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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Silent Night, Deadly Night (Collector's Edition) (Blu-ray)
Silent Night, Deadly Night (Collector's Edition) (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory // R // December 5, 2017 // Region A
List Price: $34.93 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by William Harrison | posted December 10, 2017 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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THE FILM:

Click an image to view Blu-ray screenshot with 1080p resolution.

Ah, the 1980s, when horror films could be totally sleazy and completely nonsensical. Fully developed characters and comprehensible plots be damned. Bring on the blood, boobs and child abuse! Some may label Silent Night, Deadly Night a travesty; others may find it a masterpiece of trash cinema. I fall somewhere in the middle, but I certainly appreciate Scream Factory compiling another excellent Collector's Edition release of a cult film. Apparently a bunch of snowflake parents got their skivvies in a twist back in 1984 when the marketing folks used a murderous Santa Claus in the film's promotional materials. Charles E. Sellier Jr.'s film only made $2.5 million and quickly disappeared from theaters. Over the next three decades it gained a cult following, and is now available for all to see with a new 4K-sourced transfer. What a wonderful world we live in.

Little Billy Chapman (Jonathan Best, Danny Wagner and largely Robert Brian Wilson) goes to see his grandpa (Will Hare) in a nursing home one winter night. When his family leaves the room, the supposedly catatonic grandfather grabs Billy's arm and explains that Santa Claus will reward the good children but punish the bad ones. Later that night, a robber dressed as Santa murders Billy's parents and leaves Billy and his younger brother, Ricky (Melissa Best, Max Broadhead and Alex Burton), orphaned. Several years later, the pair celebrates Christmas in an orphanage run by hateful Mother Superior (Lilyan Chauvin). Billy is constantly subject to the woman's abuse, and cowers in fear while the other children enjoy the festivities. The film jumps ahead further to 1984 when 18-year-old Billy leaves the orphanage to start his own life. He works as a stock boy and crushes on a pretty coworker, Pamela (Toni Nero), but suffers from recurring visions of his parents' murders. Billy can't stand to look at Santa suits, but is forced to wear one by his boss (Britt Leach) after the store's regular Santa is injured. When Pamela is nearly raped by another coworker (Randy Stumpf) during a Christmas party, Billy suffers a psychotic break and begins killing at random in his bloody Santa attire.

If you haven't noticed by now, Silent Night, Deadly Night is ridiculous in premise and haphazard in execution, which is either a criticism or high praise, depending on where you sit. Billy's transition from innocent kid to psychopath occurs on a road paved with depravity, and the film hits all the highlights in the making-a-murderer kit: physical abuse, sexual frustration and religious fervor. Thus begins 45 minutes of random violence as Billy axes and stabs his way through coworkers, acquaintances and obnoxious sledders. The film actually does a pretty nice job setting up Billy's psychosis, and spends more time than is probably necessary setting up his triggers. Wilson is no Oscar-winning actor, but he seems to have fun with the campy material. Originally titled Slayride (which is a fucking awesome name, IMO), Silent Night, Deadly Night mixes graphic violence with black humor to create an entertaining slice of ‘80s sleaze.

The kills are pretty decent here, and the practical effects in a few shots, like a decapitation, are great. I'm not sure the gore was enough to warrant the liberal cuts and controversy, but this new edition includes both the theatrical and unrated versions of the film. Thanks Scream Factory! There's plenty of flesh, from both females and males, surprisingly, to ogle if you so choose, and the characters are totally, wonderfully unlikeable. Of course you'll root for the nasty nun to get her due, and anyone who was kind to Billy is probably getting stabbed to death, too. It's hard to recommend a film like Silent Night, Deadly Night to an audience unaccustomed to genre films. But for those of you in the loop, this is a fun slasher.

THE BLU-RAY:

PICTURE:

Scream Factory presents the film with a 1.85:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image that is culled from a fresh 4K scan of the original camera negative. Again, what a world we live in that this (fun) trash is getting a 4K scan. Don't even bother revisiting the old Blu-ray, as this version blows it out of the water. Fine-object detail and sharpness are excellent, save a few oddly focused shots that the transfer cannot correct. Texture in costumes and in gore effects is strong, and colors are nicely statured. Shadow details are surprisingly abundant, and black levels are strong. There is some minor print damage and very minor compression artifacts in a couple of shots, but no major technical flaws. The film grain is natural and nicely resolved, and I noticed no edge haloes or digital scrubbing. The unrated footage is in rough shape, as the original elements were apparently lost, but Scream Factory does its best to blend that footage into the HD material.

SOUND:

The 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is effective, with clear dialogue that never distorts and decent ambience. The synth-heavy ‘80s score is nicely realized and layered appropriately amid dialogue and effects. Screams, chops and stabs surround the viewer, and, while this mix doesn't have the power of a modern surround track, it sounds quite nice for a low-budget horror film. English SDH subtitles are available.

PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:

This two-disc "Collector's Edition" arrives with newly commissioned artwork that is replicated on the slipcover. The case art is reversible, and the original poster artwork is on the back side. The two Blu-ray discs are packed in a standard case. The Theatrical Version (82:22/HD) is on Disc 1, while the Unrated Version (85:14/HD) is found on Disc 2. On the first disc you get some TV Spots (1:28 total/SD); a Radio Spot (0:36/Audio); a VHS Trailer (0:30/SD); and a Theatrical Trailer (1:34/HD). The bulk of the good stuff is on Disc 2: You get an Audio Commentary by Actor Robert Brian Wilson and Producer Scott J. Schneid and an Audio Commentary by Screenwriter Michael Hickey, Composer Perry Botkin, Producer Scott Schneid and Editor/Second-Unit Director Michael Spence. Both are good, with the second providing more technical details on the production. Slay Bells Ring: The Story of Silent Night, Deadly Night (45:51/HD) is an excellent, newly created making-of that offers remarks from cast and crew. This provides many interesting stories and blunt discussion of the films flaws and highlights. Other new extras include Oh, Deer! (21:50/HD), a discussion with star Linnea Quigley about her famous death scene; Christmas in July (10:00/HD), a look at the film's locations as they stood in July 2017; an Audio Interview with Director Charles E. Sellier Jr. (58:11/audio); Santa's Stocking of Outrage, a selection of quotes from folks pissed off by the film's marketing campaign; and a Poster and Stills Gallery (0:58/HD).

FINAL THOUGHTS:

This sleazy 1984 horror film angered parents with its murderous-Santa marketing campaign, but that controversy died 33 years ago. The film gained a cult following since, and Scream Factory has released an excellent Collector's Edition Blu-ray that offers theatrical and unrated cuts of the film, excellent new extras, and a transfer culled from a new 4K scan. For horror fans this release is Highly Recommended.


Additional screenshots:

William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.

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