So once again we have survived.

Christmas Evil

tn_christmasevilCHRISTMAS EVIL started life as YOU BETTER WATCH OUT, but according to writer/director Lewis Jackson, “some asshole who bootlegged the film changed the title card over and over and over again” and it got better known under the other name. I’m not sure which title I like better, they’re both pretty good. Whichever one you want to call it it’s kind of an alternate take on the SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT type of Santa-Claus-related-childhood-trauma-sends-troubled-man-on-homicidal-rampage-dressed-as-Santa story. Both use the MANIAC approach of following the slasher, not the slashees, so you get to understand him, maybe feel a little sorry for him, or maybe just think Jesus and be creeped out by him.

(Jesus is the guy’s birthday we’re celebrating here, by the way. I’m not using his name in vain, I’m trying to keep him in the conversation. Nobody dresses up as baby Jesus when they go on these Christmas horror rampages, I’ve noticed.)

mp_christmasevilSILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (which came four years later) is more successful as a slasher movie I think. They go a long way to set up why this guy would flip out. His parents were killed right in front of him by a guy dressed as Santa. The orphanage fucked him up more with beatings and sexual repression. Then his boss made him dress as Santa and his co-workers got him drunk and it all kind of combined into a Killer Santa cocktail. It’s a bad day at the end of a bad life. It kind of makes sense.

CHRISTMAS EVIL is more far-fetched, but the weirdness is the appeal. This one’s loosely based on the song “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” When Harry (Brandon Maggart) was little in 1947 he saw Santa sticking his face between mom’s legs, and that really upset little Harry. Now it’s “present day” and he’s weirdly obsessed with Santa. His home is filled with old Christmas decorations even on Thanksgiving – I suspect he has them all year round. He wakes up in Santa Claus pajamas and admires himself in the mirror with a shaving cream beard. He works at the “Jolly Dreams” toy factory where he was recently promoted and misses working the line – this must be the only factory in America where white people manually put cheap plastic motorcyclists on cheap plastic motorcycles. The American Apparel of toy companies.

Really depressing factory though. Makes Silver Shamrock look like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

In his spare time Harry has a disturbing hobby: he spies on neighborhood boys and girls and keeps notes about whether they’re naughty or nice, in his estimation. I don’t understand why seeing Santa Claus eat out his mom makes him want to be Santa Claus, but– oh geez, I guess I do understand. The guy has more issues than I initially realized. Anyway, it’s about the police state, man. Big Brother spying on everybody, or something.

His interactions with the kids are the creepiest part of the movie, although also what makes him different from other Killer Santas, and slashers in general. He gets really upset when he sees one of the kids looking at a Penthouse, it just pisses him off. After spying he goes to a big book which he writes notes in, not a crazy SE7EN style notebook or Unabomber manifesto, but very nice calligraphy. For the kid with the porno collection he adds “Impure thoughts – negative body hygiene” to a long list of sins. But for a little girl who apparently didn’t do anything bad all he writes is “Just a darling.”

At one point he walks down the street and the kids see him, and you find out they actually know him. They ask him what he wished for today (huh?) and he yells, “I wished I was super magic!” Unfortunately the little smelly kid says, “I wish I had a lifetime subscription to Penthouse Magazine!” Anyway, no other adults see this conversation to suspect what a weirdo he is.

Like any good MANIAC style movie he has people in his life who don’t know what goes on in his mind, or at least the extent of it. He has asshole co-workers who think he’s a dipshit and take advantage of him. In one overly obvious case a guy gets him to cover his shift, then is spotted at a bar exactly as he brags that he lied to him and really didn’t need “that schmuck” to cover his shift.

Also he has a family including his hotshot, push-up doing brother, played by the guy in THE WALKING DEAD who wears the fishing hat all the time, who often rants about how “lame” he thinks Harry is. The sister-in-law and nephew like him, though. His troubles cause him to snap as he’s watching Santa Claus arrive in the Thanksgiving Day parade. He cancels plans to visit his brother and dedicates his time to Santa Claus type activities, like painting a van to look like Santa’s sleigh.

Yeah, he’s Santa now, but he lives a double life. He can still pass at a Christmas party with his fellow Jolly Dream executives. When he finds out that they aren’t really donating as many presents to a children’s hospital as they claim to be in their PR materials he decides to take the law– well, I guess he decides to take charity into his own hands. He uses his access to the factory to get the toys and delivers them to the hospital dressed as Santa. You don’t really know what he’s up to, and the security people are suspicious of him, and he starts crazily shouting “MERRY CHRISTMAS!” in a way that’s a little threatening, but there’s no catch. He’s really donating a bunch of toys to a bunch of sick kids.

That’s what makes him the most interesting Killer Santa I know of. He’s not completely hung up on punishing the naughty kids. Bringing presents to kids is actually his main activity. But, uh, he does run into some rich pricks coming out of an Ivy League party and finds himself stabbing a guy’s eye out with a toy soldier and then axing three people in front of a crowd of witnesses. So things get bad from there. Worse than they did for the Grinch or Jack Skeleton, arguably.

I don’t want to give everything away, but then again I want to talk about how awesome this is. So I will give three (3) major SPOILERS, but without any detail:

1. Killer Santa ends up getting chased basically by a crowd of angry villagers

2. children take the side of Killer Santa

3. there is an ambiguous ending that (at least in the director’s cut) I took to represent Harry’s fantasy, but that has been interpreted by others as magic realism where he actually gains Santa powers

If you want to see the best Christmas slasher movie I’d probly have to send you in the direction of BLACK CHRISTMAS, but if you want the most interesting one this might be my top candidate.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Thursday, December 23rd, 2010 at 12:01 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

22 Responses to “Christmas Evil”

  1. Interesting recomendation, Vern. I need to check it out. It was thanks to you that i watched BLACK CHRISTMAS, for wish i’m eternally grateful. And i’m talking about the 1976 version, not the bloody remake!

  2. Is that Tom Hanks in the picture?

  3. Man, they really do need to make a crazy-guy-dresses-as-baby-Jesus-and-goes-on-a-killing-spree slasher. Killer Santa movies are almost their own genre now, and if I’m a representative sample of the population, I bet there’s a huge untapped market for Killer Jesus movies.

  4. A Killer Baby Jesus movie would be like a cross between Larry Cohen’s GOD TOLD ME TO and Larry Cohen’s IT’S ALIVE. Maybe somebody should get Larry on the phone.

  5. I’m more curious about how they sell Killer Baby Jesus’ traumatic past. Did he see mommy getting fucked in a manger? Maybe he was concieved by midi-chlorians? We’ve got to figure it out so we know how to cast Michael Moriarty.

  6. Clearly, Moriarty is Killer Baby Jesus’ abusive stepdad, Joe.

    If we need some references to how a Killer Baby Jesus costume might work, here’s a good one: http://axecop.com/images/uploads/babyman.png

  7. You guys are both going to Hell.

    Save me a seat close to the stage, will you.

  8. You don’t want to sit too close to the stage, the first few rows are in the splash zone for gg allin shows.

  9. What would be killer baby Jesus’ weapon of choice? I think the opening should be him strangling the wise men with his swaddling clothes, and then using they bring to finance the rest of his killing spree. Although I guess it would be a lot more expensive movie if you had to make it in the time period, so maybe it should just be a modern-day nativity scene re-enactment? Hey, what if the opening act was about this angelic single mother with a weirdly creepy baby, who is generously asked by her local church to play Mary, but when the nativity re-enactment starts, when everyone’s gathered around singing carols, that’s when the killing starts, because it turns out that the killer baby Jesus has the soul of Judas trapped in his little body, which awakens when he is forced to be Jesus in the re-enactment. The only way to stop him is to give him forty pieces of silver in a little bag. No one knows this at first, but through a series of coincidences that mother winds up telling a hermit priest about the killer baby Jesus, and for the climax the priest lures the killer baby Jesus to his death by dousing himself with gasoline, while holding the bag of silver pieces at the altar of the church, and says something like, “C’mon little Lord Jesus, lay down your sweet head!”, and the killer baby Jesus goes for his throat (kind of like the bunny rabbit it the Holy Grail), and the priest flicks hi lighter and blows up himself, killer baby Jesus, and the church. The mom turns and looks at the explosion, and then smiles at the hunky guy who played Joseph with her in the nativity scene at the beginning as he puts his arm on her shoulder. “You know,” she says, her face bathed in the glow of the burning rubble of the church, “I finally know what that feeling is everyone talks about at Christmas, that feeling of peace, on earth.” Joseph charmingly leers at her. “And goodwill toward men?”, and kisses her.
    The camera pulls back in a crane shot so that we can see the full devastation, as fire trucks and police cars pull up, the music fades from moving orchestra soundtrack into a children’s choir singing “Away in a Manger”. They finish, and part rows to reveal a brand new nativity set-up. The camera zooms in on the baby Jesus, and suddenly a tiny, bloody, middle finger is flipped and someone screams. Cut to black, and Linkin Park covering “God, Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, roll credits.

  10. I think we’re getting away from the original concept. This isn’t a Killer Baby Jesus movie; it’s a “grown-ass man dresses up like Baby Jesus and kills people” movie.

    We should really hammer out these issues before the pitch meeting if we want to get Ed Norton in this thing.

  11. Majestyk – how about a “Grown-ass man dresses up like Baby Jesus and kills people, actually turns out to BE Baby Jesus?” final twist? Sorta like if the killer in “Silent Night, Deadly Night” had turned out to be the real Father Christmas all along. (Actually, come to think of it, I kinda wish they’d gone in that direction.)

    I’m not a fan of “maniac” movies, so I won’t make a point of checking out this one. The kind of movie where you have a group of obvious “victims” except one (or more) of them is actually a killer is more my type of thing. Lots of paranoia and boobs and stuff. Gotta say I enjoyed the review though.

  12. Wait, I think you guys are totally missing the boat on the best version of the grown-ass-man-dressed-as-baby-Jesus concept. What if the grown ass man in question were to be a criminal, and get shot by the police while running away. In the back. In front of a Church. And his blood splatters all over the nativity scene. But his evil is so strong that it brings the baby Jesus figure to life, and then he goes to hunt down the families of the police officers, after killing some Priests and Nuns of course.

    And, since you’ve already splattered baby Jesus with blood in your very first scene, you could totally have the first baby Jesus kill be him taking out a pedophile Priest.

    I’m dead serious, I might just write this movie.

  13. Also, it’s called Unholy Night or The Manger Mangler.

  14. And he’s gotta crucify that Priest too, obviously. Or get crucified himself in the end. And the sequel could be called, “Unholy Night Part II: The Second Coming. The third could be Unholy Night Part III: Lazarus, then Unholy Night Part IV: Revelations, and of course, you could also have a long discussed, but never made prequel movie called Unholy Night: Genesis.

  15. isnt there a christmas carol about the barn animals paying tribute to Jesus? Maybe they can do his evil bidding. And you’re gonna want some shepards and wise men in there somehow too.

  16. Barn-animals-as-evil-minions is a great idea. Maybe killer baby Jesus could send out the sheep to massacre people, like in BLACK SHEEP, and then the shepherds could be brought in as the government experts to solve the problem. One of the shepherds happens to be just trying to get home to his enstranged wife and kids in time for Christmas, and has a wicked hangover that he keeps mentioning. Also at some point he has to walk across the broken glass of the nativity scene/church stained glass windows barefoot.

  17. I think we failed to ask Vern what he thinks of The Walking Dead since he apparently watches it.

  18. Watching the news, I just thought of something: Has there ever been a slasher movie, that takes place at a crowded, but snowed in airport on christmas eve?

  19. I wanna see this psycho Santa flick – Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pH9IyqTk1E

    It reminds me of The Thing except it’s got Santa as the alien VS presents.

  20. Bit of trivia:
    Brandon Maggart is Fiona Apple’s dad.

  21. Cool. Good review. This plays tonight at midnight at the New Beverly in Los Angeles.

    They’re doing a Black Christmas/Silent Night, Deadly Night double-feature later this month. It’s a good Christmas to be in LA and be naughty.

  22. a friend of mine got this for me some years ago, and I don’t really remember liking it that much. in fact, if I recall correctly, I was seriously bored by this movie. however, I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who can make it to the end. Probably the most surprising ending I’ve ever seen. It left me dancing with joy that night and ten years later I still vividly remember how exciting and hilarious this final scene was. completely and utterly fantastic

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