We Wish You a Retro Christmas: Silent Night, Deadly Night

Between now until December 25th, The Marketing Smart Aleck will feature some of the best, worst and most ridiculous Christmas commercials* of yesteryear.

When discussions of beloved holiday movies come up, I always like to throw people a curve ball and tell them that my favorite Christmas movie of all time is “Die Hard.” (Try this sometime. It usually results in people initially arguing that “Die Hard” absolutely is not a Christmas movie, but after they think about the plot for a while, they will often grudgingly concede that it is. Sorta.) But sometimes, if I’m feeling particularly mischievous, and the person I’m talking to is about my age, and seems like they can appreciate a joke, I will put on my best deadpan expression and inform them that the greatest Christmas film of all-time is “Silent Night, Deadly Night.” This normally leads to immediate laughter or a very concerned look until the person realizes that I’m kidding. This trailer should explain why…

The Eighties were, of course, the Golden Age of slasher films. It was the decade that gave us Jason, Freddy Krueger and Chucky the killer doll. It was probably inevitable that some screenwriter would bring a homicidal department store Santa Claus into the mix. As inevitable as it might seem from the vantage point of 21st Century hindsight, the film was actually controversial when it was released in 1984. Concerned parents protested it, and well-known film critic Gene Siskel assailed the filmmakers as “sick, sleazy and mean-spirited” on his popular syndicated TV show “At the Movies.”

Of course, being “sick, sleazy and mean-spirited” was pretty much the whole point of the slasher flick craze. While I was never a fan of the genre or of this film in particular, it’s impossible to deny that, in the context of all the usual predictable, homogenized, warm and fuzzy mandatory joy that the media throws at us at Christmastime, there’s something a little bit refreshing — perhaps even liberating — about a movie where a crazed Santa wields an axe with bad intent. And if you doubt that the concept struck a chord with the public, consider that there were no fewer than four sequels, a 2012 remake and a planned 2013 re-release. That suggests that there may very well be people out there who proclaim that “Silent Night, Deadly Night” is the greatest Christmas film of all-time and aren’t kidding. Let’s just hope that none of them are employed as department store Santas.

*Okay, this installment doesn’t actually feature a TV commercial, but rather a theatrical trailer. But a truncated version of this trailer did run on the airwaves as a commercial back in 1984.

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