Christmas Evil (1980)

aka You Better Watch Out

Article 3672 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-19-2011
Posting Date: 9-3-2011
Directed by Lewis Jackson
Featuring Brandon Maggart, Jeffrey DeMunn, Dianne Hull
Country: USA
What it is: Christmas psycho movie

After suffering a traumatic childhood experience involving his father in Santa Claus outfit, a disturbed toy factory worker fixates on Santa Claus in an unhealthy way. When Christmas cynicism pushes him over the edge, he takes on the role one Christmas eve to reward the good boys and girls… and to murder the cynics.

With only a 4.4 rating on IMDB, this entry in the “killer Santa” subgenre is not very well respected. But I believe anyone who goes into this one with the expectation of seeing a full-blown slasher film will walk away very disappointed. Rather than having some mindless killer knocking off people one by one, this one attempts to paint a portrait of a disturbed man and his obsessions while exploring some of the slightly creepy undercurrents of the Santa legend itself. He doesn’t don the Santa suit until the second half of the movie, but where many people find the first half dull, I was actually fascinated by seeing the details of his obsession, and I think the first half has the most suspenseful scene (where he covers himself with mud to hide himself while spying on one young boy). It looked initially to me that it was going to go downhill once he was in the suit; his first scene has him flashing a knife in a self-consciously “scary” way, and this made me fear that the main character was going to lose all of his dimension. However, there are some real surprises during this half, largely because the main character is such a loose cannon we’re not sure what he’s going to do in certain situations. There are some flaws, of course. The police investigation is extraordinarily lame; despite the fact that they have a clear description of the killer’s distinctive van and the fact that he leaves his fingerprints all over creation, they decide to arrest every one they find in a Santa suit on Christmas Day. And though the movie does add a bit of a homage to the Universal Frankenstein movies by having Santa chased around by villagers bearing torches, it seems really forced because there is simply no logical reason why these people would even have torches handy to begin with. The ending of the movie is very unexpected, but quite interesting in its way. All in all, I quite liked this one.

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