CHRISTMAS EVIL (1980)
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Few movies can make the distinction of being both laughably bad, yet, remain very disturbing, but Lewis Jackson’s yuletide horror is bizarre and creepy enough to be both. Story opens with young Harry (Gus Salud) seeing Santa coming down the chimney and delivering presents for he and his brother (Wally Moran). His love of Christmas is shattered though, when he catches that same Santa…actually his dad in a costume…going at it with his mother. Many years later the adult Harry (Brandon Maggart) is a lonely introvert who works at the bargain basement Jolly Dreams toy factory and is obsessed with becoming Santa Claus…an obsession that drives him over the edge and turns Harry into a Santa-suited homicidal maniac.
Written and directed by Lewis Jackson, this is both a hysterically bad flick and one that, somehow, remains really disturbing. Harry is just a very creepy person with his spying on neighborhood children, to see if they are good or bad and his deeply unnerving obsession with Santa Claus and Christmas. The fact that he is so determined to be seen and loved as the real Santa Claus drives him to kill anyone who laughs or makes fun of him, leading to his being hunted by neighborhood citizens actually baring torches. It’s like Transylvania though, the film takes place in New Jersey. It’s all very funny to watch Harry snap and slaughter three obnoxious yuppies in front of a church and it’s parishioners and his Santa themed apartment brings the appropriate chuckles and chills. But the film is also very creepy in it’s portrayal of a man who psychotically wants to be loved by all as the most famous holiday icon of all-time, enough that he will kill anyone who doesn’t buy into his delusion. Jackson may not be a skilled filmmaker, but there’s no denying this flick entertains in both it’s badness and ability to present you with a truly unnerving main character. Credit has to also be given to Brandon Maggart for giving his Harry some strong creep factor while the rest of the cast are adequate at best. There is a very off-putting quality to this film that works with the camp factor far better than it should and I’ll wager quite by accident. A happy and horrifying accident, as the film does have a ‘made up as it goes along’ quality to it.
So, if this type of flick is your bloody cup of egg nog, enjoy this movie for what it is. It’s a strange and sometimes laughably bad movie that still has the ability to creep you out with it’s disturbed main character and some gory kills, all within it’s yuletide setting. There is something unnervingly real about Harry that makes you believe that there might be someone like him out there, yet, the film itself can be almost surreal with it’s torch bearing New Jersey residents and the fact that kids really seem to like Harry’s Santa, despite their parents knowing something is really off about this guy. This film has developed a bit of a cult following and I can see why as it is definitely midnight movie material, especially if it’s midnight on December 24th. Recommended for those looking for something weird, unsettling, but very amusing!
3 (out of 4) campy and disturbing Christmas trees.