Interview: 'Silent Night, Deadly Night' Brings Ho Ho Horror!
May 05, 2023
Interview by Marty Grosser
The slasher film that turned Christmas into a killer holiday is back!
American Mythology presents Silent Night, Deadly Night! A brand new officially licensed story taking place after 1984's Silent Night, Deadly Night movie!
In the following interview, filmmakers Scott Schneid and Dennis Whitehead gives PREVIEWSworld a look inside the upcoming "Ho Ho Horror!"
Explain how the idea for SNDN came to be? Was there an inspiration, an "aha" or in this case a "Ho Ho Ho" moment with the story's inception?
Scott was a trainee at the William Morris Agency in Beverly Hills in the early 1980s, when he was contacted by Paul Caimi, a senior at Harvard College (Scott's alma mater). Paul asked if Scott would read a horror script he'd written for a seminar that centered around a killer Santa Claus. And while the script was amateurish, Scott felt there was great potential in the psycho-Santa concept, and talked to Dennis, a good friend, who was working as a development executive at a production company. Dennis agreed...the concept could be a hit horror film with the irreverent teen demographic, which was gobbling up slasher fare at the time (think "Halloween," "Friday The 13th,""My Bloody Valentine). So we tossed out Caimi's script except for the one-line concept, and developed an entirely new screenplay - and we're talking ENTIRELY new - with writer Michael Hickey. An acquaintance of Dennis', Michael had written a couple of well-crafted spec scripts in the horror/thriller genre and the three of us were off and running.
Back when the movie first came out, it caused a bit of an uproar. How did you deal with that?
We never expected that over-the-top reaction. We knew we had an irreverent concept, but thought that it would work in our favor given the intended audience (remember, this was an R-rated picture, meaning under 17 required a parent or guardian). As the days went by, the backlash took on a life of its own, gaining momentum, leading to Tri-Star's pulling the film from theaters 10 days or so into its release. They say "there's no such thing as bad publicity," but in this case all of the media attention torpedoed the movie, and there was nothing we could do. We just watched the circus unfold from the sidelines, which was a bummer, because the film, which was in a limited number of theaters (398), was scheduled to go wide a week later (over 1,200 screens). Our little $1 million movie was on its way to grossing $20 million at the box office in just the U.S. and Canada alone, and that's before its international release, before VHS, and before cable! Unfortunately for us, Tri-Star Pictures, a newly formed studio at the time, owned by Columbia, CBS, and Home Box Office, cared more about the optics of the situation than the $20 million, so they caved. At that point, Dennis and I went on to develop a new horror project called "Phantom Of The Mall," but that's a whole other story for another day.
Why do you think there is such a strong reaction to basing the story around Christmas and using the holidays as a background for horror?
The holiday season, especially Christmas, is a feel-good time for millions of people all around the world. Parents with little ones are awash in the glow of childhood memories relating to Santa Claus and the specialness of the holiday...presents, carols, a beautifully decorated tree, family gatherings...and are passionate to share it with their kids. "Peace on earth and goodwill to all" rules the day, and St. Nick himself was a 4th Century Christian Saint, though Santa Claus is not technically a religious figure or symbol. Bottom line: SNDN subverts all of that...big time! Remember, 1984 was a conservative period in America, smack in the middle of Ronald Reagan's two terms as president. The Senate held hearings on objectionable rock music lyrics back then, one violent slasher film after another had come down the pipe, and then SNDN came to your neighborhood theater, turning a beloved holiday into a blood-red killing field, and its beloved symbol - Santa Clause - into an ax-murdering, box-cutter-wielding psychopath! And if that wasn't bad enough, the movie skewered the Catholic Church, portraying Mother Superior in a not-so-positive light.
There had been a few low-budget, indie horror movies released featuring Santa Claus as a killer prior to SNDN in 1984, but they didn't have much of a footprint. SNDN was the first Santa-killer pic backed by a major studio with a significant advertising campaign, including tv ads that ran in the Midwest during the Green Bay Packer football game with the whole family gathered around the television. Basically, SNDN was the straw that broke the camel's back for a lot of parents with both younger kids as well as teens. And for those scrooges out there who despised the holidays - and that demographic certainly exists - then SNDN was right up their alley.
In today's market, where do you think the SNDN universe fits in? Do you feel it opened doors for similar movies within the genre?
A good story is a good story is a good story. It's timeless...knows no boundaries...which is why SNDN still lives on today, almost 40 years after its initial release. It just wasn't another cookie-cutter slasher. There was something more going on. Maybe that's why we're selling more licensed merchandise from the film (t-shirts, posters, pop-up holiday cards, soundtracks, etc.) than ever before. We're also very excited about the upcoming release of our new SNDN board game this holiday season, which can be played in either the "Naughty" or "Nice" version. A reboot of the original film is on the horizon, and we're about to hire a writer to start work on a new script. Of course, we want the remake to appeal to today's audience - and it will - but like we said, a really good story is timeless, no matter what the genre, and we're certainly hoping to have something that will resonate with horror fans of all ages.
The notoriety achieved by SNDN definitely seems to have boosted the production of Christmas horror as there have been so many made - and remade - since its release. But remember, SNDN wasn't the first to hit the big screen. There was "Christmas Evil," and "To All a Goodnight" in 1980, "Black Christmas" in 1974, "Silent Night, Bloody Night" in 1972, and a segment from a British film, "Tales From The Crypt," also '72, called "And All Through The House," that featured Joan Collins and a psycho Santa character. So I guess SNDN is in good company, whichever direction you look.
Why a new comic book based on the original movie? How do you think fans will react to the book? Can you tell us anything about the story? How does it relate to the original movie?
Blood on the snow, the colors of the holiday season, the sights and sounds of Christmas...SNDN is the perfect horror property to turn into a comic book or graphic novel. We've been wanting to do this for quite some time and are thrilled that American Mythology came to us when they did. We know the fans will love it as evidenced by the response we've gotten for the upcoming SNDN board game. But again, we have to create something new and wonderful, and based on our initial story discussions with American Mythology, we're really psyched. There's a lot to be mined from the '84 film...deeper exploration of some of the supporting characters, new supporting characters (a teen psychologist, a local Catholic priest), a greater sense of the town itself, in which the story was set, and a possible leap forward into the future, to see what happened to the traumatized children and relatives of Billy's psychotic rampage.
And of course, there's always Ira's Toys...I mean, who the heck was Ira??? Read the comic and just maybe you'll find out. And if you don't read American Mythology's new SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT comic, expect to be punished...severely!
SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (OCT221333) is available on December 21, 2022 at comic shops from American Mythology. Reserve your copy with PREVIEWSworld Pullbox.
Keep an eye on PREVIEWSworld.com's Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram for more artist spotlights!