Who’s been naughty??? I only ask because with the holiday season well upon us. Visions of sugar plums tend to dance through our collective heads as we all flit through chilly days humming festive tunes, making our wish lists and checking them twice, of course. It’s easy to get caught up in all of the revelries and easy to forget that despite all of the lights and lattes, eggnog and sugar cookies, there is still a nefarious side to the season. Sure. it’s the time of year when we wish for peace on Earth, goodwill toward our fellow (wo)men but I know a few of us could go for the odd bludgeoning or strangulation.
When it comes to the holidays and horror, there’s no shortage of festive fights to wet our whistles either. From Gremlins (1984) to Krampus (2015), Black Christmas (1974) to Rare Exports (2010), the holiday horror market is rich with sugar plum pleasures and the Nightmare on Film Street Video Vault is rife with them. Our shelves have something for every season, occasion or holiday and this month, we’re bringing you the holiday hellraiser, Christmas Evil (1980).
Back Of The Box Overview
This yuletide yarn is a 1980 slasher from director Lewis Jackson starring Brandon Maggart (Dressed To Kill), Jeffry DeMunn (The Mist), Dianne Hull and Andy Fenwick. Originally titled Terror in Toyland and later changed to You Better Watch Out, the film would ultimately be known as Christmas Evil. As per Wikipedia, the synopsis of the film is as follows; “A toy-maker who revels in the Christmas spirit suffers a mental break when his work is met with hypocrisy and cynicism and goes on a yuletide killing spree.” And that is pretty much Christmas Evil in a nutshell. It’s not a complicated, high concept movie. It’s simple, low budget and to the point.
While considered an obscure film, it has gained a cult following thanks in part to the home video market and some celebrity fans such as director John Waters who has been quoted as saying that Christmas Evil is “one of the greatest Christmas movies ever made”. It also predates the more popular Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) which also feature a dude in a Santa suit killing people, therefore claiming the Godfather of Santa Slashers honor, which is something I just completely made up. Just go with it, ‘kay?
After the initial 1987 Genesis Home Video VHS release, Christmas Evil didn’t find it’s way onto any other platform until December 2000 when Troma Video released the film as a director’s cut on DVD. This version of the film contained material not seen in the theatrical and 1983 reissue prints. This is tough to find, with eBay listings going for $99.99!
In December 2006, Synapse Films released a special edition DVD of Christmas Evil containing director commentary and the director’s cut of the film as well. 2014 saw the Vinegar Syndrome release of Christmas Evil for the first time ever on Blu-Ray in combination with the DVD version. Both discs feature a 4K master of the director’s cut and the use the audio commentary from the 2000/2006 releases of the film as well a commentary track from John Waters himself! Some of the supplementary material included trailers, deleted scenes, and footage from the cast’s audition tapes. Fun Fact: Dale from the Walking Dead, Jeffry DeMunn, plays Phil, the brother of Harry, psycho Santa in the film.
Even with it’s fair share of Christmas tropes, Christmas Evil is a pretty fun ride. Regardless of it’s festive frills, there are enough tiny splashes of violence sprinkled in to remind us that this is, indeed, still a horror movie. Despite a plodding pace, the storyline and character development are solid enough to keep that hour and a half run time true to its word. Gorehounds will delight at the effect, though sparsely used. And those that like their horror on the cerebral side, there’s some fairly heady stuff in there as well. It ain’t War & Peace (1956) folks, but it also ain’t House of the Dead (2003) either. Nah’mean? Its a fun little slasher with a quirky plot and nice attempt at a fresh take on the slasher brand. Definitely worth checking out.
Thanks again for stopping by the Nightmare on Film Street Video Vault. We do enjoy the company. Be sure to snoop around for our previous Video Vault installments and let us know what you think of Christmas Evil on Twitter, Reddit, and in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook.
Wishing you all peace, love, and bloodshed for the holiday season!