Nobody likes Harry‘s tune!
Continuing with my „Cult-Christmas“ countdown we come to a different kind of beast; „Christmas Evil“ (1980).
Director Lewis Jackson‘s one and only effort; this one concerns a toy factory worker who one night goes full Santa and punishes the naughty and rewards the good ones. But this one is completey different from the two previous entries I covered; „Silent Night, Deadly Night“ (1984) and „Silent Night“ (2012) and concentrates more on the mental breakdown of it‘s lead character while also being a commentary on the commercial side of Christmas. It‘s a real shame Jackson never made another film after this one.
Brothers Harry and Phil stay up late one night with Ma and watch Santa come down the chimney. Harry is absolutely smitten while Phil knows it‘s dad in a santa suit. Little Harry goes back downstairs and catches a glimpse of Santa and Ma in naughty play and the image scars him for life.
Fast forward and grown up Harry (Brandon Maggart) is an employee on the rise in a toy factory . It‘s clear he‘s a little out there as his apartment is completely Christmas decorated and he keeps a log on (as well as spies on) his neighbourhood children and writes down who‘s naughty and who‘s nice. It doesn‘t take much to unravel Harry and on Christmas Eve he dons a Santa suit intent on delivering quality toys from his factory to a children‘s hospital (that the company had used for promotional purposes) but also dish out punishment to a few people who made his naughty list; among them a co-worker who belittled him and a few other bystanders.
In the mix is a family drama concerning Harry‘s brother Phil (Jeffrey DeMunn) who‘s always been disappointed with his big brother.
I don‘t know why „Christmas Evil“ appeals to me so much. At first I made the mistake of believing I was about to watch some straight up horror but this was more of a slow burn that kept creeping up on me. It‘s hard watching a sad and lonely guy lose what little is left of his mind and his childlike belief that Santa is the final word on deciding between good and bad completely takes over. Harry is a guy who you feel bad for; a loner, a bit taken for granted and his younger brother makes him know just how disappointed he is in him. When the Santa suit goes on; Harry lets out a lot of pent up frustration which sadly turns bloody and deadly.
Brandon Maggart is absolutely fantastic in the lead role and inhabits Harry completely. You feel his frustration when he‘s taken advantage of, his confusion when he learns that his company has an image endgame when it comes to giving away toys to sick children, his overwhelming joy when he delivers presents and addresses children in the Santa suit and finally his anger when dishing out punishment. Life is simple for Harry when he finds his own tune…but the problem is that nobody else likes the tune Harry‘s playing; especially his brother Phil.
Director Jackson keeps the tone of the film fairly tongue in cheek and there‘s quite a bit of black humor running throughout. It‘s very well shot and very atmospheric especially in the final third where things take a bizarre turn where Harry is basically in hiding when concerned citizens are keeping an eye out for a loony Santa.
While not a typical Christmas slasher; „Christmas Evil“ is a thought provoking little film that displays the dreary, commercial and unfeeling side of Christmas and an unhealthy mind stuck in a place that wonders why on earth everybody doesn‘t subscribe to the fact that all you have to do is be good, think good thoughts and respect your parents. And if you don‘t…well then Santa will deliver bad things.
I highly recommend „Christmas Evil“ as a November warm up to cuddly December Christmas you‘ve got lined up.