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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Christmas Evil (1980) Horror Christmas

Christmas Evil (1980) - aka "You Better Watch Out" is a story about Harry (Brandon Maggart), an adult who was traumatized as a child when he discovered Santa was not real. Now a man in his forties he builds up to the snapping point because no one seems to want there to be magic in Christmas anymore, and the consequences of his breaking are deadly.
 The film starts with a Norman Rockwell like scene of a Mother (Ellen McElduff) with her boys sitting on the stairs on Christmas Eve. They are watching Santa, his Dad (Brian Hartigan) of course as he goes about his business in the living room. The kids are happy to see him eat the treats they left out and after a wink from Santa he goes up the chimney and the kids are sent to bed. Later that night young Harry hearing sounds downstairs goes to investigate. He is shock and traumatized to see Santa on his knees playing with the lingerie around his Mother's private parts. Santa is a fraud and he was a fool ever to think differently. Poor little kid runs up all the way to the attic. He is devastated and when he drops his snow globe while flashing to the scene downstairs and then cuts his hand he has a physical trauma to go with the psychological one.  This is the extent of his problems and although I think, everyone who watches this film will consider this a small harm the writer & director, Lewis Jackson  sees it differently.
  Now most of us realized long before we were told that Santa was not real. Living in a reality based world we did not believe in flying reindeer and magical men giving toys. Harry here must have been nine or ten when he discovered it. It seems a bit old but that is where the story has us so we will just accept it. I know for myself and growing up poor, either I was not very good or Santa was a guy in a suit with a fake beard at the VFW Post, who smelling of scotch had one present each year for us poor kids. The magic was not there for me. Nor for poor Harry who spend the rest of his life trying to find that Christmas magic again. He by the time we join him in the present is a middle manager in a toy factory the Jolly Dream. Not respected by his coworkers he is living a dreary life, no spouse or girlfriend, a dead end job, and little prospects for change. Still he strives though to make Christmas a special time. He surrounds himself with decorations, sleeps in a Santa hat and so wants to capture that special holiday feeling. He makes a beautiful authentic Santa outfit, and paints a red slay on his creeper white van, he really wants Christmas to be special again.
  There is something not right with the man though, and the picture shows us that right away. We see him with his binoculars looking into the houses of the neighborhood children. He is keeping a book with each kids name and listing their deeds both good and bad. Its really creepy him sneaking around houses, hiding in bushes and peeping through windows. He is particularly displeased with a mean little boy named Moss (Peter Neuman) who you have to be concerned may only get coal if Harry has his way. Since we know this is a horror movie we know this is the year he will snap and the first forty minutes is setup and then all the things that build up to his break.
  He hears the humbugs at the toy assembly line talking about how Christmas is the hardest time of the year. His bosses let him in on a scheme to get media coverage for giving toys to sick children but the details mean they get the coverage but the kids may not get the toys. He is bullied by a coworker, Frankie into taking a shift on the line only to find out later that the reason was a lie. He starts to lose it as we see because the director keeps flashing the scenes of his break just so we won't forget the reasons why. The snap comes at the company Christmas party and hearing about the hospital toy scam. He goes into the  warehouse and collects a bunch of toys to deliver to the hospital. Dressed as Santa he breaks into the neighbors houses and puts or takes toys from them.
 Eventually he is bothered by the memories of the people who sort of tried to spoil the season for him and he goes to hunt them down. He kills the executives from his company as they come out of church. He sneaks into his bully coworkers house and kills him. Word of the killer Santa is now all over the television. The subplot is of his relationship with his brother Phil (Jeffrey DeMunn, of recent Walking Dead fame). Phil has watched out for hi all these years and is the humanity trying to pull him back from his madness.
  The ending of the film is a bit crazy. After a confrontation with Phil harry heads back out into the night, only to have his van get stuck in the snow of a strange NY neighborhood. Here the people have been watching the news and when the children run up to Santa, the parents become concerned. Eventually the confrontation leads to Harry fleeing for his life, from torch wielding townsfolk. I am serious it is a lynch mob chasing Santa. The fantastical ending has to be seen to be believed. Overall I thought this film was a slow burn with too small an initial shock for any lasting damage to the main character Harry. It does not make a lot of sense that 35 years later he is just getting to the breaking point. There was the funny as shit bit where the cops are having a suspects line up with a line full of Santas. Still the movie was not very good in my view and I am not going to recommend it.
Rating (4.0) 5.0 and p are recommended, some more recommended than others.


  1. This movie is garbage until you realize (spoiler alert) he ACTUALLY IS Santa Claus. Then it becomes... well still bad... but at least more memorable.

  2. Kev, that was totally lost on me. I was so worn down by the end that when his van took off I just thought the writer could not come up with an ending. I like your idea a whole lot more.

  3. I thought when he took off into the air it was how he saw himself when actually he was about to crash into the ground and die.