Modern urban mythology that feeds from complementary fictional worlds populated by emblematic characters for the collective imaginary, such as Santa Claus, Sandman or Bogeyman, is a constant of our present existence. This fact couldn’t have left indifferent the fantasty and horror filmmakers, since this malleable epic substance is one of the most popular narrative strategies approached by these movie genres. ‘Silent Night‘ is a short film providing to spectators an atypical version of a fantastic character generally perceived in a positive hypostasis: Santa Claus. Although American and even European cinema, through features such as ‘How the Grinch Stole the Christmas’ or ‘Le Père Noël est une Ordure’, have placed either this character or the Christmas feast in an area of frustrations and individual complexes accentuated by the madness of winter holidays, Emmanuel Delabaere’s project goes beyond these cinematic references, proposing a story in which Santa Claus is a somewhat secondary appearance that triggers the psychosis of the central character.
While sharing gifts, Santa comes to a man’s house where he finds a gift specially prepared for him. Intrigued, Santa Claus opens the pack and finds a doll that apparently doesn’t suggest him a thing. Trying to find an explication for this event, he is surprised by the appearance of an invalid young man whose traumatic past is closely linked to this doll received long ago for Christmas. This is where the psychosis triggers a vendetta by which the immobilized character aims to punish Santa, who indirectly destroyed his chance of being a normal person.
Beyond the horror atmosphere the director creates through conventional strategies of American films of this genre, Emmanuel Delabaere’s project compresses a traumatic personal history to hide in subtext a series of social and moral issues specific to contemporary society. Thus, besides the bullying phenomenon affecting the emotional comfort and the physical integrity of the main character, this short film develops other interpretative dimensions, such as the relationship between Santa Claus and the Elves, rendered as a somewhat dictatorial hierarchical subordination. Alongside the main conflict (the invalid man’s psychosis) there is also a secondary conflict whereby the Elves rebel against Santa Claus, who on this occasion becomes a negative, malicious character who doesn’t hesitate to commit a murder to save his own life.
Even though this project doesn’t completely revolutionize Santa’s modern cinematic image, ‘Silent Night’ is a dynamic and attractive short film, especially to the amateurs of the genre. Its psychological stakes that disenchant an archetypal character embodying the absolute kindness shows the ugliness of a world that no longer believes in miracles.