Zombos Says: Very Good (but weird)
Okay, sing along with me now to the tune of Jingle Bells: "Run like hell, Run like hell, Screaming all the way. Oh what terror it is to hide, as whack'o-crazy killing Santa comes your way. Hey!"
Christmas Evil, or as originally titled by the director, You Better Watch Out, is a weirdly magical holiday film filled with enchantment; once you get past the whack o' crazy amateur Santa dealing death from his bag of deadly toys, and the torch-wielding neighborhood villagers chasing him, and the depressing Jolly Dream toy factory, which may remind you of your own place of employment.
When did you find out that Santa Claus was not real? Hopefully it was at a later age than poor Harry Stadling (Brandon Maggart). He finds out the hard way during Christmas Eve while young and still impressionable; and that impression left him yearning for the real Santa and the real Christmas Spirit. His cramped apartment is filled with Christmas memorabilia and he sleeps in Christmas pajamas and a red cap (nicely trimmed with white fur).
His obsession colors his life the wrong way. He's lonely, creepy, and spies on the neighborhood kids with binoculars, writing down all the nasty or nice things the kids do in his Good Boys and Girls and Bad Boys and Girls notebooks. But this Christmas season is different. His fetish for red gets the better of him, and soon he's trying on white beards, and sewing a holly-jolly Santa suit; he even paints his van with a sleigh. He desperately wishes he had "super magic", and since this is a holiday horror movie you know what usually happens to people who wish for things.
Harry starts going off the deep end of the skating rink and stalks a local boy who is really really naughty. After giving him a good scare, Harry continues his descent into craziness. With success under his big black belt, he molds metal toy soldiers with long, sharp swords.
He reluctantly attends his company's Christmas party, but quickly leaves, finds a few good, strong laundry bags, and fills them with the company's cheaply made toys and dirt for bad boys and girls. He dons his white beard and loses what little hold he has on reality when he stares at himself in the bathroom mirror.
Soon he's dashing through the snow in his sleigh-painted van. He starts off jolly enough, and really wants to play the part of Santa Claus, but like that Christmas when Santa didn't bring me the one special gift I wanted so much, Harry doesn't get what he wants either. When he shows up for midnight mass the snow runs red with blood as a few of the pious commit the cardinal sin of insulting Santa. The art-house pace switches with this shock moment, picking up as fast as the confused Harry runs away. He stumbles onto a party and is invited in. Much fun is had by all, but in a chilling scene, he scares the dickens out of the kids with a warning not to be naughty, then cracks into maniacal laughter.
With his Santa psychosis now in full drive, he starts treating his van as if it were a real sleigh, yelling for Dasher and Dancer to hurry it along. He also climbs up to a roof and tries to go down the chimney and gets stuck in the process. Getting into the house the usual way he happily puts gifts under the tree, then happily kills a co-worker that's been naughty with a Christmas tree star-topper.
With his nicely sewn Santa suit looking pretty soiled after such a busy night, Harry returns to the Jolly Dream toy factory while the police, in a humorous scene, hold Santa Claus line-ups as they round up all the motley sidewalk Santas, looking for the killer. Wonderfully framed scenes follow Harry as he walks down a dark street lined with brightly-lit Christmas decorations. When he stops to give presents to beaming children, their parents confront Harry and one parent flips open a switchblade knife. Harry high-tails it but the villagers — I mean parents — chase Harry through the streets, carrying torches. The chase is ludicrous, directed seriously, and works given the bizarre tone of the film.
The surreal ending is sort of like Art Carney's Night of the Meek episode of the Twilight Zone, and has Harry finally getting his Christmas wish in an unexpected way. You'll rub your eyes in disbelief when you see it.
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