Blu-ray Review: Christmas Evil

At some point during the holiday season, you’re just going to get sick of Christmas specials. How many uplifting Christmas movies can run on Lifetime and ABC Family? The channels start running them right after Labor Day. Every night dozens of tales about a secret Santa or someone getting that Dec. 25 wish come true. As much as you want to enjoy the season, there’s a desire for something that dares to look at Santa in a dark way. Television will give you the cable version of Bad Santa. Even that comes out uplifting since Bad Santa does good at the end. Where is the movie with a peppermint flavored darkness that will give your Great Aunt Anna a mistletoe attack? Christmas Evil is a nuclear warhead in the War Against Christmas.

In 1947 a young child witnesses with his mommy the arrival of Santa Claus from the chimney. She tucks little Harry into bed having seen the forbidden arrival. But the kid won’t just stay put with the vision of sugarplums. He sneaks out of bed to see what else Saint Nick is doing under the tree. Shockingly he sees more than Santa Claus kissing mommy. The sight sets off a traumatic turn of events. The shock leaves a deep scar that haunts him into adulthood. Harry (Sesame Street‘s Brandon Maggart) wants to become the new Santa Claus. He works at a toy factory in a position that allows him to contribute great ideas and get shafted by the bosses. He puts a lot of people on his naughty list. That’s right, Harry keeps a list like Santa. He also likes to dress up as Santa in the privacy of his apartment. He sits on the roof of the building and spies on the kids in the neighborhood to make sure they’re being naughty or nice.

Harry’s unstable. When things get worse at work, he finally snaps. On a snowy night, he goes out to give toys to the good boys and girls. He also has a plan for vengeance against those that did wrong. Nobody will escape his judgement on the night. Santa just might have to go on his own naughty list for what he does to people leaving a Midnight Mass. The film however has a bizarre spirit to it. The ending takes things into a surreal level as Santa gets chased by upset families. The ending isn’t a sell out like Bad Santa. It just leaves on a brilliantly weird note.

Here’s a strange piece of trivia, Brandon Maggart’s daughter is Fiona Apple. Thankfully Christmas Evil wasn’t that popular when Fiona was a small girl. She probably didn’t have a clue that her dad played a psycho in a Santa suit until later in life. Otherwise she probably would have been traumatized during the holiday season by a fear of dad putting on the red suit. The movie was supposed to be positioned as the December version of Halloween. It even had the great tagline of “Christmas Evil, the night he dropped in.” But sadly the film couldn’t make it as a holiday classic outside of a few grindhouse theaters that needed a holiday flick since they couldn’t rent It’s A Wonderful Life. Four years later Silent Night, Deadly Night would incite critics at the concept of a murderous Santa. But their biggest outrage was that a major studio (Tri-Star part of Columbia) would profit from destroying a holiday. Sadly Christmas Evil would not be able to exploit the outrage of critics. Gene Siskel scorned the release of Silent Night, Deadly Night with “What’s next, the Easter Bunny as a child molester?” The critics had no sense of history. They didn’t share their new found outrage spirit with Christmas Evil.

Christmas Evil remains a sinister Santa film. The film has the ability to bring a shocked joy to new faces and ignite a glow to longtime cult fans. Viewers will learn the harsh reason why it’s not a good thing to sneak downstairs and see what Santa’s doing. Light your yule log and press play on Christmas Evil.. It’s time to enjoy the holiday season.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfer brings out the holiday cheer. This looks better than when John Waters saw it in a crummy theater. The audio is mono. You’ll get a earful of the holiday. You’ll hear Santa snap.

DVD has all the features found on the Blu-ray.

Audio Commentary Tracks include director Lewis Jackson, director Lewis Jackson & actor Brandon Maggart and Lewis Jackson with superstar John Waters. Of the three, you’ll want to hear John Waters asking the questions since he’s a major fan of the film. His writing about it has allowed it to keep a cult following instead of slipping away like last year’s torn Christmas wrapping paper.

Theatrical Trailer (1:43) was probably not shown at a theater near you. It’s a Red Band Trailer so enjoy.

Interview with Lewis Jackson (6:52) lets the director talk about how it took ten years from idea to production. It takes time to make your dreams come true. He’s an NYU film grad.

Interview with Brandon Maggart (6:40) was done as part of a Troma release. Sgt. Kabukiman is part of the chat. Brandon was part of the original cast of Sesame Street.

Audition Tapes (25:49) were done back when you had black and white video. This is a great resource for people wanting to make their own horror film.

Deleted Scenes (6:31) has Harry meet the company’s child psychologist. He’s ticked off at his toy soldiers being made on the cheap. There’s a lot of assembly line footage.

Original Comment Cards (2:42) are hysterical as the test audience doesn’t quite like it. “Why?” is the nicest one. There’s a special surprise on one of the cards.

Storyboards (4:00) cover a missing scene that appears to be more than the production budget could handle.

Christmas Evil is a twisted Santa tale that’s beloved by John Waters. This is the perfect film for those times when you’ve had it with the usual Christmas movies on the cable box.

Vinegar Syndrome presents Christmas Evil. Starring: Brandon Maggart, Jeffrey DeMunn, Dianne Hull and Andy Fenwick. Running Time: 100 minutes. Rated: R. Released: November 18, 2014.

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