Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception... for a better now

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Terrifying Commercials from Childhood: Silent Night, Evil Night (AKA Black Christmas)

I can't remember exactly why, but I was alone in the house on an average autumnal afternoon in Lansdale, PA in 1974 - and I was half-asleep on the couch watching TV... probably Dr. Shock! I would have been around seven years old.

Suddenly it was as if a nightmare opened up in front of me like a yawning chasm, as if the hell of my most feared childhood nightmares had been in the basement of our suburban corner house all the while (our basement, rough and unfinished with cement and mud walls, was terrifying in itself, I always ended up running back up the stairs, regardless of the time of day or nearness of my mom). But this basement was different, it was someone else's and the thing in it was now free, and had locked its eyes with mine.

On TV, a window with long billowing curtains at night - maybe broken glass - flash cuts to a girl being suffocated with a plastic bag (which we'd all been taught to fear in kindergarten). The window was practically my front door, for suddenly the lights seemed to go out in the world outside; the door kicked open. The curtains blew. Whatever was out there or down there was now up here and in here.

Then the title came zooming out: "Silent Night.... Evil Night...." - Christmas was canceled.

I thought I was about to be murdered, seriously, like the first step is that your sacred TV is turned against you. This was how it happened. It was the longest, scariest stretch of time in my young life up to that point. I was too paralyzed by fear to get up and switch the channel (no remotes in 1974).

Looking at this trailer from the distance of an ironic 34 years later on youtube, I can't be sure if it's exactly what I saw (it was called Silent Night, Deadly Night in my mind; the narration was different, that I remember) but it sure was LONG, or so it seemed. It was like a whole separate mini-movie - too long for an ad, too short for a film, but long enough that I wasn't sure it would ever end. Maybe that was just how life was now....

Remember, I was watching a monster movie at the tim. I was a confirmed monster freak, with all the Aurora glow in the dark monster models, and a die-hard fan of local TV creature features, but there were no VCRs, no way to "capture" a film you liked; everything was ephemeral, one-time only...

And this was the only time I saw the commercial for SILENT NIGHT, EVIL NIGHT. It sort of fell into the realm of dream... a nightmare. Then, when I saw BLACK CHRISTMAS years later, I suddenly had a brief chill like deja vu. Then, seeing the commercial above rather randomly, it flooded back -that one moment when nightmares and reality merged to the point of personal apocalypse, and then was gone.

But even now I have a hard time even looking at the BLACK CHRISTMAS DVD cover. Do they really have to show the chick with the plastic bag on her head? Just looking at it, my lungs feel panicky...(which is why I'm not showing it; you can link to it, though, here).

That's the end, I guess. Funny how that happens. Maybe that means there is a god, that once in awhile we're given a glimpse of true personal terror, just to scare us straight?

It didn't work, but maybe it never does.

1 comment:

  1. I have two posters to SILENT NIGHT, EVIL NIGHT. One is the girl with the plastic bag over her head. It came with a separate piece of paper that could be pasted over it that had the BLACK CHRISTMAS logo on it. The other one is an insert, much different, with the reflection of a nude dead body in a single shiny-ball X-mas ornament.

    I, too, was fascinate by BLACK CHRISTMAS when I was a kid. Seeing it in 1975 at the drive-ins when I was 9 years old, it scared the bejeebers out of me. The next week, I insisted on seeing it again, and my parents agreed, bless em. I still think it's one of the greatest horror movies of all time. One other note about it's marketing: in some ads for the movie, there was a number you could call that would give you a special Black Christmas message. I tried to call it, but I could never get an answer, which was, in itself, pretty creepy.

    Here's a link to my review on my website.


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