Silent Night, Bloody Night (aka "Death House") (1973)
Starring: Mary Woronov, James Patterson, Patrick O'Neal, Walter Able, Astrid Heeren, and John Carradine
Rating: Six of Ten Stars
When Jack (Patterson) moves to sell the mansion he inherited from his grandfather, a past believed to be dead and buried returns to haunt the living with furious, bloody vengeance. Poor Diane's (Woronov) Christmas gift list will be reduced to virtually no-one by night's end.
"Slient Night, Bloody Night" is not as overtly Christmas-themed as the title might imply, but it is a great little proto-slasherflick and quite possibly the first horror film to flirt with a holiday theme. (In fact, it might be more than a proto-slasherfilm. It's got all the elements that are present in "Halloween", except for fornicating teenagers. We do, however, get an cheating lawyer (O'Neal) and his horny secretary (Heeren).
The bodycount is low by modern slasher-movie standards, but every death is shocking and unexpected. Although I had a vague notion of what I was in for, the first murders took me completely by surprise.
It's a fast-moving film with a bare bones plot, although I wish it could have been a little less bare-bones. I'm still wondering why Jack had to "borrow" his lawyer's Jaguar when he appears in the story. How did he get to the mansion in the first place if he didn't have a car? I also feel that the framing sequence was an odd choice... telling the movie as a flashback undermines a bit of the suspense.
Still, as an example of a thriller/horror movie that was part of the cinematic evolution that led to the slasher flick subgenre, "Silent Night, Bloody Night" is far better than several of its contemporaries.