Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Slaughterhouse Santa

Words don’t express how sad I am that I’ve gone 27 December 25ths without seeing Don’t Open ‘Til Christmas, but that’s what Mill Creek 50 packs were made for. And along with the soon-to-be-purchased boxed set of Silent Night, Deadly Night 3-5, I now have a new film to add to my annual yuletide viewing. Good thing the Muppet’s 2008 holiday special was rather lame. Not lame enough for Santa to be killed by a pocket-knife wielding psycho, but just under the bar set by Michael Kane, a Fraggle crossover, and Scooter in a go-go cage for Don’t Open ‘Til Christmas to claim its place under my tree.

Quick Plot: There’s a murderer on the loose in London and his targets laugh like a bowl full of jelly, sometimes while chit chatting with sex workers or humorously riding bicycles. An unnecessary and rather inconsistent prologue follows a young necking couple parked in public in the middle of the night (no shot of the street sign reading Lovers’ Lane) as they meet their end by a guy seeming to hold a knife and camera. It’s actually an impressive feat of balance, although the fact that throughout the film, the killer only stalks Santa Clauses and this opening murder makes absolutely no sense in context is something we’ll brush aside in the name of prologue.

Meanwhile, the coolest people I’ve ever seen on film are having a total Halloween-esque costume party to welcome the Christmas season, but sadly, festivities are cut short when the host is stabbed in the back of the head in front of all to see. A few more polyester white beard clad impostors are knocked off in a grab bag of styles, including gunshot, shoe knife slices, castration while urinating, and, in a stroke of true Kris Kringly genius, face roasting on an open fire (previously used to warm chestnuts, of course).
Now, I realize there was no widespread Internet in the 1980s as Al Gore had not yet sought a patent, but I’ve seen my share of spinning newspaper reels to know the general public should have been fairly aware that a serial killer was hungry for a very particular type of victim. So. Why, oh why, would one continue to travel the streets in a red velour jumpsuit? Is the call of St. Nick stronger than that of the Pony Express? It’s an unanswered question in a film that doesn’t really demand anything, so I’ll let this go because, you know what? I loved this movie, and an informed public would imply less dead Santas.

Our main heroine is the rich daughter of the first slain St. Nick, although she gets some stiff competition from Experience Girl (or so the IMDB listing credits her; I'd love to harp on the insanity of this naming, but then I'd forget that Kelly Baker was also in Slaughter High , so we'll move on) who works in what I guess is an old time nudie booth, here portrayed as a store window with prison-style phones for chatting and the option of boobs. There’s also Cliff, (Gerry Sundquist), a flute playing fashion photographer and (according the the trailer) Number One Suspect, and the skeevy Inspector Harris, played by director Edmund Purdom (clearly a man of many talents). We don’t have any reason to like any of them, but by the time the killer reveals his tormented self, the audience is having more fun than a spangly dressed elf gulping eggnog on a strobe-lit disco floor.  
High Points
Am I getting soft, or was the first shot of the plastic mask somewhat unnerving?

The final flashback, wherein we discover the motive for our killer’s hatred of all things tinseled, is absolutely incredible. By that, I mean it makes the death of Billy’s parents in the original Silent Night, Deadly Night look like Citizen Kane...which is sooooooo much less exciting than the intense use of slow motion and echoed sound cues utilized by Purdom here

You have to love a film released in 1984 that still managed to sneak in a complete disco number, performed, no less, by genre fave (and also Slaughter High graduate) Caroline Munro

Low Points
It’s hard to really spot them since this is the kind of movie where all the “bad” aspects (such as the humorously overdramatic score) make it so much fun to watch. I suppose the biggest annoyance is the fact that for the first hour, the only murdered victims are total strangers and thus, we’re less invested in their deaths than we are shopping for a Secret Santa in the office whose name we’re lucky to remember
A somewhat suspenseful and drawn-out cat-and-mouse chase with a gang-fearing Santa Claus in a toy factory has a rather humbug payoff
Lessons Learned
Models should never be photographed too much for fear of being overexposed. This may have been a cute dumb blond pun, but it doesn't really work when the actress has a lower IQ and sense of wordplay than the dumb blond she's portraying
Men with perms do not instill fear upon a 21st century audience
When expressing that you’re “bloody furious,” it's far more effective when you show the slightest trace of emotion in your voice
Murderous Christmas-hating psychotics have mastered the art of smizing (trademarked by Tyra Banks for “smiling with your eyes”)

Time flies really fast when you’re being chased by a serial killer. It can go from night to sunny daylight in the snap of your finger!

Most women are surprisingly not excited by the idea of sapphic photo shoots in Santa suits (particularly when they're mourning the murder of a family member while he happened to be dressed as such)

Repeated Confirmation of a Previous Theory
Staircases are the most lethal type of architecture one can encounter in everyday life...at least in the movies. I’ve fallen up and down many a stairway in my life, so either I’m doing something right or film characters are incredibly brittle.
Winning Line
“They’ll think we’re a couple of gays!” worries the male lead when his lady friend, dressed festively with no underthings, tries to make out in front of teenagers in a dark alleyway. Yes, that’s far more horrifying than the known madmen loose on the streets whom you’ve already witnessed kill a man.

I would never advise someone to spend more than, I don’t know, hot dog money on this film but I enjoyed the Christmas bells out of it. It’s bad in an epic way that’s incredibly watchable, with impressive and creative gore spilled throughout. I’m lucky enough to have it in my Mill Creek Drive-In Classics movie pack, which means you can probably find a copy for peanuts. Is it worth it? You’ll know how you feel about his film based on the tagline:

...t'was the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring...they were all dead!
True merriment at its best.


  1. Damn! This is one of the films I will be covering when it makes it to my door step via Netflix! I only half read your review for the sake of not ruining anything, not that it probably matters, but at least I know I will be in for some fun! That tagline is epic in its awesomeness, by the way.

  2. Can't wait for your review Matt. This is an epically glorious movie.

  3. I have the uncut version! Be careful of the Mill Creek version, it may be edited. But if not, that's awesome! Aside from all that, amazing movie!

  4. Wait, I'm confused...how can multiple Santas be killed when there's just the one?

  5. Holy sh*t! How have I gone through 31 December 25ths and not seen this film! Tracking down a copy ASAP.

    And as for SN, DN 3-5, the should have stopped at 2. How can you top perfection?

  6. Stephen: I didn't check the running time on my Mill Creek disc, but the gore and nudity seemed fairly ample so I don't think it was a butchered version. The transfer, of course, is awful, but it didn't seem like I was missing anything too exciting.

    Ms. Crayon: Remember how Kevin McCallister explained it in Home Alone? There's only one Santa, but he has many helpers. And some of them like to visit talkative employees of the sex worker industry.

    Planet: Believe me, I understand your sentiment but PLEASE right this wrong and find yourself a copy. As for Silent Night Deadly Night, I'm on my way to Best Buy to pick up my pre-ordered boxed set. If I recall, part 5 is actually decent and one of them stars Clint Howard. So yes, there is no topping gARBage Day, but there is Clint Howard.

  7. Yeah, I think if you see the castration, etc., you're in good hands.

  8. Well said. I like to think that advice applies to all areas of life.