DVD Review: CHRISTMAS EVIL (1980)

PrintE-mail Written by J.D. Gillam

Review: Christmas Evil / Cert: 18 / Director: Lewis Jackson / Screenplay: Lewis Jackson / Starring: Brandon Maggart, Jeffrey DeMunn, Dianne Hull / Release Date: Out now

Meet Harry Stadling (Maggart) who, after seeing his father fondle his mother whilst dressed as Santa, seems to become emotionally crippled. He’s grown up into a badly adjusted forty-something who loves Christmas so much that he wears Santa pyjamas to bed, even if there’s 55 days to go until December 25th. He’s got a nice and creepy collection of dolls, too, and he’s voyeuristic, watching the local kids through his binoculars to ascertain if they’ve been naughty or nice.

His dead-end job at the Jolly Dream toy factory is demeaning, and when he is tricked into working an extra night shift for a colleague (while also being ridiculed for his obsession with the quality of the toys he makes), Harry finally loses the plot. He ‘becomes’ Santa, gluing the white beard to his face; only he doesn’t just decide who is worthy of a present. Instead, his choices are far more dire, involving life or death for those he judges.

This is touted as a slasher movie, but there is very little killing going on and the gore is laughable. Instead, it's more of an insight into the mental breakdown of a man who never grew up. The tone of the film is extremely dark. Remember when Phoebe Cates’ character in Gremlins tells the horrifying story of her father getting stuck up the chimney and dying whilst dressed as Father Christmas? Well, run that moment for 90 minutes and you’ve got the tone of this little curiosity.

The DVD is not a great transfer, in fact it’s incredibly grainy. However, for those who hate the over-the-top nature of the holiday season, this will be perfect. A real killjoy for the Christmas spirit and nicely disturbing too. After all, any film that ends with Santa Claus being hunted down by a baying mob with torches a la Frankenstein deserves a viewing surely, and that’s not even mentioning what is perhaps the most bizarre final shot in a horror film ever.

A Christmas horror film with presents (sorry, presence), that John Waters has proclaimed to be the “greatest Christmas movie ever made”.

Extras: New widescreen transfer in the original ratio of the Director’s Cut / Audio commentary with director Lewis Jackson / Audio commentary with Lewis Jackson and director John Waters / Original story-board sequences / Comment cards / Rare audition tapes / Collector's booklet featuring writing on the film by critic and author Kim Newman, and with a new introduction by Lewis Jackson, illustrated with original stills



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