Still on the christmas horror train. Or sleigh I suppose. And so we come to Christmas Evil (originally You Better Watch Out which, in the context of the movie is waaaaaaaay better title), recommended by Ann R. and John Waters.
It all starts back in 1947 when little Harry Stadling sees his mom being groped by Santa (really his dad). He runs to the attic, breaks a snowglobe, and cuts himself with a piece of the glass, thereby establishing that christmas+sex=naughty=punishment=blood. Got it. Jump ahead to Thanksgiving 33 years later. Harry works at the Jolly Dream toy factory and has just been promoted to a managerial position.
He also has a creepy habit of spying on the neighborhood kids, keeping track of their behavior in his Naughty and Nice books. On one hand, he seems to actually care about the good kids, but still–men secretly watching children is always skin-crawly. Ultimately, however, Harry’s faith in humanity is shattered by one too many adults who have forgotten the innocent joy of believing in Santa and treating people well. So begins the killing spree.
In truth, there isn’t that much carnage, and for my money, Harry is easy to sympathize with. He alternately rewards children and punishes the loathsome, unpleasant adults. The victims are thoroughly detestable, and their passing is no cause for dismay. Ironically, there’s so little bloodshed that it’s difficult to understand how this movie got swept up in the UK’s video nasty panic (it was one of many titles banned and confiscated but never prosecuted for obscenity).
Plenty of clever details that make this one little gem of a flick. We see in Harry’s apartment that he’s fixated on Santa and christmas, so for the most part, his mild delusion seems harmless enough, as if he is very much living in a “Jolly Dream.”
This gets emphasized by a shot of the factory exterior where the words “Jolly Dream” loom above in big candy cane letters. Even the poster in his office (with a very sinister looking Santa) exclaims, “If it’s not a Jolly Dream, it’s not worth having!”
Other highlights include a fine Grinch-like montage of Harry assembling his Santa suit, a nod to Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet, and, spoiler, a vehicular closing that I’m convinced must have influenced the endings of Repo Man and Thelma & Louise.
Even the tag line is clever. “The night he dropped in” versus Halloween’s “The night he came home.” Joyful.
Put this one on your Nice List kiddies! And don’t just take my word for it. Here’s a some love from the aforementioned John Waters, our self-appointed Filth Elder: “It’s a really heartwarming christmas horror movie that I recommend for the whole family to really be appalled by on christmas eve.”