From The Screen To The Page SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT: The Novel

Armando Muñoz's novelization cranks the depravity to eleven while remaining faithful to the source material.

By Brian Collins · @BrianWCollins · December 11, 2023, 7:30 PM EST
Silent Night Deadly Night Cover

For me, there's a moment in 1984's Silent Night Deadly Night that perfectly encapsulates what a hilariously mean-spirited movie it is. It's near the end of the film when a Santa Claus is gunned down in front of a few of the kids at the orphanage they believe the crazed killer is targeting. For most movies, this would be far enough into poor taste territory, but that's not the case here. A few seconds later, we learn it's not just any random guy dressed as Santa, but a priest! And then they go a step further, informing us that the kindly man was also "deaf" (1984's words) to boot, as if someone involved thought, "Hmm, no. It's not crass ENOUGH."

I'm lucky enough to see this wretched classic on the big screen every year (along with Black Christmas, which seems tame in comparison), and the one-two delivery of this reveal never fails to get the crowd roaring with laughter because it's just so needlessly over-the-top MERCILESS (read: funny). It's that particular crowd—physically present or just spiritually so—that will get the most enjoyment out of Armando Muñoz's novelization, available from Stop The Killer. As with his previous novelization of My Bloody Valentine, Muñoz is tasked with writing an adaptation of a film that's been around for decades, as opposed to one that's about to be released. This creates an exciting opportunity for an author, as they can fix narrative issues with the finished film or add things they wish they could have seen.

Silent Night Deadly Night The Novel

For 99% of the novelizations of yore, the author was given the most current version of the script and wrote something that more or less matched the final film, save for their own creative flourishes. However, there was one major caveat — they weren't privy to story changes that occurred deep into production. This occasionally creates interesting diversions: alternate endings (for example, Alan Dean Foster's novel for The Thing has a different climax where McCready drives a plow around/through the base, destroying it all), dialogue exchanges that got dropped, etc. But for Muñoz, he's almost doing it in reverse: taking the finished film and fleshing it out, making sense out of sloppy plot points, and adding more context for nearly everything that happens.

Here, that's a necessary approach because Silent Night, Deadly Night—while a very fun movie—has a few puzzling plot points and gaps in the progression of things, thanks in part to two time jumps (from 1971 to 1974, and then again to 1984). These issues were present in the shooting draft of the script. While he remains incredibly faithful to the film's events (dialogue is repeated verbatim* and every scene is accounted for), Munoz has added quite a bit of texture and plotting between these moments. This not only makes the story smoother and adds some sympathy to Billy's plight, but also ensures a reader who has seen the movie a dozen times can still be entertained with all the new material.

*Except for the aforementioned "deaf" line - it's been modified to the more acceptable "hard of hearing."

silent night deadly night bow

In fact, I can practically guarantee that any question you might have ever had while watching the movie has been answered by Muñoz here. "Where did Billy get a hunting bow and arrow set in a toy store?" (Leftover stock from when Ira's Toys was a sporting goods shop.) "When Billy spies on the couple having sex, why are they clearly too old to be orphans?" (The [adult] girl worked in the kitchen and snuck a boyfriend in.) And the biggest question anyone's ever had when watching the film—"What happened to the robber Santa who actually kills Billy's parents?"—is answered in gloriously violent detail, and in turn, ends up explaining why no one at the orphanage seems to understand why Billy has such a problem with Santa Claus (the Christmas-loving town covered up the fact that the robber was dressed as Santa, fearing a downturn in local business).

silent night deadly night knife

Even smaller things, like why the toy store manager is seen dumping out a box of GI Joe parts only to put them back into the box immediately, are given a bit of explanation that proves Muñoz has done his homework and didn't want to leave the slightest thing unmentioned (in this case, it's because a customer returned the toy for a missing part and he was going to try to figure out *which* part, only to shrug it off).

But that only accounts for about ten percent of the added material. The novelized take also includes several more murders to Billy's Christmas Eve spree, as he takes out the proprietors (and one unlucky customer) of a video store, some carolers, a Christmas tree lot owner, and more. With the added material for the robber (who racks up his own body count beyond Billy's parents and the liquor store guy), the book offers at least twice as much violence as the film, and that's not even including the increased depravity for Mother Superior. Anyone who has watched SNDN can probably agree that she's just as much of a villain as Billy, but the book takes it further by getting into Superior's head and fully exploring how sick she is. Here (and now, in my head whenever I watch the movie again), she has her fingernails filed down into sharp points so that she can inflict more pain on the children when she grabs them, and if you thought she merely hit the fornicating couple with the young man's belt… well, be prepared to flinch a bit.

Along with the added violence, it seems Muñoz was someone who perhaps also laughed at some of the film's crasser moments and then thought, "OK, but how can we take it even FURTHER?" Almost from the very start of the book, my eyebrows raised at some of the enhancements the author introduced to this already unhinged tale, to the point where even *I* blushed a few times. The added backstory for Grandpa's character is completely tasteless, as it turns out the man wasn't just momentarily snapped out of his catatonic state but is pretending to be that way in order to get away with all sorts of foul behavior, up to and including defecating on his fellow residents at the institution and inflicting injuries on his own scrotum to get them felt up by the nurse. And per Muñoz, Billy orgasms whenever he kills, a result of his repressed Catholic upbringing.

In fact, there is a lot more sexual material in the book, making the film's handful of sex scenes look PG-13 in comparison. Billy discovers masturbation while at the orphanage and learns to do it quietly without alerting his roommate. Nearly every character daydreams about previous sexual encounters, Denise (the Linnea Quigley character) apparently caused a fatal heart attack for an elderly neighbor who was masturbating to her lewd dancing in front of a window facing his house.

silent night deadly night linnea

My mother may have let me watch the movie at too young of an age (8), but I suspect if she were to flip through the pages of this book and see some of this material, I'd be tossed out of the house even as an adult. And if you think that the kindly Sister Margaret would be spared from this added characterization, you are so very, very wrong—she might actually be the most depraved character in the whole franchise, if you accept Muñoz's depiction as canon.

And that's the other thing that makes the book work as well as it does: with very few exceptions, none of it contradicts the existing movie, despite all that's been added. For example, Officer Barnes— the cop who shot the priest and is killed coming up the stairs from the basement in the finale— is retconned to be the officer who responded to the call for the murder of Billy's parents back in 1971, and thus has sympathy for the now-crazed adult version of the little boy he comforted all those years ago. This is wholly Muñoz's invention, but it fits into the movie as we know it, without ignoring any of its on-screen evidence to the contrary. So it's not like those "fan theories" you see about certain movies that ask you just to disregard this or that line of dialogue (like the folks who have spent the last twenty-five years convinced H20 isn't erasing 4-6 from the timeline, as if their events could have been somehow missed by H20's characters who all say Michael Myers hasn't been seen since 1978); with one gloriously blasphemous exception during the film's final scene (I don't dare spoil it). He really put the effort in to make sure his additions can be taken or left without altering the on-screen action as we know it.

On that note, he actually showed some restraint in one area that surprised me: unless I missed it, he didn't toss in any in-jokes or Easter Eggs about the other films in the series, in particular the notorious meme-favorite second film. The story ends with Ricky clearly about to take over for Billy in the crazed Christmas killer department, and that's reproduced here, but without any sort of nods to the events of SNDN Part 2. I half-expected a line about young Ricky being assigned to take out the orphanage's garbage cans or something, but there's nothing of the sort that I noticed. Muñoz may have been writing it nearly forty years later, but it very much reads as you'd expect it to had it been published in 1984, without any winking at the reader (save for a line here and there about outraged parents, likely inspired by those who picketed the movie's existence when it was released, but surely they weren't the first "think of the children!!!" types, so I don't think it counts).

Basically, the book functions the way the best novelizations of yore did: it gives you more of the movie you didn't get to see on screen. Nowadays, since it's easier to just email a PDF of the most current draft to an author, novelizations tend to match their big-screen counterparts in terms of their scene-by-scene plotting, with the added flourishes limited to whatever the author added via the character's internal thoughts (and some don't even have that much). But reading Silent Night Deadly Night's novelization is like reading the first draft of its screenplay, before budgetary (and moral?) concerns whittled it down to the 78 minutes of yuletide terror we revisit with glee every December.

silent night deadly night

Purists may be taken aback by some of the author's inventions (my god, Sister Margaret at the toy store…), but I think we can all agree that the tone of his ideas is perfectly in sync with the insanity cooked up by screenwriter Michael Hickey all those years ago. This isn't like Dean Koontz's Funhouse "novelization," where the author didn't like the script and opted to largely ignore it in favor of writing his own tale. It's clear that Muñoz loves the movie and, like some of us, perhaps, wished there was a two-hour version that was cranked up to eleven, where everyone was horny and/or depraved, and Billy had the resources to dispatch even more of them. It's an absolute must-read for SNDN fans, and perhaps for its critics too—if only to recognize that this "immoral" movie could have been much, much worse.