‘Tis the season

YOU BETTER WATCH OUT

1.5 Stars  1980/18/95m

“First came Halloween… Then Friday the 13th… And now Christmas Evil!”

A.k.a. Christmas Evil; Santa; Terror in Toyland

Director/Writer: Lewis Jackson / Cast: Brendan Maggart, Jeffrey DeMunn, Dianne Hull, Rutanya Alda.

Body Count: 4

Dire-logue: “You’re blaming me for all the horrible things you’ve done because of something I said when I was six years old?”


Seasons greetings. Egg nog. Wreaths. Candles. Trees. Lights. The same four Christmas songs every where you go for weeks on end…

No wonder there are so many horror films based around Yuletide, it’s enough to drive anybody insane. You don’t get better than Black Christmas, that’s for sure. Although, there’s never been a breakaway huge Christmas-set horror film, many have tried, many have failed, some were the victims of parent groups in a snit bearing placards…

And then there’s this one. I prefer You Better Watch Out as a title, simply for the reason that there are very few slasher films in the Y-section of the horror alphabet. But call it what you want, it won’t help its case…

Brendan Maggart, also seen in Dressed to Kill around the same time, is just fine as sad loner Harry Stadling, a toy factory worker obsessed with Christmas. He spies on the local neighbourhood kids to see if they’re good or bad. You’ll Yule love the bore-a-thon scenes in which Harry slowly, very slowly, descends into madness, which manifests itself when he dresses up as Santa and distributes gifts for what seems like the entire run time in slow-mo before finally flipping out and killing a few ancillaries.

What Jackson is trying to achieve here is a blur: Is it a slasher movie? An intelligent psycho thriller? A comment on the over-commercialisation of the season and the effect is has on those socially vulnerable?

What we do have is a grainy, dull, and sometimes disturbingly bizarre product: Harry’s spying is uncomfortable to watch in this day and child-safety-obsessed age, but it might’ve been better had he gone after the naughty kids instead of the three strangers who mock him outside a church and a fourth work colleague who badmouths Christmas.

And the end… Oh my God, that ending… If you ever thought the twitching hand or opening eye of a thought-dead loon were irritating climaxes in slasherdom, check out this one. John Waters is reportedly a fan, which may explain some of its weird appeal.

Blurbs-of-interest: Rutanya Alda was also in When A Stranger Calls, Amityville II, and Girls Nite Out.

5 comments

  • A common theory about the ending is that it’s just Harry hallucinating as he lies dying in whatever pit he drove into.

    It’s bad, but it’s hard to completely hate a film in which a deranged Santa stabs a British snob in the eye with a toy soldier. Outside a packed church. While screaming “Merry Christmas!”

  • Aww, really? I adore this film! ah well, guess it’s yuletide charm can’t win everyone…

  • I just think it could’ve been so much better for the year it came out. A stack of horny teenagers to mow down would’ve helped no end.

  • “-it might’ve been better had he gone after the naughty kids-”

    Why hasn’t there been a slasher with that exact plot? Sure, a slasher with a killer who specifically targets small children would suffer from controversy, but that didn’t stop Carved or Baby Blues from doing it.

  • The Ice Cream Man looked like it was going to be like that and flaked out… Think it would just be seen as too controversial or all the killing would be off-screen. Or they’d go the route of Elm Street and Sleepaway Camp, where the “15-year-olds” and younger are played by actors in their 20s!

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