Director – Theodore Gershuny
Cast – Patrick O’Neal, James Patterson, Mary Woronov, Astrid Heeren, John Carradine, Walter Abel, Fran Stevens, Walter Klavun, Philip Bruns, Staats Cotsworth
Release Year – 1974
Reviewed by John of the Dead
This is one underappreciated flick that I surprisingly came across years ago at a video store. Coupled with a few other 70s low-budget horror films in the same DVD package, I expected his to be a mediocre, if not horrible watch, and I was wrong. This 1974 flick which was originally completed in 1972 poses are the very first slasher film to impose the “coming home for the holidays” element, much like another 1974 flick, the iconic Black Christmas. While not as iconic as other slashers, Silent Night, Bloody Night managed to give me some sweet scenes that I will always appreciate.
This flick centers on a spooky old house in a small town, an old house owned by the old Wilford Butler. One day Wilford Butler came home from a long hiatus, and died the very same day via an “accident” in which he was set aflame. He left the home and surrounding property to his only living relative, his grandson Jeffrey. After 20 years of letting the house sit as it was, Jeffrey has decided to sell the house, which raises the eyebrows of the town’s officials. Unfortunately, Jeffrey has decided to sell the home the home on Christmas Eve, which happens to be the same day that a psychopathic killer has escaped from a mental institution, and made himself a resident of the home.
Well…I liked this more than expected. The story is a bit of a confusing one at times, partly due to conflicting writing styles and partly due to execution. Regardless, the scenes where this film decides to be a slasher film are perfect and give us some very cool kills and a sweet, taunting killer. I say “where this film decides to be a slasher film” because at times I felt that it strayed away from the slasher genre and just…well…got a bit weird. Part of my enjoyment of this flick may have been the lore surrounding it as the first film to incorporate the “home for Christmas” element of the slasher sub-genre.
I did have some problems with this film, and these are the reasons why I would not really refer to this film as a classic, and merely just a film that was a bit ahead of its time but did not know what to do with its bright ideas. The pacing is off, and the storyline tends to become convoluted at times and heads in directions it really should not have. The “twist” at the end was one I cannot say I was surprised over, although I did not see it coming. Simply put, I just was not impressed.
Overall, this is a cool watch that left me surprised in the end, but is nowhere near as iconic as other slashers from around its time. Give this a watch if you’d like to see an early 70s slasher flick.