1 and a half stars       Cheese Rating: 100% King Cheese!

"Better Watch Out...
Better Not Cry...
Or You May DIE!"

directed by: Lewis Jackson
starring: Brandon Maggart, Rutanya Alda, Raymond J. Barry, Jeffrey DeMunn, Andy Fenwick, Peter Friedman, Sam Gray, Dianne Hull, Joe Jamrog, Burt Kleiner, Scott McKay, Peter Neuman, Brian Neville, Patricia Richardson, Colleen Zenk Pinter

(back of video blurb):

       "As a boy, he saw mommy making love to Santa Claus. As an adult, he is a crazed killer who has kept a list of all the girls who have been good, and a list of all the girls who have been bad. It's Christmas time, and all the bad girls are in trouble.

       A man dressed as Santa Claus is stalking the streets, brutally murdering innocent girls. Who's to say if the kindly old gent, whose knee your daughter sits upon, is a maniacal murderer?"

choice dialogue:

"It's Christmas I hate most... that's when I get slaughtered- buying all those presents."

- a fellow worker at Harry's factory says the wrong thing

slash with panache?

       Christmas Eve 1947- an idyllic scene. Glistening under a full moon, a myriad of fairy-lights envelop a snow dusted house in a warm and peaceful glow... Hark! What's that?... A voice begins reciting, "T'was the night before Christmas..."; a voice with just enough of a slur to suggest the narrator had a sniff or two of sherry!... Inside, the house is alive with good cheer; it's a veritable Pandora's box of glittering baubles and glitzy tinsel... Huddled on the stairs, a small gaggle of children watch with wide eyed amazement as a fat man in red, with white trim, drops down their chimney and proceeds to wolf down a King's portion of mince pies. With a hearty laugh Santa Alternative artwork for the film under the title TERROR IN TOYLAND- 'The Santa Film you weren't supposed to see!'looks around the room and puts a brightly coloured present- one each for all of the children, under the splendid tree. And, without further ado, he disappears up the chimney (from whence he came)- the sound of reindeer's bell serenading him as he goes... The children sit, still wide-eyed, debating whether that was really their Father- or someone altogether more magical!

       Later that night- when by all rights they should all be asleep, the youngest, Harry, still intoxicated with Christmas spirit, decides to have another peek downstairs. However, this time it isn't a festive, wholesome sight that awaits him. Santa's there and so is Harry's Mother- and the way she's letting the old fella fondle her garter belt, you can kinda tell the package she wants to get her hands on isn't the type that comes gift wrapped!... Horribly disillusioned by this sordid sight young Harry skulks off to his room where he picks up a snow-globe and throws it to the floor. It smashes into tiny pieces- symbolically mirroring his shattered illusions (oh, the unbearable pathos!). He bends down and picks up a shard of glass. Holding it to his fingers he cuts himself- a trickle of blood flows down his outstretched hand...

       The action cuts to the (ahem) present... Perhaps surprisingly, Harry hasn't grown into Christmas hating Scrooge-like character- quite the opposite. This doesn't exactly mean that middle-aged Harry (the unusually named Brandon Maggart) isn't a little deranged- he is; but he's gone in completely the opposite direction. His apartment is a Yuletide shrine, packed from floor to ceiling with toys and festive trinkets; Harry himself sleeps in Santa pyjamamas and wakes to the perky strains of 'Winter Wonderland'. He laughs heartily as he dances around his self made grotto (coming dangerously close to a couple of star jumps!); and merrily amuses himself by applying a foam beard at the bathroom basin... Yes, it's clear that Harry is a couple of cookies short of a jar; but at first he just seems a little eccentric. He's taken his love of Christmas to extremes in all facets of his life- he even works at the Jolly Dream toy factory ("If it's not a Jolly Dream it's not worth having!"). There he's a floor supervisor, but misses working directly with the toys; and is taken advantage of by his boorish colleagues who just don't have his enthusiasm for the job and play on his good nature. To take his mind off his woes Harry throws himself into a decidedly dodgy hobby- spying on all the local children and keeping track of which ones have been good and which ones have been naughty in two hefty tomes- 'Bad boys and girls' and 'Good boys and girls'.

       Poor Harry becomes more and more disillusioned with people's mean-spiritedness. Firstly he is persuaded to work an extra shift at the factory, only to find that his colleagues have gone out to a bar without him and are have a fine old time knocking 'em back, listening to Christmas faves banged out- Country and Western style (it almost caused me to have a funny turn too!). Harry shows his displeasure, when he gets home, by crushing a doll between his fingers whilst humming 'Santa Claus is coming to Town' in an unbalanced and painfully out-of-tune manner. To make matters worse, whilst enjoying some festive banter with the local children, one little tyke replies that he wants Santa to bring him a subscription of Penthouse that year- which, as you can imagine, sends an incensed Harry scrabbling to the 'Bad boys and girls' book. Oscar, the kid in question, seems to have been especially naughty, causing Harry to scribble down furiously the following- "Throws rocks at dogs... picks his nose... poor body hygiene"(!). These heinous infringements on the Yuletide protocol don't stop there and poor Harry is pushed to the edge- and beyond. Soon enough he slips into his Santa suit, with the intent of rescuing Christmas by whatever means possible; and really sorting out exactly whose been good and whose been naughty...

       Before I launch into this flick I've go to get something off my chest- the copy of CHRISTMAS EVIL I watched (SATURN VIDEO, Ntsc) has got to be the worst quality pre-record I have ever had the misfortune to see. I managed to pick it up for three bucks when I was in New York recently (I left the price tag on as proof I didn't spend any more!)- but even for that measly outlay I feel Some alternative poster artwork for CHRISTMAS EVIL- 'This Christmas you better believe in Santa... or he'll slay you!'robbed. The previous few paragraphs are only an approximation of what happened in the movie as much of the time I could literally not see what was going on. Taped on the Devil's format (EP- how did you Americans ever let companies get away with foisting this upon you?), the screen looked sick as a dog- not so much 'washed out' as 'bleached out'; then dyed with a permanent greenish hue (hence, no screen-caps folks). Of course, the fact that I missed some of the action, well, I suppose I should be thankful for small mercies! The sound hissed like a bag of vipers- but couldn't disguise the monumentally perky (and usually agreeably cheesy Christmas tunes), and the rest of the soundtrack (which screeched into gear without any rhyme nor reason) sounded like Cyndi Lauper with her tit caught in a mangle.

       Anyway, back to the actual movie- which I guess is a bad movie version of TAXI DRIVER (Harry being a 100% Stilton Travis Bickle). Well, it had its charms (enough to get the coveted accolade of 'King Cheese') , and God knows I usually have a soft spot for some pretty dreadful movies but CHRISTMAS EVIL really takes the biscuit. If you can sit through this you can probably sit through anything- unfortunately my viewing partner for this wasn't made of such stern stuff and was rocking by about half an hour into the thing.

       Admittedly, its resolutely "Bah-Humbug!" attitude is to be cherished in a season of sickly Disney sentimentality. No more so than in perhaps the movie's best scene, which, if you're feeling particularly evil one day you should play to a group of friends who are feeling all warm and tingly after sitting through Frank Capra's IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. The scene in question is the one where Harry parks his Christmas van outside a Carol service and, as the congregation file out, he steps forward and sticks a toy soldier's sword in the eye of one of the worshippers; before chopping two more in the head with a dinky (but very lethal) toy axe! Perhaps then you could fast forward to the bit where he smothers someone to death with his sack of toys- after getting his fat ass stuck in a chimney for what seems like eternity...

       The above makes the film sound a lot more fun than it actually is. Unfortunately it is too inept to truly capitalise on its bad taste black comedy potential; and, despite some great cheese moments (including the scenes I've already mentioned, and some others like- a bunch of kids making a human shield around Santa, who is being menaced by a group of flick-knife wielding parents; and the climactic chase scene where an enraged group of revellers chase Harry en masse, with burning torches aloft- which is like a hilarious cross between a Key-stone Cops short and the cliché ending to a FRANKENSTEIN film; oh, and the ending which will warm your heart- and leave your mouth agape), much of its running time was pure tedium. Incredibly, film critic Leonard Maltin gave CHRISTMAS EVIL three stars and this glowing review in his Movie and Video Guide-"Gripping, well-made little thriller about a killer disguised as Santa Claus, with Maggart excellent as the psychopathic Kris Kringle. A sleeper, with cult status possibilities." Now, either Maltin wrote that with a pointy toy-soldier's sword to his head- or he had been smoking crack. No way could we have been watching the same movie! Perhaps when you see a crisp print it really shines- I can't see it somehow though.

BODYCOUNT 4  bodycount!   female:1 / male:3

       1) Male has toy-soldier's sword stabbed into his eye!
       2) Female is chopped in the head with toy axe
       3) Male is chopped in the head with toy axe
       4) Male is smothered with Santa's sack and then has throat slit