Silent Night, Deadly Night is a 1984 slasher film directed by Charles E. Sellier Jr. and starring Robert Brian Wilson, Lilyan Chauvin, Gilmer McCormick, Toni Nero, Britt Leach and Leo Geter. The film also has a small, but devoted cult following.
Silent Night, Deadly Night was one of the most controversial films of the 1980s because the killer is dressed as Santa Claus. The PTA fought to have this film removed from theaters due to its subject matter and the fact that it was shown around Christmas, although an earlier film with a similar premise had gone unnoticed.
Upon its original release in 1984, the film created serious controversy. Siskel and Ebert condemned the film and went so far as to read the film's production credits on air, saying "shame, shame" after each one. Leonard Maltin also condemned the film, giving it zero stars and asking: "What's next, the Easter Bunny as a child molester?" Large crowds (mostly angry families) formed at theaters and malls around the nation to protest the film. TriStar Pictures, its original distributor, pulled all ads for the film six days after its release (November 15). The film itself was also withdrawn shortly thereafter due to the controversy.
It was later re-released by an independent distributor, Aquarius Films, beginning in spring 1986, with an ad campaign which replaced the original "Twas the night before Christmas" audio track with a new one that centered on the controversy surrounding the film and edited out all close-up shots of Billy, in the Santa suit, with weapons. The print ad material also replaced the original 'Chimney' picture with one that talked about the controversy.
In United Kingdom, the movie was never submitted for certification by the BBFC. As such, although it has not been actually classified as a Video Nasty, its distribution is prohibited in the UK. However, it is doubtful the BBFC would have any problems passing it today.
Its sequel was denied a BBFC certificate in 1987.
Despite the controversy, it became a cult classic among horror fans. In an episode directed by Robert Zemeckis from Tales from the Crypt (which actor Britt Leach appeared in another episode of the show), "And All Through the House", the surrounding atmosphere (such as the axe-wielding Santa Claus killer and electronic music score by composer Alan Silvestri) paid a homage to this film.