Harry has always had a special relationship with Christmas. Even when he saw Santa Claus boning his mother, it didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for the holiday. As an adult, his obsession has grown even stronger. He keeps a book chronicling the good turns and missteps of the neighborhood children and even counts down the days until Christmas. But when life begins to weigh too heavy on his shoulders, Harry snaps in a festively whacky way. He dons a specially made St. Nick suit and sets out to punish the naughty and reward the nice.
Christmas Evil is represents something of a pet project for its director Lewis Jackson. He had a very specific vision for the film and worked on the script over the course of nearly a decade. Jackson was disillusioned when the studio rebranded his movie (his original title was You Better Watch Out) but he eventually reestablished the rights to the picture and is fully supportive of the current release.
Christmas Evil is perhaps one of the most divisive holiday horror films. Horror fans seem to either love it or hate it. And there’s not a lot of in-between. I fall on the ‘love it’ side. It is exceptionally character driven, has a likable lead, and really marches to the beat of its own drum. It’s surreal and completely goes off the rails in the third act. Moreover, the ending is completely bonkers.
The most common complaint lodged against Christmas Evil is that it’s slow. While it does take a moment to get started, that is largely because it is establishing the series of events that set Harry off and also introducing the viewer to Harry’s very unique psychosis. Without such a carefully crafted and painstaking set up, this would be merely another holiday horror picture with a madman in a Santa suit but as it stands, Christmas Evil is much more than that. The carnage is really secondary to the story it tells but that’s not to say that the carnage isn’t memorable. In fact, the first onscreen death is a triple homicide and it is brilliantly executed with a hefty helping of creativity.
The character driven nature of the film could not possibly work without a thoughtful performance from its lead and Brandon Maggart is nothing if not thoughtful. Maggart does a brilliant job of getting inside Harry’s head and he delivers a performance that makes the audience sympathize with him rather than his victims. We come to feel that those that have done Harry wrong are somehow deserving of his vigilante justice and that Harry is just doing what he must.
It’s always a pleasant surprise when an older film gets a kick-ass re-release and that is definitely the case with the latest re-issuing of this title. The Vinegar Syndrome Christmas Evil Blu-ray is lovingly loaded with extras. It contains interviews, multiple commentary tracks, deleted scenes, and much more. It even comes with scans of the comment cards from an early theatrical test screening–most of the remarks are scathing but they are a great deal of fun to read. The interviews give the audience an insightful look at how the picture made its way to the screen and further explain why this project was such a labor of love for those involved. The newly commissioned artwork is excellent. I would have bought the set just for that but fortunately that’s just one of many reasons why this collection is worth your hard earned cash. I wholeheartedly recommend picking up this two disc set.
WICKED RATING: 7/10 [usr 7]
Director(s): Lewis Jackson
Writer(s): Lewis Jackson
Stars: Brandon Maggart, Jeffrey DeMunn
Studio/ Production Co: Pan American Pictures
Budget: $750,000 (Estimated)
Length: 94 Minutes
Sub-Genre: Holiday Horror