Monday, November 20, 2017

SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984) (Scream Factory Blu-ray Review)

2-Disc Collector's Edition
Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: R/Unrated
Duration: 82 Minutes/85 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Charles E. Sellier Jr.
Cast: Lilyan Chauvin, Gilmer McCormick, Toni Nero, Robert Brian Wilson, Britt Leach, Nancy Borgenicht, H.E.D. Redford, Danny Wagner, Linnea Quigley

Synopsis: Silent Night, Deadly Night is the heartwarming story of little Billy Chapman who was traumatized by his parents' Christmas Eve murder, then brutalized by sadistic orphanage nuns. But when grown-up Billy is to dress as jolly St. Nick, he goes on a yuletide rampage to "punish the naughty!" Santa Claus is coming to town ... and this time he's got an axe! Robert Brian Wilson and Scream Queen Linnea Quigley star in this jaw-dropping horror classic that a nation of angry mothers still cannot stop!

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) open in the year 1971 as young Billy (Jonathan Best) and his family are driving to see grandpa at the asylum on Christmas Eve, the old man is in a catatonic state and hasn't spoken in years. However, when Billy is left alone in the room with gramps the creepy bearded-elder awakens to warn the boy that Christmas Eve is the scariest night of the year, that old Saint Nick not only gives gifts to children who've been good, but he severely punishes the naughty ones. Billy is creeped by the odd event and later that night on the drive home the family encounters a man dressed in a Santa suit on the side of the road next to a disable vehicle, Billy's dad stops to assist the man, not realizing that  this Santa just robbed a store and shot the clerk three times. As his father rolls down the window to offer assistance he is shot dead, then Santa sets his sights in Billy's mother,  dragging her screaming from the car, ripping open her blouse exposing her breasts and attempting to rape her. While this is happening Billy's infant brother Ricky is left in the car screaming while Billy runs off into the nearby bushes to hide, witnessing the costumed criminal slash his mother's throat, scarring young Billy for years to come.

Three years later eight year old Billy (Danny Wagner) and his brother are living at St. Mary's Orphanage for children where the traumatized Billy draws bloody crayon pictures of Santa and a decapitated reindeer to the ire of the stern Mother Superior (Lilyan Chauvin, Predator 2) who scolds Billy mercilessly while Sister Maragaret (Gilmer McCormick) is a more caring and sympathetic force in his life. Mother Superior's brutal lessons in right and wrong continue to inform Billy's twisted perception of how the naughty must be punished. Billy is further traumatized on Christmas when Mother Superior cruelly forces him to sit on Santa's lap, whom Billy immediately punches in the face! The film really does a good job explaining the psychological traumas that inform what happens a bit later, but it's slow going after the initial Santa attack at the start of the film, particularly when you take into account that the film in only 82 minutes long. 

Flash forward 10 years later and the now strapping 18-year-old Billy Commando Squad) whom he fantasizes about having sex with before being stabbed, which is a terrible sex dream by the way, but he's been conditioned to punish the naughty, so it makes sense. Things begin to fall apart when Billy becomes unhinged after being asked to dress up as Santa on Christmas Eve, yeah that's gonna be trouble.
(Robert Brian Wilson), with the help of sweet Sister Margaret, secures a job at Ira's Toy Store. Things go relatively well for the young man, we even get an goofy montage set to a corny tune of Billy working around the store. He develops a crush on cute co-worker Pamela (Toni Nero,

When the store closes that night Billy get drunk at the office party, later he walks in on a co-worker attempting to rape Pamela which spurs a flashback to the traumatic childhood murder of his mom and he snaps, killing the co-worker by strangling him with a string of xmas lights, declaring him "naughty", and also stabbing Pamela with a box cutter. Now it's Christmas Eve and the death of his mother and father, the years of abuse at the hands of Mother Superior and his twisted sense of naughty/punishment all come to the forefront, there's psycho Santa on the loose and no one is safe. Billy continues his spree of punishing the naughty until he finds his way back to the orphanage to punish Mother Superior, the film ends with Billy's younger brother Ricky looking upon the dead brother and uttering the word "Naughty" thereby setting up the insane sequel.

Silent Night, Deadly Night is a fun, sleazy slasher with some decent kills, perhaps the most elaborate features 80's scream queen Linnea Quigley (Return of the Living Dead) being impaled on the antlers of a deer which was just a very cool kill. There's also a memorable decapitation of a bully while he;s snow sledding down a wooded hill, his headless body continuing down the hill on the sled and his severed head rolling down after a few moments later, fun stuff. 

The acting here is not of the highest caliber and it's not exactly the best looking film you will ever see, there's plenty of out of focus shots, but as low-budget early 80's slashers go this is fun stuff, just keep in mind there's some real pacing issues when nothing much is happening, or is just happening for far too long. Despite the notorious controversy the film is petty tame by 80's slasher standards, but apparently the idea of Santa with an ax killing the naughty was pretty offensive in '84. The notions of little kids watching the trailer for this one on TV which is just hilarious to me, even though the idea of a killer Santa was not new at the time, it having been done 12 years prior with the "All Through the House" segment of the Amicus horror anthology Tales from the Crypt (1972). 

Audio/Video: Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) had been released previously on Blu-ray from Anchor Bay a few years back, it was a unimpressive transfer that was not even an upgrade from their previous DVD release, but now Scream Factory remedy that with a 2-disc Blu-ray. The Santa-slasher arrives with a 4K scan from the original camera negative, framed in the original 1.85:1 widescreen, of both the theatrical cut and unrated version. The image looks great, there's more detail and nuance to the image, film grain is consistent, colors are stronger and skin tones look more natural.  The unrated version is sourced from the same 4K restoration with standard definition inserts from a separate source, possibly VHS, and the drop in quality is significant but acceptable as these elements just do not exist in a better quality version. Audio on both versions comes by way of an English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 track, it does the job, dialogue is crisp and well-balanced with the atonal xmas-tinged horror score from Perry Botkin Jr. (Goin' South), optional English subtitles are provided.   

Onto the extras, Scream Factory have stuffed this blood soaked xmas stocking to the very top with cool-new extras, spread out over the 2-discs, though the bulk of the extras show-up on disc two with the unrated cut. Disc one contains the 82-min theatrical version along with the theatrical trailer, VHS trailer, and TV and radio spots. 
Disc two contain the 85-min unrated version, with two audio commentaries, the first with actor Robert Brian Wilson And Co-Executive Producer Scott J. Schneid, and a second with Screenwriter Michael Hickey, Composer Perry Boykin, Scott J. Schneid, and Editor Michael Spence. We also get a selection of new interviews and featurettes, beginning with the 46-min long Slay Bells Ring: The Story Of Silent Night, Deadly Night which features interviews with Writer Michael Hickey, Co-Executive Producers Scott J. Schneid And Dennis Whitehead, Editor/Second Unit Director Michael Spence, Composer Perry Botkin, And Actor Robert Brian Wilson. This takes us through the journey of the genesis of the script, selling the film to Tri-Star, shooting and editing the film, and the moral outrage generated by the naughty slasher which sent parent's groups through the roof with yuletide horror, this is the doc I think we've all been waiting for. There's also an interview with scream queen Linnea Quigley who discusses her role in the film, what it was like working with the director, and the locations in Utah, and discussing nudity in the film, and being upset when another actress who refused to do nudity got a diamond necklace from the director while she didn't get squat.  

There's also a 10-min now and then look at various locations used in the film, an nearly hour-long interview with Director Charles E. Sellier, Jr. from Deadpit Radio, which is a longer extended version, running about 23-minutes longer than the Anchor Bay release. They also carry-over the quotes/letters from people condemning the film during it's initial release, which is a fun read. The disc is finished-u with an image gallery with posters, home video release art and still from the film.

Scream Factory have now given us definitive editions of two Christmas horror classics, Bob Clark's seminal Black Christmas (1974) and now we have Silent Night, Deadly Night! I would love to see the sequel Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 (1987)on tap for 2018, hoping for a sweet Garbage Day Collector's Edition of that one, make it happen Scream Factory! 

This 2-disc Blu-ray release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork, side-a featuring a new murderous yuletide illustration from artist Joel Robinson, the b-side featuring the classic one-sheet featuring Santa climbing down the chimney with an ax in hand. This release comes with a limited edition slipcover also featuring the new illustration, the artwork on the Blu-ray discs mirror the reversible artwork, it's a very attractive package. 

Special Features:
DISC ONE: Theatrical Version (82 Minutes)
-NEW 4K Scan Of The Original Camera Negative
- R-Rated Theatrical Trailer (2 min) 
- VHS Trailer (1 min) 
- TV Spots (1 min) 
- Radio Spot (1 min) 

DISC TWO: Extended Unrated Version (85 Minutes)
- NEW 4K Scan Of The Original Camera Negative With Standard Definition Inserts
- NEW Slay Bells Ring: The Story Of Silent Night, Deadly Night – (46 min) HD Featuring Interviews With Writer Michael Hickey, Co-Executive Producers Scott J. Schneid And Dennis Whitehead, Editor/Second Unit Director Michael Spence, Composer Perry Botkin, And Actor Robert Brian Wilson
- NEW Oh Deer! – An Interview With Linnea Quigley (21 min) 
- NEW Christmas In July – Silent Night, Deadly Night Locations – Then And Now (10 min) 
- NEW Audio Commentary With Actor Robert Brian Wilson And Co-Executive Producer Scott J. Schneid
- Audio Commentary With Michael Hickey, Perry Boykin, Scott J. Schneid, and Michael Spence
- Audio Interview With Director Charles E. Sellier, Jr. From Deadpit Radio (Extended Version)(58 min) HD
- Santa’s Stocking Of Outrage (5 min) HD 
- Poster And Still Gallery (1 min) 

My love of this santa-slasher grows with each watch, a well-made  yuletide psycho-thriller that offers up some naughty Christmas murder for lover's of bloody Santa mayhem. Thankfully it can now it can be enjoyed in a 2-disc collector's edition with a proper 4K restoration and loads of value-added extras, this is the perfect stocking stuffer for the horror fan on your Christmas list, highly recommend.

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