Favorite Horror Holiday: “Silent Night, Deadly Night” (1984)

A young, incredibly adorable boy named Billy witnesses his parents being killed by a man dressed as Santa Claus (after being warned by his supposedly catatonic grandfather that Santa punishes those who have been naughty.) Later in life, after being raised in an orphanage with abusive nuns, he gets a job at a toy store, and one Christmas, his boss insists he dress up as Santa. Wanting to do a good job, but mentally unstable and unclear on what Santa’s duties are, Billy goes on a killing spree. The kills are great (there’s a sledding beheading and someone strangled with Christmas lights), but the real charm of this film is the sweetly endearing Billy, who is the most sympathetic killer of all time. His troubled life has left him damaged and confused. He kills without malice, not knowing any better.

He is merely punishing the naughty because that is his understanding of what Santa Claus does, and he wants to be a good employee at the toy store. The film is often overlooked as a campy slasher, and it does fit in to that. It’s a very fun movie. But underneath it all, there’s a sad character portrait that breaks my heart by the end. It’s fucking amazing. My absolute favorite Christmas movie, and one of the greatest, most underrated movies ever.

–Austin Wolf-Sothern