So, Christmas is almost upon us again, and that means it's time to spread cheer and happiness and spend a fortune doing so. There are certainly enough holiday-oriented things to watch this time of year, but when you get bored with your Charlie Brown Christmas and IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE and MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET and are looking for a little more action, it's time to turn to the dark side of Christmas entertainment
Sure, everyone probably knows BLACK CHRISTMAS and GREMLINS as a couple of Christmas fright flicks, but here's a guide to maybe some lesser known films.
SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT (1973)
The story revolves around an old, empty house that had been the scene of a death years earlier. Now, the grandson of the man who died wants to sell it and hires a lawyer to go to the town to make it happen. But then a mysterious figure shows up at the house and is threatening to reveal some dark secrets.
This movie was at times a little confusing and convoluted, and actually didn't really have much to do with Christmas. In terms of scares, there aren't a ton. There are a couple of bloody deaths, but for a horror movie, the violence is pretty minimal.
The twist in the movie, which comes almost at the very end and is kind of glossed over, is actually terrific and had that been the basis of the film, it could've been much better.
This is exactly the kind of film that should be remade. I'd like to see this movie with a better script and in the hands of a more capable filmmaker.
TO ALL A
I've heard of a showerhead before, but this is ridiculous.
In what was in no way a rip off of BLACK CHRISTMAS, this film is about a sorority house, whoops, I mean finishing school at Christmas break where suddenly somebody begins killing everyone. Throw in some FRIDAY THE 13TH for good measure, and you've got the perfect horror movie, right? Well, not exactly.
This is pretty much a formulaic slasher movie: secluded location, good-looking young people fornicating, masked killer who dispatches with people using a variety of different deadly weapons that just happen to be lying around and whose identity, when revealed, is not too surprising.
But hey, the killer wears a Santa suit, so there's that.
CHRISTMAS EVIL (1980)
This one starts out innocently enough: a mother sits with her two children on the stairs and they watch "Santa" come down the chimney and put presents under the tree. One of the boys, Harry, is enthralled, while his younger brother Phillip is indifferent.
Later, after they're back in their room, Harry goes back downstairs to get another glimpse of Santa, when he discovers, to his horror, that Santa is now sort of groping his mom. Even though Santa's doing little more than rubbing mom's stockings, Harry rushes up to the attic, breaks a snow globe, and then uses a piece of glass to cut himself. Okay, you with me so far?
Fast forward to around 30 years or so later, and we find Harry now obsessed with Christmas; his alarm clock wakes him up to Christmas songs, his house is permanently decorated for
the holiday. Naturally, Harry works at a toy factory and in his spare time, keeps track of the kids in the neighborhood and writes down all of their activities in his Naughty and Nice books.
This was all it took.
Eventually Harry decides that he's had enough of people's rotten attitudes, dons a Santa suit, glues on a beard, and starts disposing of the naughty people.
The basis of the plot isn't bad, but the movie takes a long time to get going and the end, complete with torch-wielding neighbors, is...strange.
One the bright side, one scene of the movie was filmed at the exterior of a huge, now-defunct mental institution in New Jersey that I used to live near. Good times.
SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984)
Not a sequel to SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT, just a similar title. And by the way, the title of BLACK CHRISTMAS was almost changed to SILENT NIGHT, EVIL NIGHT because they thought audiences would think it was a blaxploitation film. But I digress.
Apparently when SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT was released, it sparked a lot of controversy, and I can see why. After being told by the World's Creepiest Grandfather that Santa is not a nice, jolly dude but is in fact the exact opposite, little Billy suddenly doesn't want Christmas to come. Things get dramatically worse when, on the way home from seeing gramps, the family comes across a guy in a Santa suit with a broken down car. Santa then proceeds to kill the father and rape and kill the mother, all while little Billy look on. Kind of warms your cockles,
Thanks for the archery set, Santa!
Anyway, growing up in an orphanage, Billy actually turns out to be a surprisingly normal kid. That is, until Christmas rolls around. You see, thanks to the childhood incident, he's permanently scarred by Santa. Hey, wouldn't you be?
But Billy gets through childhood, leaves the orphanage, and gets a great job at a toy store. Happy ending, right? Well, not exactly. Of all the places to work when Christmas makes you freak out, a toy store is probably the worst. And on top of that, Billy is forced to play Old Saint Nick. Naturally, he goes on a killing spree. Hey, wouldn't you?
DON'T OPEN TIL CHRISTMAS (1984)
Clearly influenced (or perhaps copying) HALLOWEEN, this film is about some mysterious person killing anyone dressed as Santa in London. There's not a lot more to this film than that, though one Santa -- or Father Christmas if you like -- does lose his crumpet while taking a leak. It's sort of a half horror, half cop movie, and although it dragged at times and had a ridiculous ending, it wasn't half bad.
The killer is ultimately revealed as yet another man who was traumatized by Santa as a child, again witnessing him getting freaky with a woman (though who that woman is is unclear).
I'm not sure if there's a lesson to be learned from any of these movies, but just in case, for all you fellas out there, if you do decide to dress up like Santa for your kids, make sure to take off the outfit before filling Mom's stocking.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a fright night!
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Thoughts, observations, conjectures, complaints about movies and mostly how they relate to me personally. If you're looking for something a little broader, try Ebert.
Born to write (literally – much to the displeasure of his mother, he emerged with a pencil clutched in one tiny fist), Tim spends most of his days crafting epic monosyllabic poems, new comical titles to his favorite Beatles' songs (Hey, Dude), and angry letters to local businesses that have wronged him in some way. He's really an okay guy once you get to know him.|
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