I’m not a festive person in the slightest. Yes, I’m that awful person that’s still celebrating Halloween in December because I really do not like Christmas. But I do like things like Gremlins playing everywhere and really gruesome festive horror movies. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of crap out there when it comes to the holiday slasher movie. But when done right, it’s really right – like this week’s movie. Silent Night, Bloody Night was released in 1972, and was written and directed by Theodore Gershuny (who also directed Love Me My Way) and co-produced by Lloyd Kaufman (never heard of him).
The movie begins with a voice-over from Diane (played by the always-excellent Mary Woronov), who is walking outside a house while reminiscing about the horrible things that had happened at the house in the months before. Silent Night, Bloody Night gives us a man set on fire… Hmmm. Yes. This is a Christmas movie for me. The man in question is Wilfred Butler. He died on Christmas Eve back in the 50’s. According to Diane’s voice-over, he was a man that was never at home, and his death was an accident. In his well, Wilfred leaves house to his only surviving family member, his grandson Jeffrey. The only request Wilfred has is that nothing be changed from the way he had left it.
Years later, Jeffrey’s lawyer, John, and his assistant Ingrid arrive in the town to sell Wilfred’s old house. Jeffrey wants an immediate sale, preferably by the next day on Christmas, and the town seems like a potential buyer. While John is sitting in his little meeting with the town’s, uh, “head chief people”, he tells them of the plan and they clearly aren’t keen by the prospect. They are all even more visibly disturbed when John says he will be spending the night in the house.
John is a cheating bastard, though, so when he gets killed later on in the movie it’s okay. He and Ingrid have a rather “special” relationship while his wife stays at home. Oblivious to everything going on, the two lovebirds head to the Butler house where John plays the organ for Ingrid, while an unseen man who kills dogs lurks upstairs. Festive!
During dinner, John tells Ingrid that Jeffrey is trying to sell the house for $50,000 in cash when he could get a much larger sum than that if he took his time. Jeffrey is looking for a quick sale, while it doesn’t even seem possible at the low price. Unfortunately, their lovely night of wine and organ playing gets cut short when an unseen creeper in the house hacks the couple apart with an axe. The killer then calls the police to alert them to go to the house. The call is then intercepted by Tess, the phone operator, who has a conversation with the man who calls himself “Marianne.”
Meanwhile, a man arrives at Diane’s house. She’s home alone after her father, the mayor, receives a call asking him to go to the Butler mansion. The man identifies himself Jeffrey Butler, and says that he hasn’t been able to find the Sheriff at the house or the station. The sheriff isn’t around because he’s heading towards the Butler house. Along the way he makes a stop at the local cemetery. There he discovers a dug-up grave, but when he goes to investigate, he’s knocked out and killed.
Jeffrey returns to Diane’s and she tells him that a woman is waiting for him in the reception room of the house. The two decide to head there together where the find the sheriff’s car at the cemetery along the way. They turn back towards town where they find Towman. The man agrees to go with Jeffrey to look for Tess, and leave Diane waiting. Of course something creepy happens when the girl is left alone. She gets a call from “Marianne” who says they have the diary.
But the voice on the phone point’s Diane in the direction of a mystery: Christmas Eve 1935. While doing some digging, Diane discovers that the name of Wilfred’s daughter is Marianne. She is raped and gives birth to a son name Jeffrey. Butler House was turned over to a doctor, who turns the house into a mental asylum, and Marianne is committed there. This leads Diane to believe that Jeffrey’s mother is still alive, who he believes died in childbirth.
Jeffrey and Diane head to the house (finally, I think) and Jeff ends up hitting poor Towman with his car, killing him. This makes Diane suspicious for some reason. She sits in the car while Jeffrey explores his house to look for Marianne. While poking around, Jeffrey finds a letter from his grandfather. Wilfred expresses in the letter that he doesn’t think anyone will ever read it, but he hopes that Marianne will forgive him. The asylum flash back actually includes a few fun cameos from like likes of New York royalty like Candy Darling and Tally Brown, but none of that matters WHEN THAT TWIST DROPS!
This movie is filled with every twist and turn possible right through to the very end. This is definitely a slow-burn sort of film. It’s quiet in its approach, but the pay-off is rather worth it. The creep factor is mostly with the version of “Silent Night, Holy Night” that plays throughout the background of the film. This mostly reminded me of listening to the old radio in my grandma’s house at Christmas. Carols be creepy.
But I’m surprised to never have heard of Silent Night, Bloody Night until a few weeks ago. The acting is good and writing is even better. Too many Christmas horror movies centre around the Santa-as-a-killer business, but so many of these truly successful holiday horror flicks take a more interesting, less obvious manners like Black Christmas. I really enjoy what was done in this movie, even though it does have it’s minuses, like the confusing plot and the lackluster off-camera death scenes. That being said, Silent Night, Deadly Night now has joined my list of favourite Christmas films.
On a final note, I just want to take a moment and appoint the MVP of this movie: Mary Moronov’s hair. Her hair in this movie is fucking FABULOUS. New hair goals for the rest of my damned life.