Tuesday, December 15, 2009

You Know You've Made the Naughty List When You Meet Santa Claws

One of the difference between films and flicks (according to Emily Intravia's Encyclopedia of Filmic Knowledge, copyright pending) is that a film stands on any ground while a flick is made--sometimes exclusively--for a very specific audience. I often look to movies classified in the children’s section as prime examples: I wasn’t charmed by The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride, but the kids I babysat for in the 90s could easily watch it all day long, while WALL-E and The Muppet Movie remain triumphant masterpieces for viewers of any age. As much as I'd like to, I find it hard to tear apart something like Beverly Hills Chihuahua; some films simply aren’t mine to destroy.
Santa Claws, a 1996 direct-to-video release, was not made with someone like me in mind, mostly because I’m not fourteen, male, or a Cinemax subscriber. It may be directed by none other than Night of the Living Dead’s screenwriter John A. Russo and feature several familiar horror faces, but this is not, I repeat, NOT the kind of film any old genre bug should rent on a whim and expect satisfaction.

Quick Plot: Scream Queen Illustrated is branching out for the holiday season with a new video series starring busty models rubbing gift boxes over their tanning booth certified skin. Star Raven Quinn (Debbie Rochon) is a tad distracted by her crumbing marriage to a greasy photographer. Thankfully, her kindly neighbor Wayne is harnessing a fatal attraction so he’s always around to babysit her daughters and sedate them with spiked hot cocoa.

Now surpisingly, Wayne’s infatuation grows to homicidal proportions. This has something to do with him once witnessing his mother and a Santa hat-clad stepfather doing it on Christmas Eve and promptly shooting them dead. Such a childhood experience will apparently inspire young men to don Street Fighter’s Vega-esque gloves made from a garden weasel and hunt down softcore porn stars with a fiery (eh, slightly warmed) hatred.
This is the kind of film with interesting enough cover art that any attentive video store clerk would simply refuse to rent out. There’s a mildly interesting (in theory) story thread about horror conventions and the potentially dangerous fandom/adoration they birth in lonely men, but you have to pretend that gigantic glass of heavily rummed eggnog is more than halfway full to consider any of the film worthwhile. It's not. In any way. At all.
High Points
Debbie Rochon is no Cate Blanchett, but she does put forth an enthusiastic energy that makes at least some of Santa Claws watchable enough, and her interview in the DVD's extras do prove her an intelligent and articulate performer deserving of far better work in film

Don’t be fooled by the two hour running time listed on the Netflix’s DVD jacket. If Santa Claws has nothing else going for it, at least it only clocks in at 80 minutes (about 30 of which are devoted to naked women gently violating stuffed animals,  another 15 to low rent Christmas songs played while characters drive, and 80 to a film that just should not be viewed)
Low Points
I didn’t really need elaborate striptease sequences, but if the whole appeal of the female cast is that they’re “scream queens,” wouldn’t it be more appropriate if the nudity had something to do with horror? A witches hat and broom don’t count.
There’s just about nothing remotely clever regarding any of the dialogue. Sample villain’s threat: "Seasons greetings. Santa Claws is coming to town!” Really? That’s all you got? 
Lessons Learned
Children are easily entertained by rather tragic stories of alcoholics stalking their mothers
A lot of people like looking at skin, especially when it’s mostly artificial and dry humping a teddy bear
Uptight in-laws have nothing better to do than wait at home to judge you
When your Santa suit needs some badass makeover, grab a can of spray paint

Um. I guess if you like watching women throw packing peanuts over their fake breasts as electric music plays on loop, this is the film for you. Plain old fashioned horror fans should stay as far away as absolutely possible, as there’s nothing but an uncomfortable actor muffling dialogue under a ski mask and occasionally hugging lax security guards to death. Even porn enthusiasts should be worn: while the writing seems catered to establishing boring conversations that will quickly escalate into X territory, there’s no actual sex scenes to not enjoy. Unless you need to stuff some DVD equivalent of coal in someone’s stocking, stay far away. 


  1. I checked this film out about a while back, and it was quite terrible. There was something I liked about it, and that's Ms. Rochon. Unfortunately, many of other films don't rise much above the same level, but I for some reason doesn't bother me. For the best/worst example of her work see Mulva II: Kill Teen Ape, if you dare!

    Great review as always.

  2. Rochon is definitely in a different league than the rest of the film. Very likable onscreen and in the offscreen extras. You almost feel embarrassed for her for having to act in this "movie."

    I'm heard legendary things about the Mulva movies but have yet to dip my toe in their mud. Dare I add them to the queue?

  3. I guess I might appreciate the nakedness of it all, but this does sound like one that just may be too bad to bother with. If you can't even come up with a funny quip, then what's the point?

  4. It's just so blah, Matt. Laughable yes, especially when you factor in Grant Kramer's sad attempt to play crazy, but I just felt kind of sad watching it and imagining the actresses showing it to their parents and saying "Look! I'm in a movie!...Wait, Daddy, don't cry...it's artistic. I'm kissing the young Joey Buttafuco-looking guy for art's sake...Daddy?"

    Yeah, no.