It may come as a shock to some people, but fans of the horror genre know that there are a lot of Christmas-themed horror movies at our disposal. Typically these are the films I watch during November, after Halloween has come and gone, while Christmas is not quite here. There are a lot I still haven’t gotten around to watching yet, but movies like Black Christmas (both the 1974 original and the 2006 remake), Rare Exports, and Santa’s Slay typically make the list. As the holiday looms nearer then I move onto more outright Christmas-y outings like Gremlins and Silent Night, Deadly Night. It’s nice to run into a new one along the way, and now Film Chest is releasing the 1974 cult classic Silent Night, Bloody Night in a newly remastered DVD on December 10.
It’s Christmas Eve 1950, and Wilfred Butler comes running out of his house set on fire. Dead and buried, the Butler house is believed to be cursed. In present day, Diane Adams (Mary Woronov) informs us, via voiceover, that she has returned to watch the Butler house be torn to the ground — even if it can never take the memories along with her from another fateful Christmas Eve in 1972. The Butler Estate is finally up for sale by the family’s lawyer Charlie Towman (John Carradine), who has come to offer the sale to the townsfolk for $50,000. Along for the ride is Charlie’s mistress Ingrid (Astrid Heeren). The two settle in for their night at the Butler house, but not before someone hacks them to pieces. Meanwhile, someone has escaped from the local sanitarium and a mysterious hitchhiker claiming to be Wilfred’s grandson Jeffrey (James Patterson) is roaming the streets.
Now, don’t let the DVD cover’s HD remastering claim fool you on the video quality. This is a tried and true B-movie grindhouse-quality print that looks like someone’s been spinning car tires over it. The right side of the screen is brighter than the rest of the picture and you’ll find the expected level of nicks, scratches, vertical/horizontal lines, and missing frames. Really all these imperfections add to the charm. The sound is the same, full of cracks, hiss, and pops. Played back on a 7.1 sound system made for an amusing viewing experience as the noise on the track played in full volume through both rear speakers surrounding me in white noise while everything else tried to make its way out of the center speaker. However, dialogue is surprisingly clean and you rarely miss any of the awfully good and cheesy lines.
In true horror fashion, everybody’s a suspect! The traditional helpings of red herring are on the loose as the townsfolk start dropping like flies and Diane gets into the fight of her life when she gets swept up into the murder spree. Silent Night, Bloody Night was produced by Troma co-founder Lloyd Kaufman, but don’t expect the same level of bloody titillation you’re used to. The one sex scene is completely implied and almost everyone is killed off screen. However, this does give director Theodore Gershuny some time to build actual tension instead of just showing lots of carnage. The cast provide a few better characterizations than these types of productions typically allow, and there are even plenty of POV shots from the killer. Silent Night, Bloody Night managed to gain notoriety after being featured on Elvira’s Movie Macabre and has gained a cult following over the years. There’s even a remake heading to DVD next year on February 18, if it holds up or betters the original, I may have two new additions to my growing number of Christmas horror choices.