amusing side of it. Get ready to take a look back at Silent Night, Deadly Night.
The film received a huge amount of complaints from parents who saw nothing but lurid TV advertisements for the film that convinced them that it was going to forever ruin the magic and joy of the holiday season. So, of course, they headed out and picketed their local theaters, TriStar Picture promptly pulled the ads from television and then removed the film from theaters altogether. Silent Night, Deadly Night transformed itself from a forgettable slasher film to a cult classic virtually overnight. The parents and people who sought to banish it from existence served to make it one of the must-see horror films of the entire decade.
It wasn’t just protective parents who found the film to be appalling to their beloved Holiday. Critics and Hollywood stars alike spoke out about the film, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert famously attacked the movie and everyone involved in its creation. Siskel called it “sick, sleazy and mean-spirited,” and then went on to publicly call out the creators and producers names and said that, “Your profits truly are blood money.” Much like the parental outrage over promotional TV ads, the negative critical reception did nothing but help to make the movie a monumental success, proving that even bad press is good press. Star of the film Linnea Quigley said, “Roger Ebert really ensured the film’s success by creating such a stir. Had they left it alone it probably would’ve faded into simple cult status. So thanks Roger and Gene!”
TriStar pulled Silent Night, Deadly Night from theaters citing poor box office numbers as the reason for pulling the film from theaters, which makes little sense because it took only a couple of days for audiences to spend more money on tickets than the entire movie cost to make. So I guess that you could say the parents and critics were successful in getting the controversial film ran out of theaters, but overall all that this ended up doing at the end of the day was to make kids more interested in seeking this movie out. The sequel Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 didn’t receive nearly as much of a controversy when it came out, and therefore the movie didn’t do nearly as successfully. So the lesson that is almost never learned by protective parents is that the more they protest against a movie being released, the more their kids are likely to try and seek the movie themselves.
Kids like to play in violent fantasy worlds, such as the war between Cobra and G.I. Joe, the battle between transforming robots, Luke Skywalker fighting Darth Vader and WWE wrestling superstars attacking each other in the middle of the ring. A good majority of children know the difference between reality and fantasy, and how to distinguish it. I grew up on 80’s horror films such as Friday the 13th and A Nightmare On Elm Street, films very much like Silent Night, Deadly Night and I have, yet, to kill anybody. Whether I believe in Santa Clause or not, watching a film in which a man dresses up as Santa and is a killer doesn’t mean I think the local mall Santa will kill me or not. And who says Christmas isn’t meant to be a violent holiday, just look at Black Friday or a mall the week before Christmas… people are willing to trample each other for a Tickle Me Elmo. And look at a Christmas classic such as A Christmas Carol, if that isn’t a horror story than I don’t know what is. My personal favorite is Gremlins.
So tis’ the Season and remember, be good little boys and girls because Santa has a list and he’s checking it twice, he’s going to find out whether you are naughty or nice… and if you are naughty dear ole Saint Nick will be sharpening an axe just for you. Below, you’ll find an Entertainment Tonight segment from 1985 that highlights the controversy behind Silent Night, Deadly Night, and underneath that is Siskel & Ebert’s public bashing of the film. Enjoy and have a scary little Christmas from all of us here at Morbidly Amusing.