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[personal profile] innocent_man
Christmas Evil is one of several "Santa-as-slasher" movies from the 80s. The more famous one is Silent Night, Deadly Night, but this one came first, released, apparently, under the title You Better Watch Out. In it, Brandon Maggert (Fiona Apple's father, fer chrissakes) plays Harry Stradling, who goes a little bonkers as a boy watching his mother and father (dressed as Santa) getting kinky. The implication is that he wasn't quite right to begin with.

But anyway, as an adult he suffers a nervous breakdown and kills a few people dressed as Santa Claus. The issue, here, is that Christmas Evil isn't a slasher movie. It actually has more in common with Taxi Driver than Halloween. Harry Stradling isn't really a serial killer, he's an out-and-out mental case. He spies on the kids in the neighborhood and writes down their behavior in a Good or Bad book, and then delivers toys (which he makes himself) or a sack of dirt accordingly. He saves his real wrath for the adults who take advantage of him, but he really isn't thinking this through. He just wants to be Santa and be loved for it, but when that weird fantasy comes into conflict with reality, people get hurt.

The movie is fucked up, but it's not fucked up in the same way that other slasher movies are. The cinematography is kind of amateurish, but the score is nicely creepy and jarring places, and Maggert's performance ranges nicely from pathetic to maudlin to holy-shit creepy.

The movie wasn't at all what I was expecting, but it was a much better film than I thought, and I can't believe I'm saying that. That said, I don't have any particular desire to see it again. It's an interesting movie and it's apparently developed something of a cult following, but eh. There are better slasher flicks, and if I want to see a man's descent into madness, I'll watch Taxi Driver again.

My Grade: B-
Rewatch Value: Low to IINSIAIFWT

Next up: A Christmas Story


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