Oh, the early 80s, when slasher movies were all the rage. Arrow have unearthed a Christmas horror that’s also know as You Better Watch Out and has been lauded by John Waters as being the “greatest Christmas movie ever made”.
Christmas Evil centres on Harry Stadling (Maggart), a man who works at the Jolly Dream toy factory and takes his job very seriously. He is obsessed with the quality of the toys that the company produces and finds himself continuously belittled and frustrated by the company management who are more interested in the bottom line. In his private life, he appears to be a boy who never grew up – wearing Santa pyjamas to bed and living in a house with one of the largest and creepiest collections of dolls you have seen. He’s also fanatical about Christmas, spying through the windows of the local kids and writing down what he sees in one of two books; the good book and the naughty book.
The lack of pride in his colleagues and the ridicule that he has to endure mean that he finally cracks and takes on the literal role of Santa with a sleigh painted on the side of his van instead of being carted around by reindeer. Harry decides to mete out the ultimate punishment for naughtiness on a colleague and some the management, before being finally tracked down by a crazed mob who are carrying torches of the flaming kind. Watching Santa flee from the baying mob is pretty strange, although not as strange as the final shot of the movie, which is just weird when compared to the preceding running time.
It appears that, as a child, Harry witnessed his father having some fun with his mother whilst dressed as Santa and it is this moment that offers Harry the epiphany that Santa doesn’t exist. Quite how this totally normal rite of passage makes him so emotionally crippled for the rest of his life is unknown, but the director seems to be caught between making a straight-up slasher and a movie about the mental breakdown of a sociopathic middle aged man.
Considering Harry’s interactions with the neighbourhood children, both up close and via his binoculars, if this film was made today, Harry would be painted as a very different character and one that we’d struggle to connect with. As it is, it’s a stretch, but at least we can see that he’s trying hard in a world that cares little about tradition and more about profit margins. The DVD is a grainy transfer, which is a surprise when you consider a lot of the Arrow output recently.
If you haven’t seen this, it’s worth picking up for kitsch value.
- New widescreen transfer in the original ratio of the Director’s Cut
- Audio commentary with director Lewis Jackson
- Audio commentary with writer Lewis Jackson and director John Waters
- Original story-board sequences
- Comment cards
- Rare audition tapes
- Collector’s booklet featuring writing on the film by critic and author Kim Newman, John Waters and a new introduction by Lewis Jackson, illustrated with original stills
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