‘Christmas Evil’ DVD review
The fact that director John Waters cites this film as being his favourite festive flick should tell you everything you need to know about ‘Christmas Evil’. After all, this is the moustachioed man who brought dog excrement dining to the masses with his supremely bad taste 1972 cult favourite ‘Pink Flamingos’. Ok, so ‘Christmas Evil’ isn’t quite as off the wall as that – but it sure is one strange little movie!
‘Christmas Evil’ (filmed under the title ‘You Better Watch Out’) opens in true 1980s slasher movie style – with a good old-fashioned dose of childhood trauma to set up the plot. It’s Christmas Eve and young Harry, sneaking out of bed to catch a glimpse of Santa, gets more than he bargained for when he sees dirty old Saint Nick getting fresh with mom. Presumably the poor lad thinks this is the real Santa Claus and not his own father in costume and, traumatised by the experience, flees to the attic where he promptly slices his hand with a shard of broken snow globe for a bit of poetic catharsis.
We then jump forward to ‘The Present Day’ (the kind that looks distinctly 30 years out of date), where we find Harry transformed into a maladjusted 40-something with a mediocre job at a local toy factory. But boy does he love Christmas! Harry’s love for all things festive is made apparent in a number of ways – the fact that his walls are plastered with various decorations and likenesses of Saint Nick, the fact that he sleeps in Santa Claus pyjamas complete with hat etc. Good to see that his earlier childhood trauma didn’t have any lasting impact on him then…
But it soon becomes all too clear that Harry’s Christmas obsession has a slightly darker, more sinister side to it. For example, he has the worrying habit of spying on the neighbourhood children from his rooftop so he knows which ones have been naughty or nice this year. Elsewhere, Harry spends his time trying on Santa beards whilst manically mumbling Christmas jingles to himself in the bathroom mirror – never a good sign. As Christmas Eve draws ever nearer, so it begins to look ever more likely that Harry is going to go well and truly off the deep end… with deadly consequences. Just pray you’re not on Santa’s bad list!
Even by the standards of 80s horror/B-movie fare, Lewis Jackson’s ‘Christmas Evil’ is truly an odd little film. But that’s exactly what is endearing about it, and it’s what helps to make this one stand out amongst so many other slasher movies of the period. Indeed, to label Lewis’ film as a slasher is to do it something of a disservice, as ‘Christmas Evil’ is much more a black comedy with slasher elements thrown into the mix. Brandon Maggart is perfectly cast in the role of Harry, eliciting as he does a good deal of sympathy for his character even as his madness descends into murder. At other times his performance is genuinely creepy and unsettling, which is no mean feat given the overall slightly absurd, comical tone of the movie as a whole.
As noted before, ‘Christmas Evil’ is definitely a peculiar film and undoubtedly it will prove simply too offbeat for some, even hardened fans of 80s horror fare. Indeed, there are points in the film where the occasionally clunky editing, stilted dialogue and ropey effects raise more chuckles than they do chills, and threaten to render the entire thing a bit laughable. But again, I dare say that’s all part of the fun, and, having seen ‘Christmas Evil’ twice now, I can say with confidence that it’s a film which grows on you over repeated viewings. So put your feet up, pour yourself a glass of mulled wine and pop this DVD into your player – I strongly urge you to make some room in your heart for ‘Christmas Evil’ this festive season.
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