Thursday, December 12, 2013

Stalking the Multiplex: Silent Night, Deadly Night Resurrected

It is a dispiriting thing, indeed, when the lights go down in a cinema and the first thing you see on screen is a Blu-Ray player menu. We'd been raving about it for a week on Twitter: Fangoria were/are touring an HD edition of the 1984 slasher horror Silent Night, Deadly Night in a large slate of theatres across the country, and finally touched down in downtown San Francisco last night. We'd perhaps deluded ourselves that this would be as splendid an occasion as the tour of the new, director-approved digital print of Chopping Mall that we'd enthused over not long ago. But sadly this was a more modest affair, barely promoted on the day of the event (appearing on the theatre's showtime listings as "FANGORIA PRESENTS SILENT"), with yours truly one of about ten people in the audience.

But goddammit...

Once this thing got rolling the ten of us just rode its crazy wave. Silent Night, Deadly Night takes a  low-budget approach to abnormal psychology as it chronicles the traumatic events that turn young Billy from an innocent orphan to a depraved, Santa-suit wearing, homicidal maniac. The movie breezily upends the sanctity of the holiday, holding up a funhouse mirror to all held dear about Xmas. Santa's a killer, who not only rewards good children, but punishes the bad ones. A Mother Superior at a local orphanage is similarly stringent, lambasting her charges for observing the holiday with greed, not gratitude. Innocent people in Santa suits wind up in the line of fire. Kindly proprietors of toy shops get good and shitfaced when the last holiday shoppers leave. Bright-eyed tots are repeatedly traumatized by the bad Santas in their midst. A tobogganing teen arrives at the bottom of the hill with his severed head following behind.

The movie's shoddily made enough that it resists deep interpretation; it displays enough bare breasts to show that it has exploitation on its mind more than a serious consideration of what the holiday really means. Its free-wheeling approach to psychology, its uneven performances, its sleazy low-budget vibe all added up to an unpredictable, cheerfully wrong, and genuinely exciting moviegoing experience. Just seeing this plain relic of its time playing on a multiplex screen you could practically feel it thumbing its nose at the more polished and streamlined fare playing in the adjoining houses. Its resurrection on this night felt like a truly batshit Christmas miracle. The two young ladies in Santa hats a couple of rows back had a great time. So did I.

(Fangoria's tour of this thing continues, and Billy is bringing his particularly esoteric Christmas cheer to quite a few more venues yet. All the dates and venues are listed here.)

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