“I’m gonna play my tune now, everyone will dance. You’ll see.”
Harry Stadling (Christmas Evil)
More psychodrama than slasher, Christmas Evil, known as You Better Watch Out upon release, actually has more in common with the heady horror of Taxi Driver than say, the Silent Night, Deadly Night Series – the lethal umbrella inspiration for our book.
Young Harry is traumatized when he witnesses Father Christmas getting frisky with mom (This goes a few black stockings beyond “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.”)
Harry runs upstairs and slices his hand open with a shattered piece of snow globe. Citizen Kane this ain’t. Nor is it Miracle on 34th Street. But when it comes to Christmas movie fare, John Waters calls Christmas Evil, “the best one ever.”
Not sure about that, but it’s a consistently compelling if downbeat affair, and one of the more interesting films in the holiday horror sub-genre.
Harry (played as an adult by Brandon Maggart) then grows up to be a disgruntled loner (If there’s one 80s horror that deserves a cheesy back-in-time prologue, it’s a Christmas-themed one.)
He’s far too obsessed with kids than a man who’s this advanced into bachelorhood should be (or anyone else for that matter). Harry dresses as Santa, and takes surreptitious snaps of the neighborhood children, documenting how naughty/nice they’ve been in giant volumes kept in his study These creepily document, in one instance, a boy whose “bad personal hygiene” puts him in the “naughty” ledger.
Harry works as a middle manager at Jolly Dream, a candy-cane branded toy factory, where he’s toy-possessed, taking a stint on the floor assembly line to manufacture what look like, it has to be said, really odd looking toys.
As his Yuletide obsessions become more pronounced, he takes in Santa Claus parades on television and kits himself out with a bespoke felt suit, eventually setting up his own basement toy workshop — in short, morphing into Santa Claus and manufacturing bizarro toy soldiers. And it’s one of those same toys that’s used in a terrific church-front attack, witnessed by dozens of parishioners.
Director Lewis Jackson reports this one went over-budget and was plagued by production issues that pushed this up to the $850,000 mark. Hope they made their money back as there’s a lot going on here.
Nice to see that the film’s gotten some exposure to become a cult Christmas curiosity. In December 2014, our pals over at Vinegar Syndrome released Christmas Evil in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack.
Put it under your tree.
***1/2 (out of 5)