Christmas Evil (1980)



Have you ever watched a movie and thought, “man, this has too much good taste?”  I know what you’re thinking; yes, Christmas Evil (a.k.a. You Better Watch Out and Terror in Toyland) from writer/director Lewis Jackson may have pre-dated Silent Night, Deadly Night by four years and how tasteful can a movie about a killer Santa really be?

To be sure, the plots for Christmas Evil and Silent Night, Deadly Night are pretty darn similar save for a few little details.  Like Silent Night, Deadly Night, the movie begins with the killer’s childhood, where he witnesses a traumatizing event that eventually manifests in his adult life, resulting in his going on a killing spree while dressed in a Santa costume.  What’s surprising is that the event in Christmas Evil could probably be explained by a simple talk of the “birds and the bees” (Santa getting it on with mommy).

Years later it’s revealed the boy in the opening sequence has grown into a lonely, pathetic man-child named Harry (Brandon Maggart) who has creepily filled his home with nothing but Christmas decorations and Santa toys.  At night he works in a factory with typical assholish types, one of whom takes advantage of his generosity and convinces him to switch shifts with him only later to reveal to his buddies how he “suckered Harry into taking his shift.”  In addition to that, Harry closely watches the neighborhood children, taking note of who’s been naughty or nice.  He catches one boy reading Penthouse, thus making him not “nice.”

Harry suppresses is rage, of course making everyone around him think that he’s just an eccentric but harmless man.  So far, so good.  You’re just anticipating the brutal payoff, the moment when Harry will snap and go on a rampage just like the killer in Silent Night, Deadly Night.  So we finally get to that crucial moment when Harry glues on the Santa beard, puts on the costume and arms himself with a knife and nutcracker doll with bayonet.  And then…

Major freakin’ letdown!!!

There are so many people in this movie; all those people at the company Christmas party, the neighborhood children, Harry’s own brother and his family, all those potential kills and only four people get it!  The asshole guy who tricked Harry into taking his shift is one and three completely random people on the steps of some memorial site and that’s it!  The rest of the movie is Harry either running or driving away from trouble!  Can you imagine my major disappointment when there’s a whole mob after Harry and Harry doesn’t run them down with his van?  What’s his problem?  What’s the problem of the filmmaker?  What’s with that stupid ending where Harry drives to the moon?

I really hope Lewis Jackson wasn’t trying to make a “serious” character study.  I’d like to chalk it up to a poorly written, poorly paced script and very few shocks.  Have you seen Silent Night, Deadly Night?  That’s the one where Santa impales the woman on a pair of antlers and decapitates the kid sledding down the hill.  Don’t expect anything even remotely that cool to happen.  Yes, in this movie, Santa stabs some people but other than that.. what wasted potential!

One thought on “Christmas Evil (1980)

  1. Pingback: Retro Cinema: Christmas Evil | The Queen of Scream

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