Fear of Santa Claus: Television Edition Pt 2 (And All Through the House, Tales From the Crypt, S1 Ep2, 1989)

tales_from_the_crypt_s1EC was the controversial publisher of crime and horror comics in the 1950’s.  The comics code kind of killed them.  Funny enough, the EC Comics stories were very “moral”.  Each story involved people doing evil and getting their comeuppance.  In 1972 there was a film based on the comics, adapting the stories.  And All Through the House was included in the  anthology…it was a very serious affair with Joan Collins.  It is extremely serious.  In 1989, HBO brought the Crypt Keeper to the television scream, I mean, screen.  Using popular actors of the time (episodes featured Tom Hanks, Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Lithgow, among others).  Some were big stars, some were rising stars, some waning and some unknowns who were discovered much later.  It was a popular show that was eventually brought to the networks (albeit in an edited format) through syndication.

Written by Monster Squad director Fred Dekker and directed by Robert Zemeckis, the episode is both full of tension and laughs.  Mary Ellen Trainor plays the wife of Marshall Bell.  She kills him on Christmas Eve, and while disposing of the body, encounters a maniac in a Santa Suit.  Much of their initial confrontation gets played for laughs.  Especially as the Santa Suited killer is the one getting hurt.  Larry Drake offers some comical reactions as he is hurt by Trainor.

But of course, Trainor killed her husband, so the story cannot end well.  Bookended by the Crypt Keeper, the story begins and ends with bad puns,  This is a very entertaining episode, and one of the series strongest.  It is a lot of fun for a tale about a homicidal killer in a Santa suit.

Fear of Santa Claus Pt 14 (Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, 2010)

rare-exports-posterOf all the movies I have watched for this series, this Finnish production is the best of the lot.  It is a terrific and creative movie.  In the Korvatunturi Mountains two young boys spy on an excavation mission to locate the grave of Santa Claus.  Pietari is  concerned by this, as he still believes in Santa Claus.  But he finds books in the attic telling the truth about Santa Claus.  Santa and the Krampus are the same myth.  Santa is not a perversion of sainthood here, but rather, a strange and frightening creature, long buried in the mountains.  The excavation is a plan to raid the tomb of Santa.

This of course goes wrong and Pietari and his father find themselves menaced by something from the mountain.  Especially frightening for Pietari is that his friends seem to be disappearing.

The relationship between Pietari and his father is strong (as they are father and son in real life) and effective.  The film is full of horror and yet whimsy.  The Santa creatures look like old and decrepit men, but they are far more.  And the  final moments are comical in the most positive way.  I really do not want to say more as the film really is a treat.  It is the one film in this whole series I recommend without reservation.

Fear of Santa Claus Pt 13 (Sint, 2010)

sint-posterSint (known as Saint here in the United States) is a contribution from the Netherlands.  In this horror film, Saint Nick was not such a nice guy.  He was a disgraced Bishop who would lead his followers to slaughter and pillage villages.  The people seek revenge and kill Saint Nick and his band of ruffians…but this causes a curse.  The film jumps up to 1968 and a family relaxing on December 5th. The house is besieged by strange little monsters who kill all but one member of the family.  Then the film makes one more jump to the present.

It turns out that when there is a full moon on December 5th, Saint Nick returns to punish the naughty.  In modern society, that means pretty much anybody.  Goert, the kid that survived, grew up to be a policeman.  He is a bit on edge some years later (the film is a little vague, one character says it occurs every thirty two years, another every 23 years, and  one character refers to the death of the officer’s family being forty years ago, but if the film takes place in 2010?  It is over fifty years).  The film combines Old Saint Nick with the Krampus and gives us a rather bloody vision of holiday shenanigans.

The film has a bit of a misdirect, making it look like one character is the lead, but killing them off at the start of the action.  Meanwhile a guy named Frank and his buddies are dressed as Saint Nick and Black Petes (this particular bit of folklore is highly controversial as most of the people who dress up as the character are wearing black face, as Frank’s buddies are).  The Black Petes with the real Saint Nick are his troll like minions.  Of course, the police do not believe Frank when he says the Real Saint Nick and his Black Petes killed Frank’s friends.

Frank and Goert team up to fight Saint Nicholas and crazy action ensues.

The film may be a bit off-putting for American audiences, as our horror films have always treated the death of children as taboo.  While the film does not show graphic attacks on children, it is implied that terrible things happen to them.

Sint is visually striking (there is a nicely done scene with the police chasing Nicholas as he rides his horse across roof tops). The makeup for Saint Nicholas is effectively gruesome.  The film is quite well done, though rarely breaks from the most standard of horror movie tropes.  Nobody believes the people who know what is really going on.  Two lone believers team up.  People keep interfering with their attempts to defeat the monster.  The final jump scare.  There is a massive cover up.  But still, it is a pretty decent effort that horror fans should enjoy.

Fear of Santa Claus pt 12 (Elves, 1989)

elves_posterThere are two memorable things about the movie Elves.  It is about little Nazi monsters that are an experiment to create racial purity that seek to mate with some teen girls.  Ew.  It also stars Grizzly Adams himself, Dan Haggerty.  Haggerty died back in January of 2016…and thankfully was able to bury this with 29 acting credits.  Because I have seen Axe Giant: The wrath of Paul Bunyan and as terrible as that film is, it is the better of the two films.

There are, of course, other things that set this film apart.  Not in good ways…but apart none the less.  There is the German Grandpa who displays his concern for his grand daughter by slapping her.  The mother who only seems to derive happiness from making her kids miserable  (she drowns the family cat!).  The little brother who tells his older sister that he likes looking at naked girls…this is when she catches him peeping at her in the shower.  He also swears like a sailor.


Then there is the Santa who tries to molest high school aged Kirsten in front of the store.  Thankfully he is killed by an elf so Haggerty can get a job as the new Santa.

The Elves seem to be focused on Kirsten and her family.  And then the Nazis show up, hoping that the Elves mate with Kirsten, because she apparently is genetically pure. This film has one of the saddest exchanges regarding sexual activity ever.  Kirsten explains how she is saving it for someone special.  Her friend explains that rather than risk confrontation with a guy by saying no to sex, she would just rather go through with it so he does not get mad.

Frankly, the plot makes no sense.  The elves are part of an experiment in genetic purity?  Little warped monsters provide the necessary genetic material for a race of pure superman?  This seems kind of unlikely…there is also a big Chinatown style twist about an hour in.  To, you know, class things up a bit.  Also, apparently they do not need conventional means for creating a baby as the film implies Kirsten is pregnant at the end.  Well, not so much implies as explicitly shows us a fetus with a heartbeat.

While this is not quite Troll 2, is practically runs off the road into it.  Elves is a badly acted film where people fight puppets that are less stiff than some of the actors.  It is a genuinely awful film.

I will leave you with this exchange from the film:

“Are we gonna be alright?”

“No, Willy.  Gramps is a Nazi.”


Fear of Santa Claus Pt 11 (To All a Good Night, 1980)

to_all_posterLast House on the Left’s David Hess directed one movie.  And To All A Good Night tells you why his directing career began and ended with this film.

Two years after a tragic accident a person in a Santa suit goes around killing kids in an upscale girl’s prep school. It does not get much deeper than that.

The top billed actor in the film is Jennifer Runyan, most notable as the cute college student being tested for psychic powers at the beginning of Ghostbusters.  The characters are all rather uninspired and boring.  This presents a real problem, as it is hard to be all that interested in where the tale is going.  This is a very boring and poorly paced film.

And finally…the poster…there is nothing that says killer Santa movie.  It looks more like an alien themed sci-fi film or a supernatural thriller.

Fear of Santa Claus Pt 10 (A Christmas Horror Story, 2015)

christmas_horror_story_posterA Christmas Horror Story is in the vein of Creepshow or the more recent Trick Or Treat.  There are several stories, all loosely connected by by characters.  For example, one story follows a teenager and her family, while her boyfriend is a part of another story.  Three kids are trying to pull a Ghost Hunters types of investigation of a haunted school.  They are watching video of a police walk through and one of the cops is the center of another story.

One of the unique takes here is that, unlike the majority of anthology films,  the stories jump from one to another.  So, we see a few events in one story, and then jump back to one of the others.  The stories are pretty decent.  There is one in which parents getting a Christmas Tree in the woods results in a strange change to their child.  Another has Santa fighting Zombie Elves.  Another a family is running from the Krampus.  This is more interesting as an idea, as it is a blending of the Wendigo and Krampus myths.  Except, instead of human flesh (as with the Wendigo), it is dark feelings that open the door to the dark spirit of Krampus.

The stories are held together by William Shanter’s DJ.  He keeps trying to bring Christmas Cheer, but is finding that in short supply.  It has some decent visual effects, with the Krampus and zombie elves looking best.  Overall, I think this was a pretty effective anthology.  While not rising to the heights of fun that Trick ‘R Treat pulled off, this is still a decent set of tales.

Fear of Santa Claus Pt 9 (Don’t Open Til Christmas, 1984)

dont_open_posterThe same year we got Silent Night Deadly Night, we got Don’t Open Til Christmas.  Unlike all the films we have seen here so far, this British film is not about a killer Santa.  It is about a killer of Santas.

Basically, anyone in a Santa suit is a target.  Every now and then, the killer strikes in some gruesome way…but the majority of the film is the police investigation and the daily life of one of the victims’ daughter.  And these moments are painfully slow.

It is real simple.  If your slasher film is painfully boring?  You messed up.  And boy is this film boring.  Even the lead up to the attacks lack any tension.  You see a Santa and the guy in the mask is going to kill him.  We never get to know any of the Santas, making it hard to connect with the film’s intended victims.  The killer is not going after the people we know in the film.

This is one dull affair, and if you need to fall asleep on Christmas Eve?  This might do the trick.

Fear of Santa Claus Pt 8 (Santa’s Slay, 2005)

santas_slay_posterProbably one of the most unique takes on Santa Claus in this series…Santa’s Slay suggests that Santa was not a jolly saint…but rather a demon who lost a bet to an angel…but now that the bet is over, Santa goes on a rampage of death and destruction, starting by killing Fran Drescher and Chris Kattan. Directed by a guy who was an assistant to Brett Ratner-Oh-this is making more sense now.

So, as I mentioned, Santa is a demon, or more specifically the son of Satan.  Get it?  So, an angel makes a bet with him and Santa loses.  For a 1,000 years he had to bring gifts to the good boys and girls around the world.  Now, the thousand years are up.  So Santa is anxious to make up for lost time.  Santa is portrayed by the wrestler Goldberg…this means Santa is mainly bulging muscles.  He is battled by Claire from Lost, who is trying to end his bloody path of destruction.

I really wish this movie was as much goofy fun as the basic plot suggests.  But instead of gleefully dumb?  It just is dumb.  The effects are early aughts digital.  Some work, but most do not.  Likewise, some jokes are amusing, most are not.  This wants to be a wacky horror comedy cult film…but it just does not reach those heights.

Fear of Santa Claus Part 6 (Silent Night, 2012)

sndn_remake_posterIn this 2012 remake of the original film, Santa has something he was missing in the first film.  A freaking flame thrower.

The film opens right away with Santa killing an adulterous couple.  He then shows up at the front door of a greedy little snot and kills her.  Yeah, we see the killer off a kid in the first ten minutes or so.  Jaime King is a deputy in a small town with about one hundred Santas, so you know it is going to be hard to find the one in the creepy mask killing people.

This film is largely about the kills.  The original has it’s cult following for some of it’s kills (including using deer antlers-repeated in this film).  But here they are far more elaborate, and bloody.  Fargo’s wood chipper has nothing on this film.  And a flame thrower.  Santa has a flame thrower.

Unlike the original, this film opts for a mystery.  We are not given the killer’s identity right from the start.  We do not know his or her motive.  And this is one of the more effective parts of this remake.  A lack of discernible intent often makes for an effectively unnerving movie monster.

The cast here is pretty decent.  Malcolm McDowell turns in a performance that admittedly is more about it being Malcolm McDowell.  King is dependably sympathetic. Donal Logue is pretty entertaining as a lazy Santa who tells kids stuff like their parents might sell their gifts on Ebay and that you cannot trust parents.

One area where the film follows the original is a general undercurrent of sleaze.  McDowell’s police chief even wonders just when the town got so sleazy.  In place of mean nuns, there is a lascivious pastor.  He seems like a creep from the get go when he tells King’s deputy that he will do anything to help her.  There is a local porn industry, drug users, adulterers.  Sometimes this works in the film…other times it feels like a cheap excuse for nudity

In certain respects, this is a far better film than the original or it’s sequels.  But that is what they call damning with faint praise.  The positives are about even with the negatives, and that is not enough to make a film worth the time to watch.

Fear of Santa Claus Pt 3 (Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out, 1989)

sndn_3_posterIn the 3rd installment, things get weird.  The first two films were straight up slasher films.  This film introduces a psychic blind girl who has a connection to Ricky.  Ricky was not killed in the second film…instead he is in a coma and someone chopped off the top of his head and replaced it with a plastic dome which shows off his brain.  So, yeah…it is getting weird.

Why scientists would want to have a psychic connect with a serial killer is a bit uncertain, though they say something about seeing what he sees.  But of course, Ricky wakes up and pursues Laura (the previously mentioned blind psychic girl) to her family gathering at a cabin.  And he, you know, kills people.

One of the things that stands out is just how truly unpleasant Laura is.  Especially when she is talking to her brother and his girlfriend.  Both are friendly and kind towards her, and all she can do is offer snarky and condescending comments.

Robert Culp is the police officer pursuing Ricky, which I suspect was an attempt to make the film seem more legit.  On Culp’s part, I suspect it was simply a paycheck.  Culp is probably the strongest thing in the film, and his exchanges with the doctor responsible for Ricky’s reawakening can be amusing.  The doctor has his moments, as when he tell’s Culp in a deadly serious voice “Science is the only way to restore our innocence.”

I am a big fan of Bill Moseley, who plays Ricky here…but the character does not offer him much opportunity to perform.  He just stumbles around, looking like he is in a daze.  And sometimes he says “Laura” in a raspy whisper.  But hey, he has a dome on his head.  That is something.

This might very well be the best film in the franchise.  But make being less terrible is still quite terrible.

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