Friday, 14 December 2012

You Better Watch Out AKA Christmas Evil (1980)

When young Harry sees his mum getting a bit too up close and personal with Santa Claus (it's actually his dad but he doesn't realise that fact) then it sets him on a path that will see him affected by the very best and worst of the holiday spirit. As an adult, Harry (Brandon Maggart) often wears a Santa suit when he's at home alone, takes notes of those around him who have been naughty and those who have been nice and keeps trying to spread good cheer in the face of increasing opposition. As his positive attitude is worn away by others, Harry starts to show cracks in his Christmassy demeanour and then he dons his Santa suit and sets out to deliver just what some folks deserve on this very special Christmas.

Writer-director Lewis Jackson has made a very strange film indeed. While Christmas Evil is obviously not a traditional movie full of mistletoe and mulled wine it does still have a sprinkling of magic over a number of moments, especially during the last 15 minutes. Harry has major psychological problems but he also firmly believes in what he's doing and firmly believes in the spirit of Christmas.

Maggart is good enough in the lead role, making Harry quite a sympathetic figure when he's not killing anyone, and the supporting turns from Jeffrey DeMunn, Dianne Hull and others prove to be acceptable enough. There are a number of child actors who also do very well, easily selling the fact that children will always see Santa as someone doing good. Of course.

The movie may not run for TOO long, it's about 100 minutes, but it feels like it drags in places. This shows that Jackson has taken care to build up the main character and show the problems that beset him but I can't help thinking that the whole thing could have been a little bit sharper and more economical in places.

The other main problem that the film has, and it's a big one considering how it was marketed towards horror fans, is the lack of any real tension or impressive bloodshed. The deaths aren't all that great or imaginative, though there is one enjoyable set-piece that takes place on some church steps, and the tone of the whole thing removes some of the potential for sheer entertainment. It's too ridiculous to be a serious look at a damaged mind but it's also too serious for most of the runtime to be a rip-roaring Psycho Santa flick.

I still recommend seeing the movie, it's a delightful little curio quite unlike anything else I've seen (including the more obvious killer Santa films), but don't expect anything like Santa's Slay.


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