13 Days of Christmas 11: Christmas Evil

Posted: December 21, 2011 by Jenny Dreadful in Film, Reviews

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… Eleven Naughty Kringles, Ten Mogwai CreepingNine Obscene Phone CallsEight Santas BleedingSeven Cookies SnarkingSix Trees-a-Slaying… FIVE GARBAGE DAYS!… Four Naked ElvesThree Death CarsTwo Curling Duels and a Hell Goat in a Pear Tree

Christmas Evil (1980), also known as You Better Watch Out, reminds us of the very real dangers of childhood holiday trauma.

Harry Stadling (Brandon Maggert) is obsessed with Christmas! In fact he wants to “be” the authentic Santa Claus, with a real suit, sleigh and reindeer. Ever since he learned the “truth” about Santa, he’s tried to make Christmas a reality. Growing up a toy maker, Harry is met with naysayers and critics who mock him for his yuletide beliefs… but he wants people to get the presents they deserve, even if that means giving the gift of murder!

StayFrosty: In an already weird sub-genre, I found this movie particularly weird.  Maybe it’s the tone, which shifts from funny to awkward to something Freddy Krueger-esque to kind of sad to INSANE.  What I have definitely learned from all these movies is that if you see Santa have sex (or someone dressed as Santa having sex), it makes you a murderer.  In a Santa suit.  Because nothing causes a psychotic break by learning not just that Santa isn’t real, but that he’s having sex with your mom.  This is the truth about Santa – he likes sex.

Our lead character differs slightly from other crazy Santas in that he actually seems to care about children, not just stabbing people – though that happens too.  Maybe it’s this actual bit of caring that makes for the tonal shifts – you can’t help but feel kind of sorry for this guy and his love of good kids – though seeing him spying on little kids and keeping a meticulous journal on them is totally creepy.  So basically it’s a weird battle between sympathetic and awkward creepy pedophile.  Like I said, weird.

And speaking of weird, let’s talk about this ending.  I’m not going to say too much, but when FGSG got to the ending, we couldn’t believe it.  Santa flies into the moon in his murder van?  Slow motion into the sky like real Santa?  Uh-huh.  I left the room for a cup of coffee, and when I get back the man is flying into the sun.  The End!  What?

Jenny: Although it’s certainly not the first holiday horror flick (following Black Christmas among others), the more obscure Christmas Evil beats the controversial Silent Night, Deadly Night to the evil Santa punch. As notable as that may be, it’s very difficult to love this grim little film.

The protagonist is almost likable and, as one would hope, crazed and violent. However, the number of scenes focused on his introspection and increasingly crushing depression (stayed only by faith in Christmas and the innocence of children) results in a film that doesn’t deliver the campy horror advertised. The cheap production values don’t help. In short, it’s not particularly fun and it’s not executed well enough to appreciate on an intellectual level; though the ending, probably a metaphor or brief dream sequence, is quite wacky.

And when will these guys realize that their murderous escapades in front of children will just result in MORE KILLER SANTAS??? (or Santa killers) No, we’re not letting this go.

Whether it’s terror or silliness you want, casual fans looking to enjoy some Christmas horror this week have a number of better options to choose from. Just take a look at the rest of our 13 Days of Christmas series for recommendations.

crowbait: I thought it was interesting that what sets off our jolly old murder spree is the commercialization of Christmas. The toy company he works for is off-loading inferior product on a children’s hospital as part of a PR stunt. They don’t even know if there are enough toys for all of the sick kids. Harry can’t stand this callous attitude from toy makers and the way they are abusing the situation to boost their company image, so the killings begin with him crashing the TV appearance on the steps of the hospital and putting an axe into the heads of the toy company owners. Punishing people for betraying the true meaning of Santa? Why not?

By the way, the ending of the van leaping off a cliff toward the sky, cutting away before the arc of descent begins is probably the director’s way of ending on a happy note. Like Thelma and Louise but with more holiday cheer.

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