Come for the sleazy Santa slasher, stay for the toys.
Just before Christmas, young Billy and family visit his institutionalized catatonic grandpa. Alone with Billy, grandpa slips into a moment of lucidity and warns Billy of Santa’s propensity to punish the naughty. On the way home, the family pulls over to help a stranded motorist dressed as Santa. Billy watches in horror as the Santa-clad psychopath murders his parents.
Flash-forward. A now-grown Billy works as a stock boy in the local toy store. As Christmas nears, Billy’s boss forces him to sub for the store Santa. Seeing himself in the suit, Billy snaps and embarks on a murderous rampage, prefacing every kill with a guttural whisper of “NAUGHTY!”
Sure, Silent Night, Deadly Night lacks the depth of Black Christmas or Christmas Evil, but it proves entertaining in its own right. It packs a quirky authenticity. The Utah locations evoke the right snowy-small-town atmosphere, and the performances charm despite their awkwardness. The violence—while graphic—remains creative throughout. And at a lean 79 minutes, it doesn’t wear out its welcome.
But for me, the biggest thrill came from the toys littering the store shelves. Mint-in-box Castle Grayskull and Jabba the Hutt action play-sets. G.I. Joe vehicles and costumes. Yes, costumes, from those cardboard packages featuring a clear window to display the mask. I had the green “Dracula” one. Watching the film whisks me back to the toy stores and toy aisles of my youth. Not the thrill the filmmakers intended, but a thrill nonetheless.