Along side more well known films such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre, this was one of the first batch to set the formulaic Slasher rules to the movie going populace. Filmed a good two years before it’s release, it’s widely regarded as one of, if not the first Holiday Horror movie. Whether or not this is true, for me it’s definitely the best in what is a very niche and usually naff (but highly watchable and usually entertaining) genre.
It’s Christmas Eve 1950 and Wilfred Butler dies in a ball of fire at his home, an apparent accident (these sort of things happen all the time don’t you know), and stipulates in his will that the house be kept exactly as it is by a caretaker – I’m guessing indefinitely.
Cut to the present day – it’s the Seventies – so imagine yourself with big hair and tight trousers real loose around the ankles – and Butlers grandson Jeff is looking to sell the place fast, so offers the town elders (yep it’s the sort of town that could be twinned Summerisle – the island location in the Wicker Man for those whose lives don’t completely revolve around the horror film) the house at the knock down price of $50,000 cash through his big city realtor type Mr Carter.
Meanwhile a dangerous lunatic has escaped from the asylum – I have to tell you that these sort of films don’t make you put any trust in the security at these kinds of facilities ..
While waiting for the old official types to scrape up the dollar, Carter takes his young mistress back to the house while they wait for the young Mr Butler, but oh dear – butchered in their beds before the meeting can take place, and with the Sheriff, the Mayor and the puppet masters of the town going missing, there’s a slight chance that there’s going to be some scenes of a violent nature coming up in the next half hour.
Just what I like to see.
Silent Night, Bloody Night is a classic that has never managed to attract the attention that it deserves. It’s an original, if not bizarre plot, with some fantastically stylish death scenes and some pretty decent acting. The grainy, aged appearance adds to the chilling atmospherics, and though the low budget can sometimes detract from the viewing (the scenes filmed al fresco at night in particular are extremely murky), a remastered version for me, would lose a lot of the charm.
Controversially, in my opinion this film is far superior to Black Christmas (also released in 1974) – of which I still love, but SNBL definitely has the edge in terms of intelligence and subtlety, the formers imitation meant that it was credited with far more originality than it has and its predecessor was rather unfairly overlooked.
So if you want a truly Black Christmas, then watching this little B-Movie gem will satisfy your every horror need.