One of my recent reviews was of the anthology film, Tales From the Crypt, which featured a segment dealing with a psychotic killer on the loose in a Santa Clause outfit. What better way to continue that trend as we get closer to Christmas day than to review another killer Santa film. This time around, it is Lewis Jackson’s 1980 flick, Christmas Evil.
Harry has always loved Christmas. He even works at a toy factory in order to ensure that quality toys are being produced for all of the good girls and boys in his neighborhood. As the true nature of the individuals around him come to light, flashbacks of Christmas day from when he was a young boy continue to flood his memory, causing him to breakdown. Now, it’s time for Harry to take on the true role of Santa and punish all of the naughty boys and girls…
There have been quite a few horror films dealing with this holiday theme and killers dressed as Santa over the years, and I am always skeptical diving into one for the first time. It is only natural, however, to watch these films around this time of year and this was the perfect choice due to Vinegar Syndrome releasing a brand new remastered version of the film in high-definition, on Blu-ray for the first time.
The plot of Christmas Evil is simple yet effective. Harry, played by Brandon Maggart, really loves Christmas and wants to give back to the children in his community, by rewarding the nice ones and punishing the naughty ones. He seems harmless at first and even as the film goes on, it’s easy to start to feel bad for him. Sure, he goes on a little bit of a killing spree, but once you see the final exchange between him and his brother, who arguably is the one who started this whole mess in the first place, you can really start to sympathize with Harry. The credit for this should definitely go to Maggart. He does an outstanding job throughout the entire film and plays the character of Harry perfectly. He is kind and warm when he needs to be, but is also able to flip the switch and play the mentally broken man in a Santa suit, without skipping a beat. The supporting cast is great, as well, and if you look closely, you may even spot an actor who previously was a huge part of the AMC hit series, The Walking Dead. (I say look closely because it took me until the end of the film to realize who I had been watching the entire time!)
Even though Christmas Evil has horror in mind, it doesn’t quite pull it off as effectively as I’d hoped. There are few death scenes and too much ‘filler’ content surrounding said deaths. All the same, the scenes that do involve someone being killed, do actually look pretty sweet. The blood effects are clearly of cheap 80’s caliber, but with their oozing and pus-like appearance, they look awesome, nonetheless.
Christmas Evil could have been much more entertaining, if it cut some of the extra fluff out. Aside from that, the only other major concern of mine is the film’s ending. It takes the story, set solely in completely believable scenario, and takes everything we’ve just seen out of context, bringing in a huge fantasy element. Maybe I interpreted it wrong and maybe it is all a dream or something, but it really just doesn’t make sense to me.
Vinegar Syndrome has done a formidable job with this release. The picture and sound quality of the film are beautiful and I am glad I chose this release as my first Christmas Evil experience. Additionally, there are a slew of great extras, including commentary tracks, original comment cards from the film’s screening, deleted scenes, and a few more goodies for our enjoyment. The 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo release is available today and can be purchased directly from Vinegar Syndrome’s website.
I give this film 3 glued-on beards out of 5.