Not to be confused with the ludicrous Silent Night, Deadly Night series, this 1972 thriller has enough eerie atmosphere to overcome its numerous plot holes and low budget production. Some critics have credited Silent Night, Bloody Night with more influence than it probably deserves, but there are a number of future slasher cliches on display that are often attributed to pictures that followed. POV shots for the maniac, sinister phone calls preceding the murders, even the holiday theme are all horror tropes that Black Christmas and Halloween are considered to have originated (or at least popularized). They're all here too, though charges of plagiarism are likely unfounded. Theodore Gershuny's understated direction gives a sense of realism to the characters that make the bizarre goings-on all the more unsettling. It helps that he has a fine cast to work with, a collection of solid TV and film professionals decorated with colorful cult figures who add eccentric ambience. The ubiquitous John Carradine has little to do as a mute newspaper editor (he communicates by ringing a desk clerk's bell), but despite the lack of his sonorous pipes, he still commands attention. In an early role, Mary Woronov has yet to establish the stern, haughty screen persona that has carried her through three decades of cult stardom. Instead, she's the ingenue, the only denizen of this fictitious town who is innocent of the blood crimes of the past, though it's not a role that particularly suits her. Much of the film is too dark, rendering some scenes more frightening and others more confusing, but the bravura final act (a horrific sepia-toned flashback that reveals the meaning behind the mayhem) makes wading through the story's murkier aspects worthwhile. Horror connoisseurs are encouraged to seek out this minor gem, now easily accessible as a bargain-priced DVD after years of obscurity.
by Fred Beldin review