The surprising thing about Silent Night, Deadly Night–you know, that film about a serial killer in a Santa Claus suit– is how straight the whole thing’s played. Although the film stirred concerned parents around the country into an uproar back in 1984 over its blatant exploitation of Christmas imagery to make a quick, B-movie buck, the filmmakers made a legitimate attempt to explore circumstances that might actually result in one’s transformation into a psycho-Santa. Granted, this serious approach to the character’s psychological development contrasts starkly with the over-the-top murder mayhem that ensues, but it’s an admirable attempt at character development nonetheless.
The film’s 1987 sequel– now infamous on the internets for Eric Freeman’s exuberant delivery of the line, “Garbage day!”– is a bit less ambitious at first glance. In fact, half the movie is a straight-up rehashing of the first film using well over a half hour of footage from its predecessor to accomplish this. At about forty minutes in, however, the film lets Freeman take over, and his delivery is so consistently, hysterically surprising that it’s well worth powering through the first half to get to. (However, I recommend fast-forwarding through the rehashed material from the first film and just watching the interludes, providing you’re already familiar with the first film, that is.)
As collected in Anchor Bay’s Silent Night, Deadly Night: Christmas Survival Double Feature DVD set, each film is accompanied by a series of special features that, although limited in number, provide invaluable information about the films’ productions and reception. Special features on the Silent Night, Deadly Night Unrated Version disc include an audio interview with director Charles E. Sellier, Jr., a poster and still gallery, and “Santa’s Stocking of Outrage,” featuring quotes about the film from various letters from concerned parents and angered officials, as well as snippets of negative newspaper reviews. “Santa’s Stocking of Outrage” is a wonderful inclusion, offering an interesting cultural context in which to view the film. While we now know that the film is… what it is, for better or worse, you can see from these letters that people believed it would do genuine, irreparable harm to society. And who knows, maybe it has done irreparable harm, but from where I’m sitting, its impact seems negligible to any group of people outside horror fans.
The Part 2 disc features the theatrical trailer, a poster and still gallery, a .pdf of the film’s screenplay, and an audio commentary with writer/director Lee Harry, writer Joseph H. Earle and co-star James Newman. The commentary is absolutely integral to understanding and appreciating this troubled sequel fully. In fact, despite complaints about the excessive amounts of material used from the first film here, you realize when listening to the commentary that we’re lucky there isn’t more footage from the first film included. As it happens, the assignment given to Harry and Earle stipulated that they simply rework the footage from the first film into a new one, but they, over time, managed to convince the producers to give them more and more freedom in the development of their own original, wrap-around story. So if you’re put off by Part 2’s shameless reappropriation of footage from the first film, just know that it could have been far worse!