The abandoned home of Wilfred Butler, a wealthy but troubled man who committed suicide, has been willed to his grandson, Jeffrey. But an Axe wielding maniac has set up residence in the house - and he doesn't take kindly to strangers.
After a death in the family, siblings Angelica and James Zacherly travel to the small town of East Willard on Christmas Eve to pay their respects. They stay at a homely bed and breakfast ... See full summary »
Wilford Butler returns home on Christmas Eve and his house had been turned into a mental institution for the criminally insane. But the day of his return, he is set on fire and dies. The towns people believe his death was an accident, and the institution-house is later closed down. Wilford leaves the house to his grandson Jeffrey. A few years later, Jeffrey finally decides to sell this grandfather's house, but the towns people including the Mayor have mixed feelings on keeping people away from the house, especially when a serial killer escapes from another institution and finds refuge there. The killer makes frightening phone calls and kills anyone coming near the house. But what does the killer have in common with what happened to Wilford Butler years before?Written by
The first movie to be released by Cannon distribution company. See more »
Main character Jeffrey Butler is riding with John Carradine, who plays Towman. Butler and Carradine have decided to go out to the Butler house to see what is going on. Instead, Towman pulls into the drive of another house, and Jeffrey Butler says, "Towman this isn't my house, it's Tess'. Tess is another of the townspeople, and it is her house, but Jeffrey would not have known that because he has never been to the town before. See more »
"Silent Night, Bloody Night" focuses on a small town New England mansion with a grim past; Wilfred Butler, the home's owner, burned to death there on Christmas Eve 1950. Some years later, a lawyer of Butler's son arrives in town on Christmas Eve to assess the property for sale, setting in motion a night-long series of axe murders.
I first saw "Silent Night, Bloody Night" years ago via an absurdly grainy, muddy print with near-inaudible sound, and remember being completely perturbed by everything about it. At the time I wasn't sure if this was because of the turbid quality of the film stock, or just because the movie gave off that sort of vibe. I've since been able to watch the film in a higher quality print with optimal sound (this print carries the title card, "Death House," and is the best in circulation), and can now say that I think it may have been a mixture of both.
"Silent Night, Bloody Night" may be the first real Christmas horror film, though it is not a picture that plays much into the holiday theme; instead, it merely employs the Christmas Eve setting as a backdrop for the profoundly Gothic and twisted horror story it has to tell. It also may be one of the first real slasher films, even predating "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and its holiday horror peer "Black Christmas," which really makes it stand out from a historical perspective. In some ways, "Silent Night, Bloody Night" has been neglected outside of genre purists, and the film honestly deserves a wider audience.
Let's make things clear here: this is most definitely a B-movie. The performances are uneven, at times hammy, and there is a gritty edge to the entire thing that pervades almost every scene; and yet, there is also something surprisingly elegant about the film. Though you can't tell from most of the prints in circulation, it is actually a really nicely shot film; the looming mansion and snowy New York countryside (posed as a Massachusetts stand-in) are chillingly captured, and the scenes that unfold within the mansion are dark and atmospheric. The entire film is drenched in a dreary tone that really works to offset the Christmas theme, which makes for an intriguing combination.
I hate to be speculative—but I'm going to be anyway—in saying that the film also appears to have been inspirational to some of the key elements of the cult classic "Black Christmas," which would follow it two years later. They are remarkably different films, but share in common menacing phone calls and unnerving POV shots from the killers' perspectives that are too similar to be mere coincidence. Where "Black Christmas" aims for ambiguity, "Silent Night, Bloody Night" takes a more classical approach, unraveling a small-town history and subtly exposing itself with a twisted resolution that is in some ways almost Shakespearean.
The film features an array of respected old Hollywood actors, including John Carradine, Patrick O'Neal, and Walter Able, as well as Mary Woronov as the mayor's daughter, and a variety of fellow Warhol superstars making small appearances as asylum inmates in a key flashback scene.
Overall, "Silent Night, Deadly Night" is a moody and genuinely unnerving slasher film that deserves a wider audience than it has. The nearly incomprehensible print of the film—which also happens to be the most widely circulated—has probably lost it a great deal of viewers, which is understandable on some levels, but beneath the grit and the grime, there is a truly eerie and demented horror film that is far more layered than you'd expect it to be. Oh, and did I mention it has one of the greatest axe murder scenes in movie history? 9/10.
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