Last year I checked out some holiday horror films and found myself enjoying them quite a bit. This year’s crop turned out alright as well, though I wasn’t able to get to Don’t Open Till Christmas (very long wait on Netflix – the same fate that befell Silent Night, Deadly Night last year).
- Santa’s Slay: It’s hard to believe that a film written and directed by a protégé of Brett Ratner could be entertaining at all, but then, here we are. Of course, it’s not fine cinema or anything, but it’s quite a bit of fun. Former professional wrestler Bill Goldberg plays Santa and does a reasonably menacing job in the role. Interestingly enough, the movie attempts to build in some history to the story of Santa and why he is the way he is… It turns out that Santa lost a bet with an angel around 1000 years ago, and thus he had to act nice and deliver presents to the world. But now that agreement has lapsed and Santa goes on a murderous rampage. The flashback that tells this part of the story in the film is done in a rather awesome stop-motion animation, reminiscent of the old Rankin/Bass stuff – a nice touch.
Indeed, there are a lot of little things that I really liked about this movie. Some of the jokes are actually funny and the pop culture references are present without being overbearing. I would have liked to have seen more Santa slayings, but ultimately, this film was a lot better than I expected. Again, it isn’t especially brilliant, but it’s rather well put together and worth a watch if you go in for this sort of thing. ***
- Christmas Evil (aka You Better Watch Out): I had no idea that this was a Troma film until I saw it during the opening credits. However, despite the Troma reputation, this film is much more deliberate and measured than you might expect (there’s not even much in the way of gore). The story follows Harry Stadling, a guy who works at a toy factory and has an unhealthy obsession with Santa Claus. For instance, he observes neighborhood kids and makes naughty and nice lists, tabulating all their deeds into two giant books. Eventually, Harry snaps, dresses up like Santa, paints his van to look like a sleigh, and heads out on Christmas Eve to give presents to the nice kids… and punish the naughty ones. Unlike Santa’s Slay, Harry actually makes a distinction between naughty and nice, and does not harm the nice people. The naughty, on the other hand, well, they get what’s coming to them. Harry is portrayed in a surprisingly sympathetic light, no doubt a result of a rather good lead performance by Brandon Maggart. The film was quite low budget, and it shows, but it’s still a very interesting movie. Also, I rather loved the ending, despite the fact that it kinda comes out of nowhere and makes no sense. It’s still fun. ***
- Dead End: Not sure where I heard of this, but it takes a familiar premise and… doesn’t really do all that much with it. A family driving to Christmas Eve dinner takes a “shortcut” and find themselves on a mysterious road through a mysterious forest where they pick up a mysterious woman who mysteriously disappears, but then someone sees a mysterious car that looks almost like a hearse driving away with one of the kids and it’s all very mysterious. This sort of thing could work if there was some sort of reasonable explanation for all the mystery… or if the dialogue were good or if the plot progressed in a fashion that made sense in some way. Some serious horror movie tropes here. Like people walking off by themselves or other seriously stupid stuff. For a low budget film, it looks pretty good, and they did manage to find some reasonably good actors, but some of the dumber plot points and the ending just left a bad taste in my mouth. *1/2
That’s all for now. Coming down the home stretch, we’ve got the night before Christmas and the big day itself!