4.25.2009

Christmas Evil (1980): Umm…


AKA: You Better Watch Out (But I prefer the alternative title).

I love awkward movies. I love the strange reaction shots, the nonsensical close-ups, the exasperatedly on-the-nose dialogue, the lazy screenwriting, the pointless zooms, and the weird plot “twists.” There is some sort of pleasure derived from filmmaking that is not quite inept but not quite acceptable. This goes beyond the film scratches and cigarette burns coated on a print that was never cared for. There is something special about these forgotten, hopeless films that draws me to them.

That is precisely why I was so thrilled to watch Christmas Evil. When I first put in the DVD, I encountered some promising signs that this film would live up to my expectations of insane awkwardness: the Troma/Kauffman logo, the fact that it was in 4x3 aspect ratio, and the scribbling film scratches. As the film persisted, my hopes were raised even more. A score that sounded like dial tones, wide-eyed actors with pasted-on smiles, and random musical cues. And things like this:

These two frames are back-to-back, meaning the family just disappears for no reason.

After Harry Stadling witnesses his father (who is dressed as Santa) rubbing his mother’s legs, he is apparently destined to embark on a murderous rampage in a Santa suit some years later. Huh? I mean it’s not like he even sees nudity. He literally just watches his father caressing his mother’s legs…ok….


The adult Harry can be interesting at times. Like when he watches the children across the street with binoculars. Uh-oh. But don’t worry, he’s just making sure they are being good girls and boys. Little Suzie is sweet, but oh no! What’s that? Carlos Garcia reading Penthouse! Cue the musical sting and Harry darts back to his room to record the mischief in the Bad Book. Then watch the music shift from dramatic, dooming chords to a fantasy-like tune as he pulls out the Good Book. Admittedly, I was delighted by this bizarre scenes…so much that I had to show some of my friends, who were sadly not quite as impressed. However, I must say that the film loses steam from here.


EXT. ROOFTOP - DAY Harry darts from the scene before he forgets the autrocity. HARRY: Carlos Garrrrrcia!!!!

I guess the filmmakers didn’t realize that we don’t care much about Harry. The movie focuses on his slow decent into madness, as he eventually believes that he really is THE Santa Claus. The first kill comes at 53 minutes in! The scene is admittedly kind of cool (he kills a couple people at random in front of a crowd exiting what I believe was Midnight Mass). Way too long for me to sit through Christmas parties, Harry’s job at the toy factory, and honestly…I can’t really remember what else happened before he begins his rampage. And I don’t even know if rampage is the right word. He kills like 3 people in 2 sittings. Who was kidding themselves when they thought someone actually wanted to watch a character-driven movie? It really feels like they are trying at times…and that can be a bad thing for us viewers almost thirty years later. As is common with these types of films, they are mostly filler. They are not the extreme, exploitive gore-fests they claim to be. Oh well.





Umm yeah, the color of these shots were not altered. Another interesting aesthetic choice.

One of the best parts about this film is the surprise ending! So stop here if you actually plan on watching it. SPOILER ALERT IF YOU ACTUALLY CARE. Imagine you have just watched a film that is somewhat grounded in realism, as in…there is nothing fantastical, magical, or mystical about it. Yet, when Harry drives his van, which is painted with a Christmas sleigh on the side, off of a cliff, he doesn’t plummet to his death. Instead, the van flies to the moon like Santa’s sleigh! What the hell? Alright then…I have nothing more to say. Screw it. Here’s the SPOILER PICTURE!


8 comments:

  1. Are you kidding?! The van does what?!

    I wanted to see this movie for so long... Oh, well I guess I won't be seeing it now. I was hoping for something like "Silent Night, Deadly Night". Thanks for the heads up.

    This post was great, though. I was cracking up through the enitre thing. My favorite part was "SPOILER ALERT IF YOU ACTUALLY CARE".

    JM

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  2. Nice review Becky. I've been wanting to see this flick for quite sometime now but I've never had the chance to.

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  3. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite Christmas movies, I think its an excellent character study in the vein of Driller Killer, and it was never originally supposed to come off as a typical slasher like SNDN (which I enjoy more for different reasons). Christmas Evil is a dark comedy with a few horror elements, but whatever you do, DONT tell the director you bought the Troma release or he will pretty much turn red, start shaking, and probably kill you.

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  4. Ha ha, well hopefully I will never come across the director then Carl.

    I didn't know there was another release?

    It's defnitely not anything like SNDN, like I was admittedly hoping for. I can see that they were going for something else.

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  5. I think Synapse finally got control of the rights or something, its supposed to be an amazing print quality and the official directors cut, but that bastard wanted $30 for it and, though I like it, I refuse to pay $30 for any DVD! I think on a second watch through you might enjoy it more knowing what you are getting into, I left the first viewing with the same impression, but (like with Napoleon Dynamite), it stuck with me and was much more enjoyable once the initial shock wore off. Yay flying van! =D

    Cant wait to rewatch SNDN, I dont know how we managed to skip it this last Christmas, pisses me off, we broke our tradition!! I did get in both Jack Frosts, Gremlins, and of COURSE Santas Slay

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  6. Comcast had this one On Demand over the holidays and I FINALLY got a chance to watch it. It was so painfully BAD! LOL

    The ending was so out there!!

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  7. ohhh yeah I forgot I DID read this one in May. Sweet lol.. I think the second watch through is going to pay off now that you know this isnt a Slasher Becks, the dude he stabs with the candy cane is the CEO that tells Harry the toy store wont be giving toys to the orphans this christmas because it was affecting their bottom line. His slow spiral into madness is intricately laid, but on the first watch through I wasnt looking for any of the clues.

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