TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SANTA CLAUS (1959)

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SANTA CLAUS (1959)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Delightfully bad holiday flick was made in Mexico and dubbed into English making it even worse than it already is. The story has Santa (José Elías Moreno) preparing for Christmas from his workshop in space…yup, that’s right…where he is assisted, not by elves, but by children from every country…apparently Santa is totally fine with child labor. As Santa readies for the one day he comes to Earth, Satan…you also read that right…sends his demon henchman Pitch (José Luis Aguirre) to Earth to corrupt all the children into doing evil and ruining Christmas. Now it’s up to Santa to stop the Devil’s little helper from turning all the good kids bad!

Flick is directed by René Cardona from a scatterbrained script by he and Adolfo Torres Portillo and is simply a weird little movie that is quite amusing in it’s epic badness. Aside from having a child labor force, creepy Santa can also watch children 24/7 with his magic eye, has a key that can open any door, powers of invisibility and can even see into kid’s dreams…stalker much!?…and what’s with the shirtless blacksmith (Ángel Di Stefani) and that lip thing! Not sure I want to know! All the traditional Christmas elements are thrown out the window as Santa has his castle in space, mechanical reindeer and even has Merlin The Magician (Armando Arriola) working for him. From it’s hilariously cheap sets, horrible SPFX and disturbing children’s dream sequences, this is a hysterically awful…and sometimes uncomfortable…attempt at a Christmas movie from our filmmaking friends South Of The Border…and we’d love to know what they were smoking when they came up with this yuletide nonsense. The first half of this cheap flick is spent with Santa observing Pitch’s hi-jinx with his James Bond meets Pee Wee Herman spy equipment, as creepy St. Nick can only come to Earth on Christmas…a restraining order perhaps? We do see Santa scaring three boys out of being naughty, so this is a possibility. The second half is Santa vs Pitch as he tries to bring Christmas to all the boys and girls and Pitch plots with three bad kids to stop him. There is a fairly slow pace, some religious overtones and just overall seems like something out of a drug induced nightmare, far more than a holiday tale of everyone’s favorite jolly fellow…and is entertaining for all the wrong reasons.

Sometimes creepy flick has sentimental nostalgia, as I actually saw this as a teen at a Saturday matinee in the late 70s at the long gone Fairview cinema…hey, there was free popcorn and I took my hot MILF neighbor’s son to score points with his babe of a mom…and it is far funnier now that I am old enough to appreciate camp and unintentional laughs. Back then it was just awful and even my ten year-old charge knew it. Definitely worth a look for a holiday ‘so bad it’s good’ film festival with some brews definitely required as part of the show. Would make a great WTF Christmas double feature with Santa Clause Conquers The Martians!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 hilariously bad Mexican Christmas trees.

fred clause rating

Uh…Santa…what the f%&k is that?…

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: CHRISTMAS EVIL and SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT

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Tis the season!…

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CHRISTMAS EVIL (1980)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

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 bearing 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!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 campy and disturbing Christmas trees.

fred clause rating

plus

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SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

This Christmas set 80s slasher isn’t very scary, but it is a lot of fun. It has a very devious sense of humor and certainly isn’t afraid to involve little children in it’s holiday horrors and blood soaked Christmas clichés.

The story opens in 1971 with five-year-old Billy (Jonathan Best) not only being frightened out of his wits by Santa horror stories from his demented grandfather on Christmas Eve, but witnesses the brutal murder of his parents by a thief dressed in a Santa suit. Three years later we find Billy (Danny Wagner) in an orphanage where a cruel nun is trying to force his fears of Christmas out of him by forcing Christmas on him. We finally cut to ten years later where a now eighteen, Billy (Robert Brian Wilson) gets his first job…at a toy store…at Christmas! And to make matters worse he is chosen by his boss to play Santa and when he catches a co-worker forcing himself on his store crush Pamela (Toni Nero), Billy snaps and a yuletide murder spree gruesomely begins. Will anyone survive the holidays now that a Santa suited Billy is killing anyone he deems naughty…which is pretty much everyone he encounters!

As a horror film, this flick has very little scares or suspense, but as directed by Grizzly Adams creator Charles Sellier…from Michael Hickey’s sadistically clever script…the film is a lot of gruesome fun that definitely isn’t afraid to cross some boundaries, especially when it gleefully involves little kids in it’s horrible holiday hi-jinx. If the things little Billy experiences aren’t enough, the deliriously horrific scene of an orphanage full of little kids witnessing the gunning down of a priest in a Santa suit, by an overzealous cop, will have you giggling out loud. Sure we know who our killer is without question and his victims are fairly random Santa fodder, but the fact that Sellier so happily makes a bloody mess of one of the most beloved holidays, makes up for the fact that their really isn’t much to chill us other than watching the plentiful and well orchestrated blood and gore spatter all over the screen like spilled eggnog. It’s good, gory, campy fun and makes no excuses that it is breaking some taboos and is proud of it.

The cast, including 80s scream queen legend Linnea Quigley as a victim, are all delightfully bad. They are all mostly unknowns, except for TV actress Tara Buckman who has a brief role as Billy’s hot but ill-fated mom. Wilson just basically carries out his villainy with a blank and evil stare, but it’s enough to work even if he is not an overly strong psycho. Actress Lilyan Chauvin is actually a lot scarier as Mother Superior who tries to torment the love of Christmas back into the young, mentally scarred Billy and Gilmer McCormick is sweet and likable as Sister Margret a young nun who takes pity on Billy, even when he turns stone cold killer.

This is a deviously fun slasher though, admit-tingly, as a horror, it is kind of weak. It makes up for a lot of that weakness by delighting in breaking some movie taboos and pouring blood over as many Christmas traditions as possible in gleeful fashion. It’s an entertaining enough slasher though, it is far more campy than creepy and that’s just fine. Obviously recommended during the holidays when endless showings of A Christmas Story drive you to want to kill. Billy will be happy to oblige for you.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Christmas trees.

fred clause rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: CHRISTMAS EVIL (1980)

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CHRISTMAS EVIL (1980)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

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.

fred clause rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS (1964)

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SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS (1964)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

If there ever is a holiday movie that warranted a “What the heck were they thinking?” it’s this one. Ridiculous story finds Martian ruler Kimar (Leonard Hicks), lamenting that the joy-less and robotic Martian society is negatively effecting their children, who are obsessed with watching TV programs from Earth. He comes to the conclusion that the children should experience fun and happiness and the only person who can bring that to the kids of Mars is Santa Claus (John Call). So, Kimar kidnaps Santa, along with two Earth kids, Billy (Victor Stiles) and his sister Betty (Donna Conforti) and brings them to Mars. Once there, the jolly Santa starts to win over the Martians, but the evil Voldar (Vincent Beck) plots to put an end to all this holiday cheer and return Mars to it’s old ways.

Written by Paul L. Jacobson and Glenville Mareth and directed by Nicholas Webster, this is a terrible movie on most levels. The story is ludicrous, the sets and FX are horribly cheap, the acting is terrible and it moves at a snail’s pace for an 80 minute movie. That’s also exactly what makes this flick a twisted yuletide treat, it’s just bad enough to be delightfully entertaining…especially with a healthy helping of holiday spirits while you watch. You sit there just wondering what drugs were passed around during the script writing process and marvel at how seriously the cast and director are taking this nonsense. The actors playing the Martians play it with complete urgency, save Bill McCutcheon as the oafish Dropo and John Call’s Santa comes across as more oblivious and deranged than jolly, as Santa. He seems barely bothered at all that he has been kidnaped to another planet and that certain factions are out to get him there. The dialog is atrocious and a sub-plot of an Earth ship in pursuit to rescue Santa is completely dropped after a scene or two. Where did they wind up?…and why expect any logic from a movie as scatterbrained as this!

At this point this flick is regarded as a camp, “so bad it’s good” classic. And It certainly is a lot of fun for all the wrong reasons. So if you are going to add this to your holiday watch list, make sure there is plenty of egg nog or whatever your favorite holiday beverage is and have a good time with the audacity of it all. Also renown as the first role for singer and actress Pia Zadora as one of Kimar’s children.

3 campy Christmas trees.

fred clause rating

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: ELF and FRED CLAUS

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While Halloween is my favorite holiday and time of year, I do enjoy Christmas so, I thought at some point I should post something more in tune with the holiday season so here is a fun and festive double feature that I like to watch during this merry time of year…

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ELF (2003)

Will Ferrell  teams up with director Jon Favreau (Iron Man 1 & 2), working from David Berenbaum’s script, and they have made a movie that is both entertaining comedy and charming Christmas tale and is considered a modern classic by many. Elf tells the story of a human baby that sneaks into Santa’s (Ed Asner) bag one Christmas Eve, while he is delivering gifts at an orphanage and isn’t discovered till he returns to the North Pole. Brought up by Santa and the elves…Papa elf (Bob Newhart) in particular…Buddy grows into a full grown man (Ferrell) who believes he’s an elf…until he finds out the truth, he’s not a cotton-headed ninny muggins, he’s a human. Faced with the reality that he is not who he thought he was, Buddy runs away to New York City to find his real father, a Scrooge-like book publisher named Walter Hobbs. But trying to bond with his father is the least of Buddy’s concerns as he meets his first crush, Jovie (Zooey Deschanel) when he voluntarily goes to work in Macy’s toy department, and must somehow return the Christmas spirit to New York City and his grumpy father to save Santa and Christmas on Christmas Eve.

I always felt Ferrell is funnier playing naive, instead of obnoxious, and here he is at his best playing the innocent fish out of water, Buddy. The supporting cast under Favreau’s direction know exactly how to play their parts with each actor playing it perfectly on the line between straight and camp..and it works. Caan is particularly effective playing the gruff and cantankerous Hobbs who initially has no interest in the man-child that has shown up at his door dressed like an elf. And he and Ferrell work very well off each other. Mary Steenburgen is also good as Hobbs’ wife…Buddy was sired with an ex-girlfiend who is deceased…who feels compassion for Buddy and would like to see him bond with his long lost dad. And Deschanel makes a sweet yet slightly eccentric love interest for Buddy despite her doubts of his North Pole origins. Favreau also gives the film a wonderfully whimsical tone with a touch of sarcastic humor and the whole flick is delightfully imbued with the holiday spirit. But it is Ferrell’s show and he gives one of his best performances and creates an endearing and wonderfully quotable character in Buddy who’s reactions to his first time in NYC are priceless.

A modern Christmas classic and a simply delightfully enjoyable comedy. Also stars Peter Dinklage as a self-centered and famous children’s book author whom Buddy mistakes for an elf with hilarious results.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 Christmas trees!

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FRED CLAUS (2007)

In this entertaining Christmas flick we find out that Santa Claus (Paul Giamatti) has an older brother named Fred (Vince Vaughn). Never able to live up to his younger brother’s saintly behavior, Fred became bitter and moved off to Chicago to become a repo man who delights in taking back Christmas presents. But Fred is also a shady person and his scams and schemes finally land him in jail. With no way to pay his bail, fine and owed rent, he calls his brother at the North Pole for help. Nicholas…Santa Claus to the rest of us…agrees to help on the condition that Fred come up to the North Pole and help prepare for Christmas, which is rapidly approaching. Being the good soul he is, Nicholas has never given up on or stopped loving his big brother. But Fred’s rivalry with his brother runs deep and his shady ways don’t exactly fit in t the North Pole. And worse still, efficiency expert with a grudge Clyde Northcutt (Kevin Spacey) would love to shut down Santa’s operation and is more then willing to use Fred’s antics to his advantage to do exactly that. But with the help of an elf named Willy (John Michael Higgins), Fred just might turn himself around, thwart Northcutt’s plan, help Willy win the heart of his human crush Charlene (Elizabeth Banks) and find the inner Santa that lies underneath the scoundrel he is on the outside.

Sure the story is cliché and predictable, but director David Dobkin does give the proceedings a sense of charm and fun. He keeps the story moving and the cast, which also includes Rachel Weisz as Fred’s long suffering girlfriend, Wanda and Miranda Richardson as Mrs. Claus, all seem to be having a good time and that is infectious and helps us to enjoy this routine but entertaining holiday tale. Vaughn plays the lovable rogue/loser to perfection and Giamatti is a jolly if not slightly neurotic St. Nick. The production looks good and there are some top notch effects and the film does carry the spirit of Christmas despite the familiarity. Maybe in this case the familiarity adds some charm as we know what to expect, but in this kind of holiday themed tale, it’s what we came to see and enjoy watching it play out. Either way, Fred Clause is a fun holiday movie, no classic, but an enjoyable and harmless bit of Christmas cheer that would make a nice addition to a holiday evening with pumpkin pie and egg nog in front of the TV.

A familiar but fun holiday romp. And who wouldn’t want Elizabeth Banks in her sexy Santa suit under their Christmas tree!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Christmas trees!

fred clause rating

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Well Ho Ho Hell-o!

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