Friday, 23 December 2011

Xmas Special: Killer Santas

Ho Ho Hos! It's almost Christmas, so I hope you all have been good little boys and girls. For Santa Claus may seem like a jolly old man on the outside, but you should also remember that he sees you when you're sleeping and he knows when you're awake. So you better watch out, you better not cry and you better not pout. I'm telling you why. Santa is one word away from Satan and he's coming to YOUR town.

Christmas Evil a.k.a. You Better Watch Out a.k.a. Terror in Toyland (USA, 1980)
Director: Lewis Jackson

Better Watch Out... Better Not Cry... ...Or You May DIE!
OK, let me start out by saying that Santa Slashers are actually one of the sleaziest subgenres this side of pornography. They gleefully destroy what you like about Christmas (such as love and a feeling of safety) and are usually of a pretty bad taste. So much so that this one that started the whole genre is one of the favorite movies of John Waters himself. But unlike you would imagine, Christmas Evil is not actually just a carbon copy of Halloween with the killer of teenagers just dressed up as Santa Claus. It is mostly a movie about a middle-aged man breaking down.

Our lovable protagonist.

As a young boy, Harry Stadling Jr. loves christmas. He stays up with his younger brother Phil, and mother to see Santa Claus putting toys in their stockings and give gifts. But Harry's Christmas takes a turn for the worse, as he later at night stumbles downstairs to find Santa (actually his dad) giving mum cunnilingus. Phil tells him Santa isn't real, but he doesn't want to believe so. In the end Harry cuts his hand with a broken snow globe.

Years later, the adult Harry (Brandon Maggart) works at a toy factory. He's obsessed with spreading Christmas cheer, and in particular about whether children have been naughty or nice. He dresses up as Santa and spies on children. When he realizes his coworkers think of him as a "schmuck" for trying to make the best toys for good little children, and that they exploit him for their own benefits, Harry has a total mental breakdown. He goes on a big murder spree dressed as Santa, killing a bunch of obnoxious yuppies he finds to be "naughty", and starting to break into peoples' houses. The only one that can stop him is his brother Phil (Jeffrey DeMunn).

They whole film is shot very smutty and has a feeling of being made as a B-feature for a drive-in theatre. The pace is also very slow, and we have to endure longs scenes of middle-aged soul-searching and sleazy mind-melting and voyeurism. It is a very cynical film, seeing that Christmas magic is not seen to have any place in the adult world. Christmastime is dark, with ruthless yuppies having all the fun, and the poorer class confined in the misery of huge workloads. In that, it is an attack of middle-class America. But as a comedy, it is a failure and not that funny. It is also not very memorable in any way. I've seen the movie three times, the last time about a week ago, and I still had to check the film's plot elsewhere.

★★ 1/2

Silent Night, Deadly Night (USA, 1984)
Director: Charles E. Sellier, Jr.

The most famous of Santa Slashers steals a lot from Christmas Evil (which had by then fallen into obscurity) and your basic heirs of Halloween and holiday-themed horrors. While Christmas Evil at least had high satiric ambitions, the ambition for Silent Night, Deadly Night is to make loads of money with minimum effort. And it worked, there has been four sequels to the thing, and I think a remake can't be far behind in today's world. I recently reviewed Part II, that actually re-hashes most of the key scenes of this film.

Christmas Eve 1971 sees young Billy Chapman with his family (including Baby Ricky) driving to a old folk's home to meet with his grandfather. The old man seems to be a total vegetable, not speaking to any of the adults. But when Billy is alone with gramps, the oldster is found to be very much alive, foul-mothedly warning Billy about being naughty. Santa is watching, you see, and will leave no bad deed go unpunished. Billy takes this threat to heart. On their way home the family stops to pick up a hitch-hiker dressed as Santa who has had car trouble. But the man is actually an robber on the run, killing Billy's dad, and raping his mum before slitting her throat. He attempts to kill Billy as well, but the boy manages to get away from him.

Billy grows up to be an unbalanced youngster in an orphanage, drawing pictures of carnage. This gains unfavorable attention from the Mother Superior (Lilyan Chauvin). Billy happens to see a nun having sex with the janitor in the cupboard. Mother Superior wovs to avenge such a sinful act and tells Billy too that bad deeds will be punished. Even later, as an 18-year-old toy store assistant, Billy (Robert Brian Wilson) is having a tough time having to play the store Santa at a christmas party. When he finds a coworker attempting to rape a cashier, he snaps and becomes a axe-wielding maniac bent on murdering those he views to be "naughty". Which mostly means those having sex.

"I'll take my sexual frustrations out on topless girls in never nude-shorts."

One really can't say that Silent Night, Deadly Night is in any way suspenseful, or even that well-made. But as in Christmas Evil, the film is meant to be heavily ironic, almost a black humour slapstick comedy. So we have a topless girl being impaled on wall-mounted a deer head's antlers, and a sledder arriving downhill with his head cut off. The kills are stupid as all hell, but all the while entertaining. The film does take a while to get going, as it relies on two seperate flashback sequences. Fortunately, these scenes are as fun and dumb as the rest of the film, and entertaining even when there aren't any Christmas-themed killings going on. It's a high regard for a B-grade slasher in my opinion. There's also loads of comedy of the police being stupid enough to not recognize the Santa killer, thus killing innocents. The opportunity for a sequel is opened in the final scene.

★ or ★★★★★

Santa's Slay (USA, 2005)
Director: David Steiman

A more modern take on the comedic Santa murders comes from 2005, when someone convinced production companies that a Brett Ratner-produced film where WWE wrestler Bill Goldberg plays Santa as the son of Satan would be a good idea. It has a very off-putting ironic aura around it that makes many modern comedies such a chore to watch. But it does have a share of so-bad-they're-good jokes and one or two genuinely funny ones, too.

The film's version of Santa lost a wager with an angel way back when, and thus has had to give out presents for a 1000 years. But that time has now passed and Santa is free to wreck havock at Christmastime like the Son of Satan he is. The teenaged Nicolas Yuleson (groan... played by Douglas Smith) finds out his grandfather is actually the angel that tricked Santa before, and thus the family becomes the target of Santa's revenge. Nicolas and his girlfriend (Emilie DeRavin) have to find a way to stop the monstrous Santa before he kills them. The film's kills include someone getting a candy cane punched through the head from the back and then slammed to a wall, and a guy getting choked with a Christmas wreath and a nifty wrestling bodyflip.

"This'll make a great gimmick for my match against The Iron Sheik and André the Giant!"

Like you can see from the title, the film loves various Christmas-themed puns. As those bad puns also kill people, it's almost as if The Joker had written the film. The viewer may die too, not from laughing, but from punching him/herself on the head too many times. But if one can manage a film with roots so deeply in obnoxiousness, it may even be reccommendable. For one, the opening sequence sees Fran Drescher getting burned alive and then drowned in a bowl of Eggnog, and Chris Kattan getting impaled. James Caan also cameos, but wisely left his name off the credits. And I have a weird love for WWE wrestlers on film, no matter how bad they are. There's got to be at least some asskicking involved, after all.


The Saint (Sint, Netherlands, 2010)
Director: Dick Maas

All countries don't get visits from Santa Claus. In the Netherlands, gifts are given by Saint Nicholas, or Sinterklaas. And wouldn't you know, they got a comedic horror film where he's an evil beast of the night, wrecking havock and murdering innocents. But this is done on December 5th. The resulting film was the most watched in the history of Netherlands.

In the film, Niklas was actually a murderous pirate who liked to dress up as a priest in the 15th century. Getting fed up with his crew's blood-filled pillaging, the citizens of one village burned all the pirates alive. But his evil remained, and the undead Niklas begun to seek bloody vengeance every year when their death date happened on a night of full moon after that. In 1968, the rampaging Niklas, riding on his fire-breathing, flying horse, brutally murders hundreds. Among the victims are the entire family of young Goert, who happened to be out when it happened. In the modern day Goert (Bert Luppes) is now a police officer. He tries to warn his colleagues and people that Niklas's bloody crusade would go on on December 5th, but he's not believed.

Meanwhile group of college students are having their usual troubles of who loves who and whos fucking who. Frank (Edgbert Jan Weeder) is particularly popular with the ladies. At December 5th he's earning extra money with his friends moonlighting as St. Nick and his Black Petes. But they get lost, and his friends get brutally murdered. While Frank survives in the nick of time, he is arrested as he's suspected to be the holiday killer. Goert has to find a way to recruit him to help him stop the terror of Saint Nicholas once and for all.

"It burns! But, since this is a promotional image of the film, I can't possibly die here, right?"

The film has too many characters, and suffers for a lack of focus. While we should follow Frank's journey, we often find ourselves where-ever The Saint happens to be butchering people. Niklas (Huub Stapel) is not seen enough and is too distant to become a horror movie icon who could pull a main character role as well as being an antagonist. The film is one of the kind that pays tribute to numerous 80's flicks, and in particular the Evil Dead trilogy seems to be close to Maas's heart. The flick is well-staged and looks very good indeed. There are explosions and flying horses that look as good as they would in any modern Hollywood film, if not better. Maas also manages to raise some suspense from his ridiculous idea. But as in many horror-comedies, when one of the sides work somewhat, the other doesn't work at all. The comedy in the film is quite bad, with it being too much in love with its mythological background. Even Santa's Slay managed to handle a complicated back story and enough gags better. The kills are suitably bloody, but not really Christmas-related. All in all, best stick to Rare Exports, even if that film's quantity of Evil Santa screentime is lacking.

★★ 1/2

So sorry if I scarred you for life with this, and have a truly peaceful and wonderful Christmastime. Peace out!

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