It’s common for a viewer to root for the bad guy in a horror film. But let’s be honest. For this flick, Harry isn’t the villain. Everyone else is. AKA people are fucking GARBAGE and Harry is completely in the right to set them straight, especially during “the most wonderful time of the year.”
I will DIE on this hill. Fight me, bitch.
Anyway, for this Drunken Monkey installment, I’m actually reviewing a film that is one of my all-time favorite Christmas horror flicks that, IMHO, doesn’t get enough love. We all know Bob Clark’s Black Christmas (and the awful remake), the other Santa horror Silent Night Deadly Night, the hipster fashionable Die Hard, etc. But how much do you know about Lewis Jackson and his 1980 masterpiece, Christmas Evil?
I’m here to educate you folks.
Christmas Evil – MAKING A LIST
Here’s the basic breakdown for you: Young Harry and his brother, Phillip, witness Santa getting a little kinky with their mother on Christmas Eve. This totally fucks Harry up emotionally – not the *bowchickaWOWwow* but finding out Santa isn’t real. Don’t get it twisted, though. 33 years later, he still believes in the ideal Santa Claus and that Christmas is the time of year everyone should be kind and generous, and kids should DEFINITELY not fuck around and be little shitheads.
As an adult, Harry (Brandon Maggart) lives a milquetoast life but absolutely fucking LOVES Christmas. Though once he finds life actually sucks major donkey dick behind his back (his coworkers totally take advantage of his non-confrontational life, no one else seems to treat this time of year as importantly as he does, local kids are just complete assholes), he takes a break from reality. And I’m not talking about heading off to some frou-frou weekend spa trip for his mental health. He takes on the role of Santa Claus himself to right the wrongs of the world, even if that means having to kill people to do it.
CHECKING IT TWICE
Do not assume this flick is a standard Christmas horror slasher. Oh no, my friend. This take on holiday hell is much darker than the majority of the season’s offerings. I would even say, despite Harry’s efforts to bring happiness and joy, Christmas Evil tells its story through a much bleaker lens.
While the film begins in 1947, when Harry learns Santa isn’t real, somehow his grip on WANTING Santa and the Christmas spirit to truly exist is like Kanye’s unbreakable egomaniacal hold on his importance to the world of music. Harry sleeps in Christmas pjs; he has images and icons of Santa scattered throughout his home; he LITERALLY keeps books with names and deeds of all the naughty and nice children in his neighborhood; he’s sewing a Santa costume from scratch (that I, as a budding sewist, think is a beautiful rendition of an old world Santa outfit); he tries to extol the importance of well-made toys to his fellow coworkers at the Jolly Dream toys factory instead of the mass-produce plastic trash they actually make. The list goes on and on.
But while he’s trying his best to physically manifest good tidings and cheer into reality, he’s easily set off into dark memories or even borderline rage at the tiniest of things. When he cuts himself shaving, he’s immediately reverts back to ‘that night’ when he cut his hand after smashing a whimsical Christmas snow globe; when spying on the canoodling activities of his younger brother and wife, Harry falls back to his memory of watching his Santa-clad father and his mom get bizAAYYY.
I think his breaking point happens when he takes an extra shift for coworker, Frank, only to find out later that Frank just used Harry so he could get out of work for that night. After this, Harry sits at home, humming “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” while choking the shit out of a toy.
Christmas Evil is definitely the study of a man who has been systematically and emotionally trampled his whole life, which might be why he tries so hard to bring joy to the world. But it denies his efforts at every turn and we see his mental fortitude crumble as he swirls into madness.
GONNA FIND OUT
I’m not saying this is a perfect film. There is a lot of ham-fisted soapboxing going on, particularly regarding corporate greed and public consumerism. Harry’s company Christmas party devolves into a cacophony of loud music, drunk people, faceless shots of hands just grabbing at glasses of alcohol, and a sleazebag CEO who doesn’t event attend the party but instead provides a prerecorded message (from someplace tropical, no less) telling the employees it’s GREAT to be more productive! A lot of exaggerated stereotypes, but it really does help drive Harry’s point home to the viewer – Christmas is not about getting stuff and making money; it’s about humility, charity, and kindness.
Well, Harry will show them exactly what’s what.
While the film is bleak, here is when is gets dark. On Christmas Eve, Harry dresses as Santa (he may even believe he’s becoming Santa at this point) to deliver toys to the good kids, rocks to the bad kids, and to kill his boss after he comes out of a church service. Unfortunately, a couple Yuppie douche canoes start making fun of Harry, so he kills them instead.
Que sera sera.
The next scene we see a couple of men pull Harry into a holiday party at a Family and Friends Association (and if that’s not a 40lb honey baked ham to the jaw, I don’t know what is). He dances and laughs with a group of clean, cheerful, honest to goodness folks. While his warning lecture to the kiddies about being naughty is more Darth Vadar than Obi Wan Kenobi, everyone laughs it off as “Santa” ho-ho-hos his way out into the night.
And after that beautiful display of holiday cheer, Harry heads over to Frank’s house and slits his throat with a Christmas star.
Like ya do.
WHO’S NAUGHTY? WHO’S NICE?
Now, we can all get in each other’s faces about whether or not Harry is a hero or a psycho. We can feel sorry for Harry’s brother, Phillip (Jeffrey DeMunn), who’s felt burdened by the need to always watch over his older sibling, or we can believe he’s a cry baby pussy who needs to get down off the cross. Once Harry finishes his murder bender and he goes to Philip’s house and his younger bro immediately knows Harry is the Psycho Santa the cops are looking for. Phillip internalizes Harry’s trauma to make it all about himself (Philip) then proceeds to strangle Harry into unconsciousness.
Still think Harry is the crazy one? Fuck off.
The biggest debate about this whole movie, though, is the ending. People are still split on what the actual fuck happens. There are two schools of thought. One – after Harry drives his Christmas van off a bridge, it literally flies off into the night like Santa’s sleigh because Harry has achieved his final form of Santa; or Two – after Harry drives his Christmas van off a bridge, he crashes to his death but doesn’t realize it because in his mind, he’s flying off into the bright moonlight in his final form of Santa.
I, personally, I’m in the Version 2 bandstand. It would be great to think the true magic of Christmas really existed and bestowed Harry’s dream unto him as reality. But this movie is too bleak, too dark, and too inhumane for that, which makes this whole experience much more emotional and impactful than some fantastical escape that justifies Harry’s actions.
I’m not saying he’s NOT justified, but I’m not saying he’s not not justified.
No matter which side of the line you fall on, Christmas Evil is one of those horror flicks that gives you permission to cheer on the killer, maybe gives you a few giggles, makes you think, and definitely makes you feel all the emotions long after the story is finished. Brandon Maggart’s performance is absolute genius so please, go show this movie some love this holiday season.
5 out of 5 margaritas