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Stalking Through a Winter Blunder Land, or...

Don't Open 'Til Christmas (1985)

Directed by Edmund Purdom
Written by Derek Ford
Additional Scenes Written and Directed by Al McGoohan
Details at the IMDB, US.IMDB

At Christmas play and make good cheer,
For Christmas comes but once a year
Thomas Tusser (Circa 1515-1580)

A lot of people are "mistletoe prone."  Instead of enjoying the Christmas holidays like everyone else (as organized religion and the mercantile industry would have it), these unfortunates find the season deeply depressing.  They find no happiness during this time of mandatory joy, when feels like the rest of the world is having a big party and they're not invited.

To treat the symptoms of this sense of depression, some of these people turn to the Anti-Christmas (as opposed to the Antichrist).  This author is a particular sucker for this form of entertainment.  One of my favorites is an episode of Married with Children that spoofs the ubiquitous It's a Wonderful Life (1946); Sam Kinison is Al Bundy's guardian angel, and in the vision he shows Al, the world without him is a better place.  Al decides to live for the sake of revenge.

However, not all Anti-Christmas stories are uplifting for the seasonal cynic.




The Plot

Oh Come, Oh Ye Fateful

We open at night on a street corner with a man (John Aston – no, not the one who played Gomez in The Addams Family) in a Santa suit shivering in the cold.  A girl (Maria Eldridge) meets him and they walk to a car.  As they get in, the POV camera approaches them, and POV heavy breathing can be heard.  (That, or the cameraman has asthma.)  As the camera approaches the car, we can see that the couple is in the back seat making out.  The man has already gotten rid of his Santa jacket.  He looks up at the camera and says, "Go on!  Go away!  Clear off!"  (Yeah, what is this?  Soho Candid Camera?)  The man gets out of the car, and the POV menace sticks him in the abdomen with a long knife.  The girl gets out of the car, backs away from the camera, and she's stabbed, too.  Go to opening credits, accompanied by "Jingle Bells" on a music box and a burning paper Santa for an entertaining (?) visual aid.

Go to a fancy dress party with vaguely disco music.  The camera tracks around the partygoers and pauses at a back area.  A man (Lawrence Harrington) is dressing up as Santa.  His daughter Kate (Belinda Mayne) comes in tells him he has too much rouge and not enough eyebrow.  She offers to help.  He looks into the mirror and moans that he looks like a gay old queen.  (Redundancy?)  Kate's boyfriend Cliff (Gerry Sundquist) enters.  As a word of encouragement, he tells Kate's father that he looks like a gay old queen.  (Redundancy.)  He also comments on someone at the party is wearing a grotesque mask (and we get a jump cut of it).

Cliff and Kate go out to introduce the Silly Santa.  In the foreground, the figure in the grotesque mask stalks around with a spear.  While Silly Santa is going through his act and about to blow on a party favor, he gets ventilated through the back of the head.  A spear is sticking out his mouth. 

Everyone stands around in shock.  Cliff runs at the figure with the grotesque mask and grabs him.  Unfortunately, it's just the costume propped up on a stick.  (What?  The murderer was a stick figure?)

 Don't Open Ever might've been a good title, too. At least this film's product placement is not for Dr. Pepper.

It's the next day, and cut to the rotating New Scotland Yard sign.  (Question: Do they charge filmmakers for this shot?)  Detective Sergeant Powell (Mark Jones) is on the phone.  He's told that his boss is on his way in and he's not happy.  The Metropol troopers in the room are reading newspapers with headlines about some recent Santacides™.  Inspector Harris (Edmund Purdom) enters and looks at the papers.  "Only three more killing days 'til Christmas.  Chief's going to love cracks like that."  (As you read the rest of this plot description, you will see that we also love things like this, too.)  Harris says he wants to see Kate and the Cliff.  Powell says the boy answered when they rang her up.  He has a clean record.  Kate's father was rich, and she gets the money.  They make a note of that.

They go to the Kate's apartment.  She insists that her father had no enemies.  Harris explains that he was killed because of the Santa suit.

Cut to night.  A radio program in a car talks about the Santacides™.  A street vendor (George Pierce) in a Santa suit is smoking a cigarette while selling bags of chestnuts.  (The credits refer to him as "Market Santa Claus," but we prefer to call him "Smokin' Santa.")  He's standing next to a roaster.  Someone jumps him from behind and strangles him with a short piece of rope and pushes his face into the roaster.  Smokin' Santa comes up with gooey face burns.  We see that the killer is wearing a hooded coat and smiling, full-face mask.  (We assume this is supposed to be a celebrity, but we don't recognize it.  For the sake of our John Carpenter fans, we'll be referring to it as the Smiling Shatner Wannabe Mask™.)  Smokin' Santa falls down onto the roaster and bursts into flames like a cheap Yule log.  (If you learn nothing else from this movie, learn this: Don't skimp on your Santa suit.  Get the flame retardant kind.)

[Continuity Note: Only two more killing days 'till Christmas.]

Cut to day.  Someone on a motorcycle tools around town for several shots.  There's a present strapped to the back.  A note on the package says "Don't Open Till Christmas."  (Hey, someone's delivering the script!  About time, too.)  At the Harris home, the detective's housekeeper Mrs. Sherry (Wendy Danvers) accepts the package and tells her employer about it.  She asks if she can get him anything for Christmas Eve, but he laments that he'll probably be too busy.

At his office, Harris and Powell talk about the case.  Powell tells him that Kate wants to talk to him.  They kick around some ideas.  Powell suggests that Smokin' Santa might've been the victim of a gang hit.  They drop that one pretty quickly.

At Kate's place, Cliff is trying to cheer her up.  She explains that she's upset about her father's death.  She also tells him that Harris was asking questions about when they were planning on getting married.

Elsewhere, a man makes a call from a phone booth to Powell.  He says his name is Giles (Alan Lake) and he's a reporter for the Daily News.  Powell asks if he's the one responsible for the tabloid press.  Giles asks if they had any clues.  Powell tells him that Harris will be giving a press conference.  Giles hints that he has clues and that Powell could solve this case on his own.  Then he hangs up.  Powell calls the Daily News.

That night, an inebriated Santa is interrupted from his staggering when someone puts the barrel of a big revolver into his mouth and pulls the trigger.  (Yes, this short scene looks like it was dropped in to break up the monotony.)

[Continuity Note: Only one more killing day 'till Christmas.]


Drek the Halls

The next day, Giles accosts Kate on street and tries to ask her questions.  She says she can't answer any questions, and she's told Inspector Harris everything.

Cut to night (and an obligatory New Scotland Yard sign).  Harris leaves the building and walks among the Christmas crowds.  (No.  Nothing happens.  I was hoping this movie would have a greater sense of purpose after that guy on the motorcycle delivered the script.)

Elsewhere, at an Underground station, Cliff is playing a flute while Kate collects money from passers-by.  An old friend of Cliff's named Gerry (Kevin Lloyd) enters.  Cliff is happy to see him; Kate isn't and excuses herself.  Cliff explains that she's still upset about her father.

Harris (left) and Powell (center) contemplate their careers after this movie.  ("Oh, look!  Casting calls for Thin Blue Line.") Gerry (left) explains to Cliff why Kate will never think of him as a real man until he trades up for a saxophone.

Gerry and Cliff go for a drink.  Gerry explains about his new business, which is photographing models.  (Nudge-nudge wink-wink say no more!  Oh, wait.  There's more.)  He talks him into bringing Kate to a shoot that evening and leaves.  She arrives and asks what that creep wanted.  He tells her they're going to his place for tea.

Cut to Gerry's studio, where he's doing some cheesecake shots of his model Sharon (Pat Astley) in lingerie.  She's cold and complains.  He says he wants to take some of these pictures outside, and she complains about the temperature again.  He makes the fundamental observation about what that will do for, shall we say, her sense of definition.

Cliff and Kate enter.  Kate is suspicious of this scene.  While Gerry pulls Cliff off to the side for a small conference, Kate and Sharon make small talk about modeling.  Cliff tries to talk Kate into modeling.  She doesn't like the idea, but Sharon tries to encourage her.  Gerry comes out with the costume.  Unfortunately, it's a full-length Santa cloak.  Kate runs out.  Cliff dresses down Gerry for his sense of down dress, but Gerry talks him into not running after her.

Cliff and Sharon (who is now wearing the Santa cloak) go outside and wait for Gerry.  Sharon plays cutesy with Cliff and flashes her, um, definition for him.  (Yeah, she was complaining about the cold earlier, but she's got nothing on under the cloak.)  He sees a couple of Metropol types, panics, and realizes they're locked outside.  He tells her to beat it and they both run in opposite directions.  She hides around a corner.  Just when she thinks she's safe she turns and runs into the Smiling Shatner Wannabe Mask™.  It’s the Santa Slayer, and he's holding a straight razor.  While the frightened model remains motionless, he uses the dull side of the razor to lift open her cloak and check her out.  Then he runs off without using it.  (The blade, that is.  OK, so, assuming the killer is a guy, he's probably as straight as his razor.)  The two Metropol cops arrive.

[Continuity Note: Only zero more killing days 'till Christmas.]

The next day, Harris and Powell are at Sharon's apartment.  She's in bed complaining about losing a lot of work.  Harris tells her she's lucky to have been let go since she was arrested for indecent exposure.  "Indecent?" she exclaims.  She pops open her robe and asserts she's a professional.  Although she's sharp on her sense of profession, she's not very sharp on the details about the stranger she saw.  Razor or knife, she can't tell.  However, she did notice his eyes; she said they smiled.  (OK, so maybe they should be looking for Burt Reynolds.)

Cut to a "Peep Show" sign.  Inside, a Santa (Ricky Kennedy) goes into one of the booths.  Behind the glass, a girl (Kelly Baker) is dancing around with her back to the glass and doesn't see him.  (Note: The girl has no name.  She is referred to in the credits as "The Experience Girl."  I could tell you why, but it'd probably violate our PG standards.)  He's about ready to leave, but she spots him.  He picks up the phone and they make small talk.  He claims to be a first timer, and she claims to be a first timer at this too.  She plays up the clean dirty talk.  While she is negotiating the price for more stuff, the Santa Slayer suddenly shows up behind Santa Perv and stabs him in the throat.  The girl freaks while blood shoots onto the glass.

At Kate's apartment, Cliff is wrapping his hand in a bandage.  Kate enters and asks if Gerry came back too early.  Cliff protests that he was wrapping his hand because he punched out Gerry.  The doorbell rings.  Kate insists it's probably Sharon.  It's Harris.  He asks Cliff what he knows, since Sharon was attacked.  Cliff becomes defensive, but Kate starts warming up to the detective.

Go to product placement for New Scotland Yard.  Inside, Powell interrupts Giles going through some desks.  Powell tells Giles that his newspaper never heard of him.  Giles pulls out a copy of the newspaper and shows his byline; Giles is his first name.  Powell asks Giles what he knows, and Giles insinuates that he should keep a better watch on Harris.  Giles leaves and calls for someone to tail Harris.

Cut to a shopping area that night.  Harris realizes someone is following him, so he loses him.  Elsewhere, some street punks spot an inebriated Santa on a bicycle (Sid Wragg).  They chase him.  After getting around a corner, Santa Cyclist jumps off the bike and runs.  The thugs grab the bike and leave, but Santa Cyclist runs down the street looking for an open door.  He finds one at "The Dungeon," a black museum.  He bowls over a clerk (Paula Meadows), knocking off her glasses.  An unseen figure walks past her. 

Santa Cyclist is creeped out by the exhibits of various torture devices.  He wanders around for a while.  A hand pulls a big flat blade from the wall.  Santa Cyclist walks past a guillotine (gee, wonder where this is going).  Nope.  He's stabbed in his belly (which suddenly resembles a bowlful of jelly).

[Continuity Note: Only negative one more killing day 'till Christmas.]


Stalking in a Winter Wonderland

It's the next day (maybe).  Back at Kate's place, Cliff is trying to work out the details of the case.  Kate asks him if he's obsessed about Harris.  Elsewhere in detective land, Harris comes back from being chewed out by their superiors.  He tells Powell he's considering retiring before he can be fired. 

Later, Harris is at a carnival.  A couple of Santas (Derek Ford and Adrian Black) are doing a stage show for some children.  After the show, the Santa Duo is walking around the dark, empty bleachers.  We see a foot, hear a click, and a dagger pops out the toe of the shoe.  Santa 1 gets kicked in the groin and stabbed.  Santa 2 comes running and takes it in the face.

Outside, Harris is shadowing Cliff and Kate, who are doing their street flautist act.  Cliff sees him.  Harris comes over and Cliff leaves.  Kate and Harris make some cutesy small talk.

Meanwhile, in the Land of the Rotating NSY Sign, Powell interviews the Experience Girl.  The only thing she can tell him is the man in the Smiling Shatner Wannabe Mask™ had smiling eyes.  (OK, then maybe they should be looking for Charles Bronson.)  Powell wants to give her an escort.  She wants to go back to work.  Powell cautions her on that, and tells her the name of her escort.  On her way out, she tells a uniformed Metropol type to tell her escort that she's going on ahead.  She walks down the street.

Kate tries to call Harris.  He's not in, but his housekeeper explains that he's at Parkland.

The Experience Girl arrives at work.  She sits down in her booth, and a hand picks up the phone outside.  We can't see the guy's face while he speaks.  She sets out the rates, and then she sees his eyes and panics.  He crashes through the glass with his bare hands.

The Santa Slayer has a sharp eye. The Experience Girl at work.  ("Naughty...Nice...I'm the one with the phone")

She runs out onto the street.  (No one around; go figure.)  She seems to have lost him, but while as she's pausing at a doorway, he grabs her from behind and pulls her in.  (Amazingly enough, she was taking a break just outside his hideout.)  He explains that she has to die because she's seen his face.  (Not to worry; we haven't yet.  They're still going through the motions of making this a murder mystery.)  He chains up her wrists and leaves.  (And in the middle of residential neighborhood, no one's going to hear her scream.  Sure….)

Back at The Place, Which By Now, Has Become Synonymous With All Detective Work In The Western World, Powell is on the phone talking to Harris.  Harris is off the case.  Powell releases Cliff (who must've been picked up for questioning recently – we weren't shown that bit) and says he's got a good idea who is responsible.

Later, that night, the sign at Piccadilly Theatre promises a "Musical Spectacular."  A drunken Santa comes in through the stage door and annoys the guard with spray string.  After he's ejected, he encounters a menacing someone-or-other with a big pruning blade.  (Fans of pole arms in A Certain Fantasy Role Playing Game® would call this a "bill-hook.")  He runs inside, the guard calls security, and no one seems to notice the stalker come through the door.  While Santa Sot is running, Caroline Munro (yes, that Caroline Munro) heads for the stage in a tight red sequined dress.  The band strikes up and she does a musical number.  (We get no shots of an audience, though.)  While she sings a song apparently called "I'm Coming to Get You," the Santa Killer catches up with his target.  The stage manager cues a stage lift.  Guess they weren't expecting a dead Santa Sot with a pruning blade in his eyes.

[Continuity Note: Only negative two more killing days 'till Christmas.]

Next day (?), Sgt. Powell calls on Kate.  She tells him that Harris wasn't home yesterday; he was at Parklands.  She did some checking and it's a "lunatic asylum" (her words).  There are also no records of Harris at Somerset House.  Powell doesn't see the importance of this.  (I sure don't.  As a Yank, I thought Somerset House was an art museum.)  She also points out that Cliff has to be innocent because he was standing next to the victim in full view of everyone.  (Well, duh!)

We now get a few scenes that don't really go anywhere.  Kate goes to Parklands.  The Experience Girl is asleep while the Santa Slayer walks and leaves.  Kate tries to call Powell, but he's not in.

Cut to sincerely rotund man (Max Roman) in a department store checking out a blonde in a tight dress.  He suits up for the Father Christmas routine.  Later, he goes into a restroom for a wee break.  While he's standing at the urinal, (and we are, uh, treated to the image of the trail of urine in the air), the Santa Slayer comes out of a stall with a straight razor and does an I Spit on Your Grave on him.  Blood spatters into the urinal.


God Rest Ye, Scary Gentlemen

That night, Kate goes to Harris's place.  He goes through the motions of being a charming host.  Then he tells her he's been suspended.  She tells him she's had a falling out with Cliff and admits she feels close to him.   They go to a fancy restaurant.  It's Christmas Eve (?), so they order something with all the trimmings.  Cliff enters looking around.  The doorman wont let him enter because he's not dressed properly.  Kate sees him and figures he followed them there.

Later, Kate goes back to her place and changes into a robe.  Giles suddenly appears behind her.  His elocution is slightly deranged.  Then he grabs her by the collar of her robe.  She tells him that she and Harris talked about him and that she has deduced Harris is his brother and Harris's real name is Harrison, and that the detective was going to the asylum to visit Giles.  Giles admits to doing the killing because he wanted to show up his brother.  (Must be part of the English psyche I don’t understand.  That, and why the National Health Service lets people who are a danger to themselves and others come and go as they please from a mental institution.)  The phone rings.  It's Powell, who is returning her call.  Giles wraps a garland around Kate's throat (they must have really strong Christmas decorations over there) and stabs her.

Powell arrives shortly after this.  (For a police force anywhere in the world, this must've been record time.)  He makes a call to the special squad (whatever that is).  They tell him that Harris has been in his apartment all night.  (What?  He was at the restaurant….)

Caroline Munro realizes what kind of movie she's in. Giles listens intently while Kate explains why mistletoe belt buckles don't work.

A Metrocop tells Powell they think they've spotted their man in a garage area.  Powell goes in while Giles opens an unlocked car door and ducks into the back seat.  Powell opens said door, but Giles is not in there; he's sneaking around elsewhere while setting something up with jumper cables.  Powell opens another car door and is electrocuted while Giles watches.  (For people who know for electrical matters, it's not a very convincing scene.  If the killer had hooked both lines up to the same area on car, it would've merely burned out the line.  In other words, there was no easy current path through Powell.)

Giles goes back to his hideout and gives the Experience Girl a small bag of food.  When she protests that she can't eat with her hands tied, he undoes her chains.  She reminds him it's Christmas.  (And we note it is well past Boxing Day.)  He says he hates Christmas.  She turns up the Christmas memories everyone else has, which causes him to double over with his hands on his ears.  While he's down, she hits him with a convenient pipe.  She runs for the door, but it's locked and she doesn't see the key.  He holds up the key and explains that he was going to kill her later.  She throws some chains at his face. 

Cut to shot of her running up several flights of stairs in one of those large, circular stairwell halls.  (No, we didn't see how she got the key from Giles.)  Giles, carrying the chains, follows her up and corners her at the top level.  He swings the chain at her.  It misses her, but the end goes over the railing.  She grabs the free end, pulls, and yanks Giles over the edge. 

She walks down the stairs and approaches the motionless body.  Slowly.  He jumps up and grabs her by the throat.  (Gee, what a surprise….)

Cut to a child at a Christmas party with adults.  Enter Santa with a bag of presents.  Ian (Harris's real first name) there too.  A voiceover calls the child Gerry, but we have to assume this is young Giles.  He unwraps his present.  It's a Swiss Army knife. 

Gerry (or Giles or what have you) goes upstairs with his new knife and sees Santa getting busy with a blonde.  A woman (who may have been the voiceover and was probably Gerry's or Giles' or whatever's mother) comes in and freaks.  Santa knocks her down the stairs while Gerry (or, oh, to Hell with it) is standing at the top of the stairs with his new knife.  (Somehow, it's not as poignant as Ebenezer Scrooge's negative yuletide experiences, nor is it as interesting as Phoebe Cates's character's urban legend in Gremlins (1984)).

Harris wakes up.  It was a dream.  (Yes.  It was all a dream.  This whole exercise in poor storytelling never happened.)  He finds the package from before.  (Oh, now they open the script.)  The attached card says, "A Christmas present from your loving brother."  He unwraps it.  (No, this isn't Se7en (1995), so this isn't a part from the party of the first part.)  It's a small wooden box.  He opens it.  It's a music box with a spinning Santa.  He sits down next to it.  It explodes in slow motion.  Roll credits.


The Good Stuff

In the Spirit of The Season

It's in focus.  That's a good thing for a movie.

There are numerous shots of London.  If you like that sort of thing, these are good shots.  Hopefully, you like the spinning New Scotland Yard sign because you see a lot of that.

There are a couple of topless women.  If you're into that sort of thing is important to you, they're in this movie, too.

There's some gore.  If that sort of thing is important to you, it's in this….

Aw, to Hell with it.  I don't care how much I've vowed to find Good Things about all movies.  Even taking into account the charity of the season, those four are the best I can do.  And I tried.  I really, really tried.


The Bad Stuff

Missing Scenes

This story has a bad sense of continuity.  Aside from the number of "killing days 'til Christmas," there are no glaring errors.  However, several scenes either go nowhere or do not introduce new information.  In particular, note the scene where Kate goes to Parklands.  She arrives, a receptionist tells her to go in, and then the sequence is dropped.  The end credits for the movie refers to Doctor Bridle (as played by Nicholas Donnelly), but the story as presented does not include this character.  We suspect that the scene with Bridle, which is probably where Kate was going, either ended up on the cutting room floor or was never really filmed.  For that latter possibility, it might've been that the end credits were composed while the rest of the feature was in production.

Dead Santas Aren't Much Fun, Either

Most of the "Santacide" scenes feel tacked on.  Picture if you will a soulless "dead teenagers" movie from the early '80's.  Although most of the characters are introduced shortly before a graphic end, they usually have some form of interaction with the main characters.  Now, picture the victims being introduced, say, across town, with no honest connection to the rest of the characters.  The Santacides are equally meaningless, and the unimaginative methods used make them doubly so.  Without any way to confirm this, please also not that the opening credits include Al McGoohan for "additional scenes."  You do the math.

Furthermore, I suspect these scenes were added to sell the movie.  Not that this tactic worked, mind you, but that might've been the motive.  And to make room for these unconnected scenes, they might've dropped out a few things.  Simple things, like, the blasted plot.  If this was the case, then that may be how they lost the scene with Doctor Bridle.


Even Inspector Lestrade Could Get This One

This movie is to murder mysteries what a connect-the-dots puzzle is to Mensa exams.  If you accept the convention that the killer has to be one of the characters, then you get three to choose from.  Is it Cliff?  You know from the beginning it couldn't be, although in a more interesting story, it would've been possible that the murder of Kate's father was an unrelated crime, and Cliff had masterminded it.  Is it Harris?  Maybe, but it feels too obvious for a work of fiction.  Is it Giles?  Could be, but, again, it seems too obvious; however, since we see so little of him, it seems more likely.  Gerry would've made an interesting suspect, but he's out of the picture before you can say plum pudding.  When the serial killer is revealed to be Giles, there is no sense of astonishment.  (It is because of this absence of a sense of discovery that I feel no guilt for revealing the ending.)


The Who Cares Stuff

Notes on the Cast and Crew

Edmund Purdom (director, Harris) made the move from Shakespeare to movies in the early '50's.  He quickly got major roles in some major movies.  Unfortunately, most of them flopped.  He broke with the Hollywood system, doing mostly Italian movies and appearing in films like Il Castello della Paura (1973, a.k.a. Dr. Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks), Pieces (1981), 2019 Dopo la Caduta di New York (1983, a.k.a. After the Fall of New York), and Ator (1983).  Has he become the Continental John Agar?  You decide....

Derek Ford (writer, one of the circus Santas) co-wrote the Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper movie A Study in Terror (1964), went on to British sex comedies throughout the 70's.

The acting career of Alan Lake (Giles) had various obstacles.  Although he had various bit parts in television and movies, he was limited by a previously broken back and was imprisoned for a pub brawl in the early '70's.  Most of his work in movies was in sex comedies and crime dramas.  Not long after making this movie, his wife, Diana Dors, died from meningitis, and he committed suicide.

Gerry Sundquist (Cliff) had various bit parts.  Fans of the series Space: 1999 may remember him as the overly ambitious Malic in "The Dorcons."  He committed suicide in 1993.

Kevin Lloyd (Gerry) was a stage actor in the '70's and a regular on various TV shows.  Fans of The Bill may remember him as Tosh Lines.  Unfortunately, he became an alcoholic and was fired from that series.  He died during a post rehab binge.

Caroline Munro (herself) is probably best known as the scantily clad Margiana in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974), the Barbarella clad adventuress in Starcrash (1979), and the bikini clad assassin in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977).  And yes, guys, she does look good in a tight red sequined dress (even if the whole scene does look out of place).

Dick Randall and Stephen Minasian (producers) also gave us Pieces and Slaughter High (1986), which also featured Ms. Munro and Kelly Baker (who played the Experience Girl in this one).  Graceless side note: By some odd coincidence, there's a high mortality rate for people who have worked for these guys.  Consider Simon Scuddamore, who played Marty in Slaughter High and committed suicide shortly after that film's release.


Roots, Shoots, and Other Compares

Compliments of the Season.  Although the yuletide season is traditionally a time of peace and goodwill in the Western world, there are a number of movies about holiday homicides.  The following list concentrates on Christmas serial and mass killings, but intentionally excludes those with a particularly tenuous link to the season (e.g.., Die Hard). 

Tales from the Crypt (1972) – One of the Amicus anthologies.  The first segment, "All Through the House," features a homicidal Santa, which has also been retold in the TV series by the same name.

Silent Night, Bloody Night (1973) – Killings begin in a small town with a mysterious past.  Underrated.

Black Christmas (1974, a.k.a. Silent Night, Evil Night and Stranger in the House) – Sorority girls during Christmas break are victimized by psycho killer hiding in their attic.  Overrated.

You'd Better Watch Out (1980) – A disillusioned toy maker snaps and goes on a killing spree while dressed as Santa.

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) – Axe wielding Santa.  Probably owes more to the protests against it than to its content.

Silent Night, Deadly Night Part II (1987) – The killer's younger brother fills in.  Recycles a lot from the original (?) movie.

Silent Night, Deadly Night III - Better Watch Out! (1989) – OK.  This time the younger brother has a psychic link with a blind woman.

Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation (1990) – Bizarre, but doesn't really have anything to with killer Santas.

Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker (1992) – Killer toys in a name only sequel.

Santa Claws (1996) – Obsessed fan of a scream queen picks up a hand weeder and becomes a killer Santa. 

Jack Frost (1997) – Homicidal snowman.  I can't decide.  Is it OK for a movie to be silly if that was the point?  (Cf. the "more serious" Jack Frost (1998))

And last but not least,

The Spirit of Christmas (1995) Jesus and Santa duke it out.  ("There can only be one!")  Although this was not their first work, it brought national attention to Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and a community called South Park.  (Cf. this year's South Park Christmas extravaganza: All singing.  All dancing.  All guaranteed to offend everybody.)


The Bottom Line

Serial killer in London goes after men dressed as Father Christmas.  Depressingly bad murder mystery (as opposed to mystery play).  Messy killings and a cameo by Caroline Munro feel tacked on.  Missing details from the plot.  Can't call it mean spirited; it doesn't have a spirit.  Recommended for non-discriminating fans of London footage and the rotating sign at New Scotland Yard.  Not recommended for cynics who are looking for an escape from traditional seasonal fare; this one will depress them even more.

Published 24 December 1999


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