Friday, December 10, 2010

Santa Roll Call

As some of you know and others don't care about, I spent the last year or so contributing to Pop Syndicate, a recently renovated website that lost all its past content (and writers). The following article appeared in 2009 and since you can't find it anywhere else in InterWorld, I'm rerunning it here, with a few edits. Apologies for the deja vu.

As I sprinkle my sugar cookies in anticipation of a certain cheerful home invader’s arrival, it seems fitting to consider, judge, and rank some of cinema’s Santariffic incarnations. Naturally, we’re not talking about Tim Allen (although that’s a horror in itself) 

7. Wayne, Santa Claws
Unless you really dig C-movie actresses rubbing teddy bears over their artificial bodies to one electronically synched beat playing on loop OR have a serious fear of garden weasels, there’s not much to love in this John A. Russo directed “horror” from 1996. Yes, that’s the same man whose name graces the screenwriting credit of Night of the Living Dead, but he’s seriously etched his name onto the naughty list with this soft(er than a fleece blanket)-core porn/autistic community theater production of a slasher film about a lonely man harnessing a fatal crush on Debbie Rochon. His way into her heart? Donning aforementioned garden weasel, dressing as Santa, spray painting his costume black, drugging her children with sedative-laced hot cocoa, and strangling a few of her competitors for the Scream Queen Christmas Calendar. It’s far worse than it sounds.

6. Bill Goldberg in Santa’s Slay
Little known fact: Santa is a gambling man, child hater, and crappy curling player. 1000 years ago, he lost a somewhat cheated bet with a claymation angel an as punishment, was forced to bring presents to all the well-behaved Christian kids of the world. A millennium’s worth of ho-ing breeds an awful lot of resentment in a man, so it’s not overly surprising to watch him slaughter his way through Rob Zombie-esque strippers and grumpy old ladies the second his spell wears off. Former WWE champ Bill Goldberg has a sort of Bill Mosely on steroids feel that works for the ridiculous character, but this Santa loses a point for a) not being a well-written film and b) stabbing the kindly Jewish butcher, who by any logic, should be one of the only characters a disgruntled Santa tired of giving gifts would spare. 

5. Mike McGavin, Elves

I’ve probably discussed this 1989 bottom feeding flick with far more energy than the one time I watched it fifteen or so years ago, but one can’t draw up a Ho Ho Horror list without citing Grizzly Adams himself donning the hopefully dry cleaned mall Santa suit and battling (sadly sans costume) a genetically engineered homicidal Nazi elf. How can you not root for a guy with naturally pruned facial hair that puts all polyester beard to shame?

4. Rebecca, Cuento de Navidad
Roseanne Barr shocked the television waves with the in-your-face realism of her small screen family, but we also can’t forget her glass ceiling shattering insistence on donning the big man’s suit for some extra December cash at the Lanford Mall. Paco Plaza’s The Christmas Tale features a similar twist: a mysterious dark-haired woman clad as Santa Claus has stolen $2 million and now finds herself trapped in a deep and lonely forest ditch, where her only salvation is a group of ‘80s infused children with mixed morality. I’d hate to spoil this excellent little offbeat thriller (found on the Spanish series Six Films to Keep You Awake), so just know that Rebecca does get to prowl the lonely woods with a sharpened axe and serious lack of Christmas spirit.

3. The Chapman Bros.Silent Night, Deadly Night 1-3
Gifted with one of the easiest psychologically explained motives in slasher history (crazy grandpa’s insistence that Santa’s purpose is to discipline sinners; parents’ subsequent murder after cursing; an abusive nun wielding a switch at the sight of premarital sex) and one of the best one word mottos ever (PUNISH!), Silent Night, Deadly Night helped to set the popularize and polarize Christmas massacres for all time. Billy himself is something of a drip, but he does earn points for innovative slayings (including one involving a slay) and honoring the honor system by trusting “nice kids” and improvising presents. Yes, the knife you just used to kill a little girl’s older sister’s boyfriend may be a slightly inappropriate stocking stuffer, but it’s the thought that counts. Little brother Rickey is a little less effective as Old St. Nick (although his eyebrows alone could possibly steer eight reindeer solo). We’ll give him a pass for being an infant at the initial Chapman family tragedy, especially since he still managed to remember and recount that and the entire rest of Silent Night, Deadly Night to take up 60% of the running time of his first sequel.

2. Jack Skellington/Santy Claws, The Nightmare Before Christmas
When we really consider Jack’s Kringle skills in this stop motion animated masterpiece, we can’t be kinder than A for Effort, D for Execution (especially since all the kids seemed to survive--I mean...carry on). Mr. Claws, on the other hand, is kind of a pompous jerk with a sense of self-importance as big as his bloated waistline. Still, the little booted big man should be commended for cleaning up Jack’s mess with such speed and efficiency, not to mention introducing the concept of snowballs to Halloweentown. 

1. Harry Stadling, Christmas Evil 
He makes high quality presents. He’s a smooth dancer and thorough spy, but it’s Harry’s innocent yearlong yuletide spirit that really earns him the top spot. Sure, his standards for the Nice List are a little controversial (bad breath could be genetic and being “just darling” seems a little surface), but of all the cinematic characters to ever don a homemade wool jumpsuit, it’s Brandon Maggart’s Travis Bickle after too many candy canes from this 1980 low budget classic that makes the holiday. Although the stress of non-believers does eventually drive him to multiple homicide, Harry follows his own dream and is never happier than when donating a van full of handcrafted toys to a needy children’s hospital. He’s a taker of unworthy lives, but a giver of true joy. 


  1. Wow! That's definitely the first time I've ever heard anybody say that! You are a rarity Anonymous. A shining unique rarity of bad taste (I say that with earnest affection).

  2. Excellent list....
    I'm glad to see the guy from Silent Night, Deadly Night appear.

  3. It wouldn't be Christmas without GARBAGE DAY!

  4. Good list. My favourite horror film Santa is still the escaped mental patient who stalks Joan Collins in the "And All Through the House" segment of the original "Tales from the Crypt".

  5. Great post. I just re-watched "Christmas Evil" earlier today. Good flick. I'll have a review of it up shortly.


  6. Andrew, I wouldn't DREAM of making an Xmas horror list without including the Eyebrows That Starred In Part 2.

    Cortez: Is it strange that now that it's December, I look forward to cleaning my cats' litter box so that every morning, as I drop a smelly bag into the trash, I can shout "GARBAGE DAY!" to myself?

    Lee: You've just reminded me that I"ve somehow NEVER seen that original Tales From the Crypt! I am a terrible terrible person. Thanks for stopping by and making me feel guilty. And as a beer enthusiast, I'm excited to now discover your blog!

    Johnny: Isn't it a gem? I'll keep my eye out for your review!

  7. I really can never turn away from Santa's Slay. It's a mixture of my teenage obsession with "sports entertainment" and my college adventures in curling (because I couldn't win at real sports). Point is, I just can't quit it.

    Christmas Evil is coming my way this week, and I'm like totally excited.

  8. I love sports like curling and bowling. They're so equal opportunity.

    I was fairly let down by Santa's Slay. It has a great premise and energy, but I just didn't think the firsttime filmmaker really had the discipline yet to make a good film. Christmas Evil, on the other hand, is easily one of my favorite xmas movies. Enjoy!

  9. This was a very nice post. Honestly, some of the movies you listed I've never heard of.

  10. Always glad to educate, dear friend.

  11. Until today, I had no idea that Elves (1989) existed.

    Now I've seen some Youtube clips. I still can't believe this film exists.

    "I want to know the connection between the Elves and the Nazis."

    This is my mind. Blown.

  12. Gasp! It's sadly not on DVD (yet???) but most gray market sellers have it on call. I saw it only once when I was probably about 9 years old, and yet I remember so much of it so well. You know what they say: a woman never forgets her first Nazi elf.