Christmas, Horror, Slasher, Thriller

Christmas Evil (1980)

0 Comments 22 December 2010

Christmas Evil (1980)
Also known as You Better Watch Out and Terror in Toyland
Pan American Pictures
Theatrical Release Date:
Lewis Jackson
Rated R

by James Klein

Considered to be John Waters favorite Christmas film, that alone should tell you what kind of film Christmas Evil is. For those of you who are sick of Miracle on 34th Street or TBS’s non stop replay of A Christmas Story, you need to check out director Lewis Jackson’s 1980 holiday horror classic.

Our hero is Harry, a middle age single man who works at a toy factory as a newly promoted supervisor. Harry misses being on the line though, making toys for all the children. And now his favorite holiday is rolling around the corner…Christmas. Harry is obsessed with Christmas and absolutely loves it. His home is decorated with all sorts of Christmas decorations and figurines from his past, most of them of Santa Claus. Harry is also friendly with all the children in the neighborhood and actually spies on them, checking them off in his book to see who is naughty and nice. As lonliness sets in even more and work begins to upset him, Harry soon cracks and dresses up as Santa Claus and goes out on Christmas Eve, stealing all the toys his company made and giving them out to children. And while he’s out, he starts to get revenge on the people who have betrayed him or those who don’t have the Christmas spirit.

Shot in New Jersey on a very low budget, Christmas Evil is one of those rare films that mixes horor and drama, thus making the tone of the film humerous, sad and just offbeat. Maybe this is one of the reasons why I love the film. Brandon Maggart plays Harry and although he was drunk during most of production (accoding to the DVD commentary by director Jackson) his performance as Harry is sad and heart-breaking. Playing his younger brother is actor Jeffrey DeMunn (best known in AMC’s The Walking Dead) who wishes Harry would get some help before he snaps.

The film is bogged down by a long running time that could have used some tightening up, especially during the laughably bad mob scene near the end. The very climax of the film also is hilarious and doesn’t make much sense but I forgive it as it adds to the bizarre charm. The movie was forgotten when released and this was the only film ever made by the director. Not enough blood and gore to be a slasher film and not enough human drama to be a serious film, the movie is downright strange and twisted. And I have no problem with that.

If Taxi Driver took place during Christmas, you would get Christmas Evil.

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