"The Weekend Rent" offers quick-hit suggestions of what to watch at home to get psyched for new releases in theaters, on Fridays.
The only major new release opening in theaters this weekend is the romantic comedy Playing for Keeps starring Gerard Butler and Jessica Biel. Normally we would suggest titles for home viewing that relate to something playing in theaters, but this week we offer a bit of counterprogramming in the form of two new home video releases related to the controversial 1984 killer Santa Claus movie Silent Night, Deadly Night.
Silent Night, Deadly Night has been released several times on DVD before, but this week it arrives as part of a Christmas Survival Double Feature pack along with its first sequel, Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2. The original film is about a young boy named Billy who witnesses his parents getting murdered by a criminal dressed as Santa Claus who faked having car trouble so the family would pull over and help. Billy and his baby brother then grew up in an orphanage ruled by a militant Mother Superior who drilled into the children's heads that sex is bad and people need to be "punished" (it's a nun thing). The sisters do help teenage Billy get a job at a local toy store, but when Billy is insensitively asked to dress as Santa Claus by his drunken coworkers during the store's Christmas party, he snaps and goes on a bloody rampage across town.
Back in the Reagan era, the PTA fought to have Silent Night, Deadly Night removed from theaters and organized protests around the country. Oh, how times have changed. Now the writing on the new Christmas Survival Double Feature boasts: "Gratuitous sex…unspeakable gore and two sadistic serial killing Santas!!!" The second Santa it speaks of is Billy's little brother, who grows up to continue his brother's Santa slashing in Part 2. But since the first 40 minutes (!) of that movie uses little more than footage from the original film to bring audiences up to speed with the complex plot intricacies of this slasher saga, it's hardly worth discussing here.
What is worth mentioning is a loose remake of the first film that also makes its debut on both DVD and Blu-ray this week: Silent Night. Although the film maintains the theme of a sadistic Santa who punishes those being naughty, the plot does not follow the original story. This time a small Midwestern town is preparing for its annual Christmas Eve parade when another kind of Santa Claus comes to town—one with a blowtorch, an ax, a scythe and who knows alternative uses for a wood chipper. The movie stars some familiar faces from the annals of holiday-themed horror, including Malcolm McDowell (Halloween and Halloween II) as the sheriff and Jaime King (My Bloody Valentine) as his resilient deputy.
Since we live in a post-Saw era and not 1984, Silent Night makes the original movie look quite tame and delivers the violence modern gore aficionados demand. We can only imagine what those PTA protestors would have done if 2012's Silent Night would have came out back then, but this week it was released with little uproar and not a creature was stirring—not even a mouse.