Combustible Celluloid
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With: Brandon Maggart, Jeffrey DeMunn, Dianne Hull, Andy Fenwick, Brian Neville, Joe Jamrog, Wally Moran, Gus Salud, Ellen McElduff, Brian Hartigan, Peter Neuman, Lance Holcomb, Elizabeth Ridge, Chris Browning, Tyrone Holmes
Written by: Lewis Jackson
Directed by: Lewis Jackson
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 100
Date: 12/28/2014

Christmas Evil (1980)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Better Watch Out

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Christmas Evil is not the first, nor the last, horror film featuring a killer Santa Claus, nor is it as infamous as Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), but it may be the best. It's extremely low budget, so don't expect anything spectacular, but this story of a toy maker, Harry Stadling (Brandon Maggart), who watches the neighborhood kids and keeps tabs on whether they're naughty or nice, has some fascinating touches.

Like most killer Santa movies, it starts with a flashback to a disturbing childhood incident, namely, Santa doing naughty/sexy things to the hero's mother. As a grownup, he goes a little crazy when his co-workers act mean and rude toward him. He dresses up as Santa, goes out at night -- driving a white van with a sleigh painted on the side -- delivers toys to a hospital, and begins killing people. After an incident with his brother Phil (Jeffrey DeMunn) and Phil's family, an angry mob begins tracking the killer Santa.

The third and final film by director Lewis Jackson, Christmas Evil is more deliberate and less gory than you might expect, and it raises some interesting questions about who gets to decide the difference between good and evil. It has become a deserved cult film, thanks in no small part to John Waters, who calls it the greatest Christmas film ever made, and who even contributed a commentary track to the special edition DVD release. There's also an earlier, Troma release (which is the one I saw). The movie was also released under the titles You Better Watch Out and Terror in Toyland.

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