|release date||October 31 1980|
|starring||Brandon Maggart, Jeffrey DeMunn, Dianne Hull, Andy Fenwick, Brian Neville|
|tagline||You'd better take care...Santa is coming to town!|
Director Lewis Jackson never intended to make a film called CHRISTMAS EVIL, his film is called YOU BETTER WATCH OUT, and it’s a helluva lot more accurate description of this anti-silent night. Synapse Films newly minted Special Edition keeps the creepy cover art and the more marketable moniker but cedes ground by leaving Jackson’s original title on for the opening credits. The reason I mention this, is that, CHRISTMAS EVIL instantly conjures up every manner of Santa slasher film that has perpetrated the screen since Bob Clark’s BLACK CHRISTMAS sensationally fucked the holiday up for everyone. But, if you take the film’s original title to heart, you’ve got to expect something much more diabolical and psychological and that’s what Jackson delivers with this production.
Harry Stadling (Brandon Maggert)had a rough childhood (and hell, who hasn’t) but “I saw mommy getting head from Santa Claus underneath the Christmas tree” isn’t going to be breaking onto the Billboard charts any time soon—and that bit of indiscretion is enough to set little Harry on a life path of obsessive attention to all things St. Nick. Harry is a lower level exec at a toy company who bides his time peeping on the neighbor’s kids while making a list and…you know the rest. It’s a safe bet to say that Harry has got a bit more “nut” than “meg” in his eggnog.—but, all that harmless peeping is about to get real screwy when Harry decides that, this Christmas, he’s going to dispense some holiday justice to the naughty and nice.
So, let’s face it, none of you are checking out this flick for anything other than the moment old Harry Stadling goes completely apeshit. But, the catch that Jackson’s film delivers is that Harry is utterly tragic. He’s not the villain—I mean sure he offs a few witless suburbanites, while dressed in his finest fake beard and ruby red robes— but all Harry wants to do is to help people recognize the true spirit of Christmas. Harry’s a hero. This would be a whole different film is the guy just grabbed an ax and started whacking every jolly bastard he could find—but in his little snow globe world, he’s just delivering a few lumps of coal to the wayward adults of his sleepy little hamlet. Frankly I think they should set this guy loose in a mall on the day after Thanksgiving and let him go to town….I’m sorry….Holiday shopping really gets me down.
Synapse really decks the halls (I’ll bet all this Christmas imagery is really getting annoying by now) on this re-release (the film was originally available through Troma). They’ve got deleted scenes and some 26-minutes of audition footage, showing everyone from Jo Beth Williams (POLTERGEIST) and Lindsay Crouse (COMMUNION) to David (SLEDGE HAMMER) Rasche vying for a part in this film. But the whole reason to check out CHRISTMAS EVIL is the audio commentary track from Jackson and director John Waters (PINK FLAMINGOS) to catch a glimpse of what Waters calls “The Greatest Christmas Movie Ever Made”—of course all of us Waters fans know, the man is clearly as demented as Stadling and he’s dragging Jackson along for the ride—but that only makes the commentary even more fun.
Somewhere in some snow swept little enclave just like Harry Stadling’s picturesque hometown, a happy family is nestled snugly by the fire, hanging tinsel and sipping spiced cider just waiting for old St. Nick to stop by and…slit their throats. Let’s just hope after he cleans up his mess and scarfs down some cookies, he leaves all the good little boys and girls a stocking stuffer of CHRISTMAS EVIL, so that the true spirit of the holidays is never lost on all those video store shelves besides all of those the endless and unnecessary sequels to SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT.