Face-Off: Silent Night, Deadly Night's Billy vs. Part 2's Ricky

'Tis the season to watch SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT, the story of a young man named Billy who dons a Santa Claus costume and goes on a killing spree... And, if you're so inclined, it's also the season to watch SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2, in which Billy's young brother Ricky follows in his footsteps and becomes a slasher Santa himself. To celebrate the year-end holidays, we have decided to pit brother against brother for this week's Face-Off and find out which of the siblings was the better killer Santa. Was it Billy or Ricky? Loser gets a lump of coal!
Step-by-step, we follow Billy through every damaging major event that leads to him becoming a slasher. The trauma begins with a sickly grandfather who warns him on Christmas Eve that Santa Claus punishes children who have been naughty... and immediately after this, 5-year-old Billy witnesses the murder of his parents at the hands of a criminal dressed in a Santa costume. Rather than being given psychological help, Billy is put in an orphanage run by a strict Mother Superior who spends the next thirteen years tormenting him, telling him he's naughty. He's not a bad kid, he's understandably troubled. But the mistreatment he endures at the orphanage guarantees he's going to have a terrible life. We come to hate Mother Superior very quickly - and when Billy snaps and starts killing people, it's a sad event that we fully understand.
Ricky's experience was Billy's experience, literally. Since this sequel is built around stock footage from the first movie, it's clips from Billy's childhood that explain why his brother Ricky has also become a killer. Ricky was only an infant when their parents were killed, so under better circumstances he could have gotten past that event. Unfortunately, he was put in that horrible orphanage with Billy, and Billy told him about the death of their parents in detail. Ricky then had to witness the way Mother Superior treated his brother. Even worse, on Christmas of 1984 Ricky saw two people in Santa Claus costumes gunned down in front of him by police. One was a misunderstanding, the other was Billy. It might not be a surprise that Ricky snaps when his life with a foster family falls apart, but it still feels like Billy went through more.
Once Billy's mind crumbles, he really believes that he is Santa Claus and he sets out to violently punish all of the naughty people he crosses paths with. Which is most of the people he meets over the course of his Christmas rampage. Billy is in a rage while doing this, crying out "Naughty!" and "Punish!" However, when he encounters children who might not be naughty he shows his softer side - for example, when a little girl catches him in her home, he asks if she's been good or naughty, and when she confirms that she's been good he gives her a gift. She probably didn't ask for a bloody box cutter, but it's a gift nonetheless. For a portrayal of a man who has been broken down by life and has become a homicidal Santa, this is pretty decent.
This portrayal of insanity is completely over-the-top and goofy as hell. If you thought Billy yelling "Naughty!" and "Punish!" was silly, you ain't seen nothing yet. Ricky is about as subtle as a Batman '66 villain, and things fully descend into absurdity when the film has a cackling, gun-toting Ricky walking down the street in broad daylight, shooting random strangers for no reason at all. Ricky isn't concerned with who's naughty or nice, he's just killing people while spouting nonsensical lines like "Garbage day!" (the victim was taking out their trash) and causing a car crash that results in an explosion. This portrayal basically turns SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT 2 into a comedy.
SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT is an excellent entry in the slasher sub-genre and provides a good variety of kills. Billy's primary weapon is an axe, but he switches things up to kill people with a hammer, a bow and arrow, the aforementioned box cutter, Christmas lights... and even the antlers of a mounted deer head, which is one of the most iconic kills in slasher movie history.
Ricky scores more kills than his brother did, although he shoots most of his victims during that walk down the street. He does put other weapons to use around that sequence, running a person over with a Jeep, impaling someone with an umbrella, strangling others with a car antenna and audio tape, and of course wielding an axe. For his most memorable kill, he hooks jumper cables to a guy's tongue.
Billy's ultimate goal is to kill Mother Superior, and the film has us rooting hard for him to achieve that goal. Unfortunately, Billy fails when he's just seconds away from dispatching the character who has caused him so much grief. As he raises his axe to strike the woman down, a police officer arrives to "save the day" by shooting Billy dead. (As mentioned earlier, this happens right in front of Ricky.) The fact that Mother Superior is still alive when the end credits start rolling is very unsatisfying, as she is the film's true antagonist. Billy should have taken her out before he was taken out.
Ricky also wants to kill Mother Superior. And he succeeds! He chops the woman's head off, just what we wanted to see happen to her in the first movie. Problem is, it's still not satisfying because the role was recast for the sequel, and the filmmakers made the poor attempt to explain that the character looks different because she had a stroke between films. They went a step further by putting an inexplicable, disfiguring makeup effect on the woman's face. Is that what they thought happens to someone who has a stroke? Did she fall into a vat of toxic waste, too? It's quite confusing.
SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT was met with protests and controversy when it was first released, as people were upset that the film would dare try to ruin Santa's good name. It's clear that the filmmakers didn't have any reverence for this sacred icon, as the image of Santa is in the center of all sorts of awful events over the course of the film. Murder, attempted rape, child abuse, scary stories about the jolly old gift-bringer... The real Santa Claus may not be in here, but the idea of him does get dragged through the (bloody) mud a bit.
The image of a maniac dressing in a Santa Claus costume doesn't carry near as much weight in SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT 2. Ricky just throws on a Santa costume for the climax because his brother wore one, and because viewers would expect him to. All Ricky's Santa does is carry an axe while chasing an old woman in a wheelchair around in a house. There's nothing here worth getting upset about - other than the fact that you've paid to see a movie that consists of so much footage from the first film. And you can't blame that on Santa Claus.
Ricky's story is a typical younger brother tale - Billy went first and got all the attention and success, and Ricky is left to follow along behind, picking up the scraps. There was a significant decline in quality between the first SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT and PART 2, and the portrayal of Ricky in the sequel is a major example of that decline. The first film left the door open for a sequel that would center on Ricky, and there could have been a good movie made out of that concept. Ricky could have been a stronger contender. Instead, Billy takes the win pretty easily.

Unlike Billy, Ricky did get to carry a second film on his own. Unfortunately, the character is even worse in SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT 3, a film that casts Bill Moseley as a shambling, mute Ricky, completely wasting Moseley's natural charisma.

Do you agree with the outcome of this Face-Off, or do you like Ricky better than Billy? Share your thoughts on these films and characters in the comments section below. If you have any suggestions for future Face-Off articles, you can send them to me at [email protected].



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