Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Requiem of a Vampire

I realized that I hadn’t written even one Jean Rollin review since Night of the Hunted back in November of 2012. This realization also comes in that my blog has sort of fallen into a rut of mainstream horror and I fail to establish my fondness for Euro-horror (or fantastique, considering Rollin’s French as are his films) and the like. I hope to change this as we head into 2014.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Chernobyl Diaries

Let’s be honest, Chernobyl Diaries is about place more than anything else. Sure the characters on the screen perhaps provoke annoyance, aggravation, eye-rolling, sighs, grated-nerves, and even apathy, but where they find themselves under attack by “dark forces” is quite heavy in foreboding and Chernobyl’s unfortunate, tragic history allows the filmmakers to at the very least milk the reminder of what once was and now is.

Saturday, December 28, 2013


After the market collapses in 2008, the senior partner of a troubled firm shoots a fellow senior partner and accountant, his wife, then takes off with his two daughters. His psyche warped seemingly beyond repair due to the economic bubble burst, this father of two plans to kill his daughters then himself, but “Mama” won’t let him. Accidentally going off the road, crashing near a river (this in winter), and finding an abandoned cabin deep into the wilderness, the father will use this location as an execution site. Before he can put a bullet into his first daughter, a “lady whose feet don’t touch the ground” interrupts, lifting off into the darkness, protecting the girls and destroying him. This Mama gurgles, growls, and even purrs when looking upon “her girls” and the three will find refuge within this cabin until the daughters are later found during a search.


I think Shame puts a human face on a topic that often isn’t taken seriously: sex addiction. Sure most of us have sex on the mind at one point or another, but for some (many, even), it is an addiction that can overtake and even ruin us if we allow it to. It could lead to a path of self-destruction, as is established to us in the form of Fassbinder.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Hitchcock (2012)

For a Psycho (1960) mark, a film about Hitchcock getting the itch to make a film that is “so unlike him”, a take on Robert Bloch’s novel revolving around Ed Gein is too good to be true. Anthony Hopkins may not be able to totally get down the voice but he damn sure gives it his all. Presenting Psycho to Paramount suits, he got the shaft. They were afraid. Supposedly, Hitch was “too old”. Yet he had just made a grand masterpiece, North by Northwest, so that nonsense was mere poppycock. Hitch had that itch, though, and he was undeterred by those who considered it a mistake.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

Christmas Eve is the scariest damn time of the year!

You see Santa Claus, boy, you better run….you better run for your life!

Okay, so let’s see.

  • Billy is told by his senile grandpa in the senior care facility that Santa Claus will punish him and that Christmas Eve is scary.
  • Billy sees this come to fruition when a hood dressed as Santa shoots his father, rapes and slits the throat of his mother, and threatens to kill him.
  • Billy and younger brother Ricky are sent to a Catholic orphanage where the Mother Superior is unwilling to accept that either carries any emotional damage as a result of the incidents to their parents.
  • The absurd stance by Mother Superior that Billy will be trained with strict discipline and is not susceptible to a trigger towards violence even against the correct advise of Sister Margaret, punished with belt beatings by her as punishment for leaving his room (even though he was told to by Sister Margaret!). Because she seems hellbent on “taking action” against Billy when he shows signs of trauma (bloody gore drawings of those relived events in his mind and nightmares that torment him in his sleep), like scolding him or even binding his arms to the bedposts. The most severe coming when Mother Superior insists on Billy sitting on Santa’s lap. Never does Mother Superior accept Sister Margaret’s sound advice (the signs are obvious) that Billy is deeply troubled and in need of psychiatric help. When Billy hunkers in a corner inside of his bedroom, an image of terror holds as the screen freezes and you hear Mother Superior’s angered calling of his name as if she were Satan about to take him to hell.
  • We get “The Warm Side of the Door”, a cheesy ballad as hunky 18-year old Billy helps stock shelves at Ira’s Toys, seemingly happy and rehabilitated, soon succumbing to the same traumas he experienced in the orphanage (we are never quite sure what happened those ten years of being in the orphanage under Mother Superior’s iron fist) when Christmas returns. Billy, understanding from Mother Superior that punishment comes (it is ABSOLUTE) when kids are naughty, even as a young adult still is haunted by her words (while Santa reminds him of his parents’ death and the killer dressed as St. Nick, with all the punishment jazz beat into his psyche).
  • You can bet that Billy will be stuck in the Santa costume; it is only natural that he would, right? What better way to send Billy into Psychopathic Candyland than being stuck in the Santa suit.
  • Of course, he sees stock manager ripping the shirt of his co-worker gleefully on the verge of raping her, setting him off. Billy, thanks to flashbacks, becomes one with the psycho who attacked his parents.
  • Billy is really strong. He can lift a man with Christmas lights high off his feet.
  • Billy never lets a box cutter go to ill use. Even when the victim has done nothing wrong worthy of punishment besides calling him crazy (which is the truth).
  • I guess Ira’s being drunk was the reason he got the hammer to the skull. Maybe that’s why his employee (the last remaining one that remained after closing still alive) gets the bow-and-arrow treatment. Or it is because their drunken renditions of “Santa’s Watching” was deserved of punishment?
  • You can’t let “Twas the Night Before Christmas” go to waste, especially if uttered by a maniac in Santa garb.
  • Linnea Quigley was listed in the opening credits which means…BOOBS.
  • Quigley in Daisy Dukes: Yes, please.
  • Quigley answering the front door with breasts exposed: Yes, please.
  • Quigley impaled on the antlers of a mounted deer head with breasts exposed: Ditto.
  • Speaking of the impaling, Quigley’s petite little body being hoisted in the air was actually believable because we see most of it. Putting her body completely through those antlers: maybe a bit ridiculous. It makes for a memorable, hard-to-forget visual, though.
  • I don’t think I have to tell you this was a film that could be easily described as an exercise in bad taste.
  • If a guy gets thrown out a window, it is only fitting that there be huge shards of glass sticking out of his body to emphasize how harsh this death was.
  • Santa should reward the good kids with weapons of destruction containing the blood of a victim.
  • Santa beheading a bully is perhaps the one kill scene liable to invoke cheers instead of disgust. As he is sledding down a snowy hill, no less. Nothing like seeing a body collapsing next to the head once attached to it.
  • In order for the police to not get in contact with the orphanage, a girl must be playing on the phone with her dolly just as this attempt at communication takes place. The highway patrolmen in the area is on the way to supposedly save the day. Too bad he shoots a priest…who was deaf…in front of orphans. Yes, even some of the priest’s blood streams on a child as he looks on in horror (guess what? It was Ricky, Billy’s brother. Coincidence?). This had to be designed as black humor and a good stab at the Catholic Church. Why not have the year’s Santa be a deaf priest while Billy is on his way to the orphanage. You better believe Mother Superior will emasculate the poor cop who mistakenly shot the priest, letting him know that he has “done nothing but harm.”
  • Being a cop patrolling the grounds (meaning he’ll be dead soon), Mother Superior may have wished he had stayed nearby. She leads the kids into singing carols (yes, they really look like they sound as if they were a vibrant chorus of jolly carolers), as Billy buries an ax in their only law enforcement outside the orphanage. The cop was punished for…being a cop, I guess. Actually, the kids look bored, apathetic, and appear to be barely moving their lips. Of course, Mother Superior is now in a wheelchair so she can’t really protect them.
  • Billy came oh so close to driving that ax into Mother Superior’s mug. I wonder how many were hoping he would have succeeded. She will sit in her chair and probably feel as if she had done nothing wrong. Sister Margaret knows differently.

This viewing of the film went by in a flash. It always seemed to feel a bit longer before.

This was an ongoing write-up. This is the first time I have ever watched it as Christmas Eve passed into Christmas Day. It will be the last time, too. For some strange reason, I'm glad I watched the sequel before this one. I just wish I had gotten around to both of them far earlier in the month. I don't typically watch Christmas horror too close to Christmas. Just never made the habit of it. I still have Christmas Evil on tap for tonight right before the day ends.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)

It’s Christmastime near the Korvatunturi mountains, and something deep imprisoned inside it has been excavated by a company claiming to be seismic researchers is about to be released by its “elves”. Three men and one of their sons must stop this or else “naughty children” will at the mercy of a monstrous Santa Claus…the original Santa Claus.

The film plays with us for a little bit when it appears a “reindeer wrangler” has caught “Santa” in a wolf pit (it seems the local reindeer have been slaughtered by something ferocious and unusual), believing him to be a human casualty of illegal pit-trapping. It is only a little later the wrangler and two of his local buddies (also in the wrangling business) believe this casualty (who should have died but didn’t somehow) is perhaps Santa unearthed, asking the owner of the excavation company for $85,000 (this as damages for all the slaughtered reindeer).

I think why this was such a hit, as an import, was the premise of the idea that Santa was in fact a monster that killed kids who were bad instead of the jolly St. Nick (the Coca Cola Nick, according to the child hero in the film, Pietari (Onni Tommila)) that we are accustomed to. That the elves look like filthy old men, naked and in need of a shower, also toys with conventions of the holiday season. The film is little over one hour and eighteen minutes so it can fit into the schedule of horror fans (it will be a new addition to the Silent Night, Deadly Nights & Black Christmases that make the Christmas Horror Itinerary annually), and the premise is so unique and different from the norm it is assured for a cult following for years to come. I have read plenty of comments from horror fans, though, who consider it boring, so because there isn’t a strong gore quotient (previews might have you believe it will have a high body count and lots of blood and guts) and the monster never quite gets to be unleashed to tear people to shreds, there will be disappointment.

Surprising to me, this wasn’t as gory as I was expecting, and the ending--with how the Finnish wranglers and their sons become entrepreneurs by using the elves as Santas after solving the crisis of the release of the beast from its icy cage through the use of stolen radiators and stoves as heat sources (with all the village children in the general area taken from their homes as food for this monster!)--left me rather amused. The wintry location, the snow and mountains thereabouts, the impoverished villages shown, and lack of female presences in the cast (the cast is relatively small, focusing just on the three men and two boys, basically) further gives Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale a uniqueness that might be of interest to horror fans.

I certainly think I need to watch this next year (if there is a next year for me, that is) in the early stages of the month; this feels like a good start up to my Christmas horror watching season. I would recommend it to those who are looking for something different but aren’t expecting lots of bloodshed and graphic violence. This turned out to be ingenious and rather refreshingly clever. One specific letdown, I must confess, was not allowing us to really see the encased Santa...kind of felt robbed in that regard, but I understood why the filmmakers resisted.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)
Sorry, kids.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Tis the Season


Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (1987)

I can honestly say that I mainly wanted to pop in and watch Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 out of tradition now since I have had it on in December since probably 2010. I think it is terrible, I won’t lie about it. I have read that those who directed and wrote this sequel were given little resources and did the best they could with what they had…which simply wasn’t much. I don’t plan on writing much about it this year; however, it has some fun moments that do entertain me. I won’t deny that much; straight-shooter, I try to be. Eric Freeman’s performance/character will stand the test of time for all the wrong reasons. People have often commented on Joseph Pilato’s performance in Day of the Dead for its overtly intentionally loathsome qualities, but Freeman, to me, one ups him. There’s no doubt to me that Freeman was dead set on you hating his stinking guts. He had that snarl and that grouchy cartoonish scowl that I couldn’t resist chuckling at. It is a pro wrestling kind of heelish nastiness that has a viewing audience delightfully mocking Freeman. Not the intent (or was it?), Freeman’s performance (love how he uses his eyes and that foul, odious attitude he exhibits while interviewed by the stupid doc regarding the previous film’s footage, utilized as flashback to cut corners and save as much money as possible) lives and never dies in infamy.

The Cult of Freeman, alive and well, will always be the lifeforce that drives Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2. Of course, Elizabeth Kaitan is the reason I enjoy any part of it whatsoever, besides Freeman’s masterpiece of performance art. The kill scenes amuse me in their cartoonishness, too. The umbrella kill I saw not too long ago on David Letterman, and the shock Kaitan’s blond dork former boyfriend gets thanks to Freeman and jumper cables had me just in ribbons. But Kaitan’s “Uh oh” moment is my favorite by far.

I particularly grinned when Ricky tells the doc he could squash him like a bug. I was amused at how Freeman is used as a device to segue his flashbacks with the doc into the footage from the previous film. This seems so desperate and lazy if one doesn’t know what the filmmakers stuck with their budget faced. I didn’t know the whole story myself until reading about the film. One of my chief regrets when first renting the SNDN was not listening to the audio commentary track accompanying Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2. This could have given me more knowledge on their unfortunate position absent a serious budget and resources. I noticed Wikipedia listed the budget at $250,000, but I’m curious to how much was in getting the rights and footage to the old film instead of what made it into the sequel. Whatever the case, the results of what did make it into the film indicate a full budget would have still produced a suckfest…albeit a funny suckfest.

I don’t know what was up with the “teenage” actor portraying Ricky. He looks absolutely nothing like Freeman, and so his casting seems ludicrous. It just falls in line with the glorious ineptitude of the whole thing. Encountering a thug attempting to rape his girl, correlating this current act with the Santa killer that murdered and assaulted his mother, Ricky runs him over with a jeep multiple times. The color red (established when Ricky, as a child, goes psychologically cataleptic at the sight of a red fabric), as it showed up in that murder sequence with the jeep (it was red) is illustrated as the catalyst in Ricky's unleashed psychopathy.

Everything Ricky says is through this crude tone and snide delivery. Freeman makes Ricky a prick, plain and simple. Even when the film tries (and fails miserably) to earn Ricky sympathy, Freeman couldn’t sell it. He didn’t have it in him.

The back and forth of the doc and Ricky for such a long time (the footage and additional flashback footage filmed especially for the sequel) kind of places the film in a claustrophobic cage, only opened at the very end when Ricky goes after Mother Superior.

The “What?!?!” response from Ricky to his girlfriend in the theater is priceless. Not quite as funny to me as the “Uh oh” Kaitan moment, but close. Oh, the jumper cables at high voltage…yuk, yuk. In his shades no less. I like how the shades explode and this even surprises Ricky. I had forgotten until this viewing that Kaitan even gulps prior to getting strangled with a car antenna.  While strangling her, Freeman is even cross-eyed. Then the “Garbage day” suburban day massacre commences. As Ricky snickers, all he would need is a Fu Manchu mustache to twirl. This is the moment where the film finally goes off the rails and becomes that train wreck you can’t take your eyes off of.

The problem with allowing Ricky to get revenge on Mother Superior is that the casting of the role is with a different actress. Jean Miller isn’t Lilyan Chauvin. You can put her in a wheelchair and have skin leprosy, but if it isn’t Chauvin, that emotional impact of seeing a hatchet show taken out on her won’t exist. It returns to the first film in that regard, also. Chauvin is allowed to look down on Billy, hold her head high, and maintain her superiority. So Mother Superior has Ricky, in Santa costume and ax in hand (what else, right?), pursuing her, in an apartment (far removed from power in the orphanage). The police and a Sister show up in the film for like five minutes and the result is Ricky (supposedly, although the ending is open, of course; what did you expect, right?) gunned down.

Once the film is over, every year, I move on and the sequel eventually fades until the Yuletide season once again emerges. This has a solid fanbase and all the right wrong reasons continue to allow it to remain with a pulse.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Deck the Halls

Black Christmas (1974)
I get up for Black Christmas every year in December. Like Carpenter’s Halloween in October, Black Christmas is a film that makes for essential viewing for this horror fan. I’m a little uneasy with using “slasher” to describe Black Christmas. I think this is built as a disturbing black comedy/suspense film, not a slasher flick with a psychopath using a knife and hunting victims. Sure the killer in the attic has a deep-seeded trauma resulting from childhood experiences in the house now serving as a sorority for Canadian college girls. Yes, the killer moves from the attic and into the house to pick off the sorority girls. But this isn’t a gorefest. It doesn’t feature one-dimensional girls getting naked, dumb as a stump, and servicing the film as slaughter fodder. POV is certainly a staple in the slasher genre, but it is innovatively used in Black Christmas (much like it would be in Halloween four years later), particularly at the beginning. Spying on the girls from outside their window, climbing up the trellis, and finding a final resting spot in the attic (feeling at home, too), Billy has the advantage of an unknowing habitation so he can sneak about without detection. It’s downright scary to me to not know that a really disturbed individual has taken refuge in the attic, undetected, and toying with those living under the roof of his former home. On occasion, Billy (with a large house and staircase) can seize upon the girls who aren’t prepared for him. Right in their own house Billy calls them on the phone and pranks them, his childhood trauma unfiltered and openly unleashed to them in word, with a vocal madness and outrage spewed out in all its ugliness and unpleasantness.

Tonight, I really enjoyed the use of Keir Dullea as the “high strung artist”, college pianist, Peter. He just had a good look to him as a red herring. I like this one scene where he just gets pissed off at Jess (Olivia Hussey) for wanting to abort their unborn child. Further add that she really is obviously showing signs that she’s done with him. She lays on him (right before his recital for these stuffy critics) that she’s pregnant, and so he must play for his future (he has spent three days without sleep practicing) with that albatross. He’s a bipolar mess; a wreck at times, while other times he seems rather calm, cool, and collected. I like how he seems perfect for the kind of mad killer in their midst yet, and that final scene with him breaking into the basement while Jess hides to the best of her ability was good stuff. All the “stranger in your house” really works up to its apex at the end as “Billy” runs after Jess and she barricades herself in the basement. It follows into the moment with Peter finding her in the basement. About as masterclass in regards of direction that I can possibly think of; the way Clark builds upon our knowledge that Billy is in (or near) the house during Christmastime and how Peter seems unstable (the destruction of the piano in the conservatory (just your garden variety temper tantrum, but seeing him do so mirrors Billy’s coming unglued in the attic after the murder of the denmother)) are similar enough to keep viewers guessing (particularly in the early to mid 70s before all of this became so ordinary).

I love the fact that each individual viewing all the way since the early 2000s have felt like rewards. I love leaving the film just as unsettled by the ending as the first viewing. It bugs me to a certain degree, but I like that we’re left feeling like Billy has all the power and could finish what he started with the sorority sisters available to him. It bugs me because I feel someone like John Saxon’s detective wouldn’t leave this fresh crime scene (and Jess) alone like that so soon after all the shit goes down. I just feel he would be all over that house, investigating every room until it was covered with fine-tooth comb. That said, that final pan through the house and away from the inside of the attic leaves such a feeling of unease that the possible flaw in logic from the standpoint of the house being unattended (except for the guard outside the house) is worth it. And the phone ringing with no answer has that lack of closure to the story that I find especially disconcerting.

The shots of distance in the house, from the staircase to the girl (s) downstairs in the living room, creating this space that allows us to visualize how much room the killer has available to him I certainly find effective. He can go back and forth from the attic to the house because of this. The element of surprise afforded to him is substantial because of the space within the house. The trellis climb at the beginning lets us know of a different avenue of escape and entrance, also has us taking part in a sense because we are looking through his eyes. We are always aware of his presence; all the while, the others have no clue…until Billy acts out, that is. The use of a camera in ways that weren’t so familiar and a minimalist score that chills the bones because it isn’t overbearing; there’s no surprise I just fall under the grip of the film all over again, annually.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Black X-Mas (2006)

I admittedly gave the remake of Black Christmas a lot of attention in 2012 on the blog. It has kind of grown on me over the years, although I still find it a bit far-fetched regarding how Billy gets out of the institution, and the depraved back story is a more than a little skin-crawling.

I’d like to bury the hatchet with my sister…right in her head.

Look they put Billy in the cell so the screenplay had to get him out, so why not have the prison guard just open up the door, walk in without back up, and get a candy cane broken off right in his throat. If the idiot is willing to walk into the lion’s den without a game plan, then he’s deserved of his fate.

Right out of the chute, a chick gets a pen stabbed in her eye after the bag is stuffed over her head. Not long after, another girl goes into the attic and has the bag suffocating her before Agnes jerks out her eye. Yikes. Then even Santa, visiting the asylum for Lord knows why, is bled like a stuck pig, and so Billy will join Agnes, his sister/daughter (again, the incest back story that is created in detail much to many of our disapproval).

I’m not going on a rant. Just not. The film hands us a bill of goods regarding how Billy and Agnes come to be. The horrible mother who killed Billy’s father and used her son to give her a child. It’s disgusting and further provides us with the chilling murder of the mother and how he used her body for meat cookies. Yes, meat cookies. Tastes like chicken.

You get a lot of eye candy. They loaded the cast with attractive women. Give the film that candy colored visual style of the holiday season to accompany the cast and the movie benefits from that..to a point.

The use of all things Christmas to kill is on display. Snow globe, ice sickle, and candy cane. Even a ski shoe blade does the damage.

Fucking. Fucking. Fucking. You get a lot of it in the dialogue. If you want to see “spoiled bitches” die, here’s to a festive viewing experience. When they aren’t swearing or arguing, or bitching and pissing each other off, there’s green, red, and yellow lighting and upward camera angles shooting low from the ground.

We get a lot of syrupy blood and blood splatter, so you should be satiated. That and I enjoyed how the weather conditions leave the girls in a bad place, without much of a chance to just escape (“Just get out!” isn’t so easy to scream at the screen when there’s a storm a brewing). We watch as the girls split up instead of staying together and when this happens they die quick-like. Before you know it, two are left. It happens rather like dominoes falling.

This isn’t a full on review, but I have to say that not having to focus so much of my energies on putting together an essay on this film made it a bit more easy to digest. This isn’t any great shakes. It has graphic violence and bloodletting, bad taste and repulsive scenes galore (eyeball eating anyone?), including the obligatory “gather the “family” of victims together” scene (around the Christmas tree, no less). For whatever reason, this film seem to go by rather quickly; I chalk it up to the mood I was in and less extreme focus on the film itself. This has been one of those Saturday movies in December over the past few years, but I wanted to scratch another Christmas horror off the list early because I have plans for the Silent Night, Deadly Night films while on an upcoming couple days off during the middle of this week.
I decided to watch the version that doesn't feature the additional ending. The film does feel as if it is missing something, so perhaps Billy's inability to go away and attacking the two last girls in the hospital (even if overkill) was necessary. That's up to the audience, I guess.

Don't Open Till Christmas

Well, from the immediate heavy breathing, I figure aware slasher fans will know what they are in for. Some bloke in a Santa costume meets up with his honey and looking on from behind them in POV is a killer. The couple goes to their car to make out in the back seat while that typical grinding Casio score builds the killer’s gradual approach towards their location in some back alley. The windows are fogging as the heavy breathing builds volcanically and I couldn’t help but return to The Breather in Student Bodies. The guy sees the breather, tells him to shove off, while his honey, obviously horny, just reinforces her passion and convinces him not to concern himself with the on-looking creep. Not listening to her, instead getting out and confronting this peeping tom; he’s immediately stabbed as his girl shrieks. Basic set up we have seen so many times. The knife finally pokes a hole in the girl; cue the music.

Don’t Open Till Christmas is another of the seasonal horrors to feature Santa, except this time those dressed like Jolly Saint Nick meet the misfortune of the blade. Like Silent Night, Deadly Night, Open is sleazier, trashier, and far more willing to offend than those compared to it. You get a randy side of Britain here, where the opening after the credits shows a party of olders and youngers alike shaking their groove thang. I figure the hip GQ crowd of today (those that wind up in perfume / cologne commercials) would consider this bunch, shucking and jiving, a bit square. During this party, the boss of those in attendance is wearing the Santa costume and as he is about to give some presents receives a spear in the head with the tip of the blade protruding out his mouth. This establishes that something about the Ho-Ho-Ho turns someone homicidal. Is there a motive besides people just wearing the outfit?

Edmond Purdom (director for some of the film) is the head of the New Scotland Yard, enduring the hardships of his lofty position with lead-page news of the Santa killings. The demands of the job to catch this killer obviously weigh on him, and with shit rolling down hill, his investigators feel the pressure as well. This is an exhausting experience for all involved. The killer wears one of those creepy “see through” masks and a raincoat (we see him taking a hobo Santa, near one of those poverty row fires to keep warm while taking hits from a cigarette, and pushing his face into the flames! Yikes!), while in his first kill-scene (using the spear) he was dressed as the Grim Reaper during a costume party. So dress-up is what this guy’s all about.

I’ll say one thing: the score is more than a little intrusive. Sometimes, the score is downright rude. I am actually—and this might be hard to believe—trying to listen to the dialogue so I could in some way follow the characters, and try to give a crap. But the score makes that difficult. Why would there be a serious need of a John Carpenter-type score heavily roaring as backdrop for a telephone conversation between a reporter (Giles) and an inspector (Powell) over the Santa killings? Then another scene has a musician (the boyfriend of the daughter of the killed business executive) arguing with a bewildered photographer friend (he keeps reminding the daughter of her father’s murder inadvertently) over the use of a Santa coat in a proposed nude photo shoot that also featured a score showing up and screaming to us, “Hello!!!” Sometimes less is more. Or maybe just “not as loud” is good enough?

There is one particularly interesting scene. Oh, it’s sleazy. But it actually comments on how the killer targets his Santas. A nude model flees into a London alley after getting locked out of her photographer’s studio as police approached. She is naked wearing only a Santa robe, encountering the serial killer. He is wearing the mask but his eyes bulge, his smile is lascivious, and his strait-razor ogles her naked flesh gradually. But he doesn’t slash her throat. That is a surprise considering I believe most (including me) would expect the killer to bleed her viciously. Maybe even peel her like an onion. But instead he moves back, while still admiring her body, until he leaves. She is spared. It is that moment that is unexpected that makes it intriguing.

There is a protracted stalk-and-kill scene involving a Santa on a bike (!!!) riding away from punk hoodlums who follow him to a bridge. Santa ditches the bike and the hoods take off with it (???), while he ends up in this dungeon museum (really a cool macabre museum historically detailing methods of torture to unfortunate souls, and not exactly the place I would prefer to visit late into the night while a killer is known to be out and about). It ends predictably, with Santa biting the dust, but the location is really atmospheric. This is my pick for best sequence in the film. It has the weird (punks and Santa giving them The Finger while on a bike, peddling away), the dark (all alone, the black of night, getting away from danger…or so he thinks), the foreboding (the wicked dungeon museum is the last place one would wish to wind up while trying to keep alive and safe), and the killer in the midst (with his pick of prop weapons to use to stab his victim).

Understanding this film’s infamous production history (the different directors attached, footage of multiple sourced edited into the final film), it is hard to tell where Purdom’s film ends and others’ begin. It isn’t difficult to realize just why Don’t Open Till Christmas is considered such an abomination (although, I didn’t consider it all that totally awful). It was neat to see so much of London used, including the not-so-flattering areas. Giving us the ugly side, the seedy elements, of London mirrors the darkness of the killer among the streets. We don't get jolly Saint Nicks, but dark souls often inhabiting the role of Santa. Or at least people in unfortunate (or simply wearing the costume at the wrong time) places in their lives during Christmas '82 (I read the film took two years to complete, which is why I didn't use year '84). Whether it is the lifelong Mama's boy who visits a peep show after department store labor in the Santa role, or a drunk stumbling about in a stupor wearing the big red suit and puffy white beard, these guys have giant bullseyes and are too lost to realize it.

Of course, eventually you have a character just too stupid to live. She has witnessed a murder on the other side of the glass from her booth during a peep show she works. She is interviewed by Powell, is told she will be getting a police escort and protection for 24 hours, and yet just can’t wait for him. She needs to go to work. 53 minutes in and finally a killer is revealed. It won’t be of any sort of surprise really. He was suspicious all along. She is behind the glass, in her booth, and the killer chats just a bit before he puts himself right through the glass (implausible, much?) grabbing for her. Hence, the chase. It reminded me of the chase in The Burning, except this time on the streets of London. Of course, the idiot gets a distance from her pursuer, decides to stop and catch her breath, and with that hesitation allows him to get around on the other corner to capture her!

Alan Lake has a significant part in this film as the “reporter” who turns out to be the killer. He has a great look about him. The eyes and this voice that can offer menace quite effectively. I read that he died from a gunshot wound via suicide. This would be his final film. Knowing this kind of poopers the mood a bit because, like George Sanders in Psychomania, just understanding that they would not be living much longer due to an illness certain to kill them, resulting in the decision of suicide after their films, there’s a sense of doom the pervasively looms over them while we watch, I think.

There’s this scene set in Piccadilly Theater where Caroline Munro gets to lip sync someone’s else’s song with fog and tight dress hugging her body’s curves as another drunk Santa is about to get a scythe to the face. She gets to move her body all sultry-like, with the eventual trap door on the stage revealing the dead Santa much to Munro’s horror. This is just a way to get Munro on the film, but I like the inclusion of London locations in the film, providing an authentic backdrop (you get lots of shots of the New Scotland Yard sign turning) for all the violence. Literally, a killer is shown using London as a hunting ground with any number of victims at his disposal.

I’ll be honest: this film just gets dreadful down the stretch. As each minute passes, I gave up on this movie. Giles (Lake) seems to just waltz right into the apartment of Kate Briosky (Belinda Mayne), right behind her as she turns to find him standing there. Kate had suspected that Giles’ brother, Inspector Harris (Purdom) was the Santa killer. Harris is fired (suspended) from his job because the bodies were piling up in the city. Somehow, Giles escaped even though Harris supposedly went to visit him in the hospital. If Giles is on the streets how could Harris visit him? Kate had called his home and he had gone to the hospital to visit Giles. Giles is found in Powell’s (Mark Jones) office just going through his desk, yet nothing is done about it. In fact, Giles tells Powell to suspect Harris, and Powell considers it (even having cops follow Harris!). Even tough Kate’s lover, Cliff (Gerry Sundquist), is cleared as a suspect (he should have never been a suspect considering he was standing next to Kate when he father was speared), there’s the persistence in focusing on his tensions with Harris over the investigation. A forced love triangle subplot is half-assed and rather obtrusive because it sort of comes and goes with little true refinement. Then the peepshow booth girl (Kelly Baker) becomes a final girl because the screenplay decides to seemingly ditch Kate as that character. Kate unwisely talks truth to Giles, pretty much telling “crazy eyes” that she plans to call Harris and inform him of how his brother is in her apartment (she tells Giles she knows he is Harris’ brother). Booth girl is chained and kept alive in Giles’ apartment for no reason other than he all of a sudden grants a reprieve out of benevolence thanks to its being Christmas. She uses a block of wood on him when he unchains her, and when she can’t get out of the locked door, booth girl asks Giles for the key! Haha. Oh, she flees up stairs in a building as he follows calmly. She is huffing and puffing while Giles is perfectly breathing without a hint of exhaustion. We way up the stairs (we’re talking flights), when booth girl sends him taking a long trip down. Yet as she walks down the stairs, having to approach him, not only does he look perfectly fine, he grabs her throat and appears to have not a single scratch on him! This is all just absurd. But to cap it off, we get a flashback where Giles, as a child, remembers back to when he was given presents at Christmas, finding Santa humping a babe in a room in their home. The Santa (his father maybe?) slaps Giles’ mama down a stairwell, with the youngster locked in a menacing stare, a blade in hand. That’s it. This is what started it all. Gag me with a spoon. In this regard, the film does sort of mirror Christmas Evil…almost. The film concludes with a What the Fuck? moment consisting of Harris opening a present from Giles that holds a music box as Santa spins around. It blows up and Purdom’s Harris is sent backwards by the shockwave. End credits.

The film has a shitload of Santa killings. That alone will garner this film some rub. It has a load of dumb character acts and questionable decision-making. Munro shows up merely because she has some fame in Britain. You get shot-on-location London as a backdrop for a slasher film so that is perhaps also in its favor (it made a difference for me). Giles has great devotion to carving Santas, seeming to wait in hidden rooms, dark alleys in the shadows, and just out of sight (a good deal of them happen at night and quickly before the victims have much of a chance to protect themselves) until the right time to strike. Castration, mutilation, impaling, and stabbing; Giles is willing to use whatever weapons/methods necessary to just obliterate and destroy Santas that remind him of a childhood trauma. So it returns to the shock factor and that is enough for some people. Logic flaws and idiotic characters are often part of the entertainment value so because Don’t Open Till Christmas has these, the problems could actually work in the film’s favor. Purdom becomes associated with another bad boy (he was also involved in the beloved slasher turkey, Pieces), even though his relationship with the film is troubled and tumultuous. I think you can tell in the finished product that the film had suffered from production problems.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Don't Open Till Christmas (1984)
You ever watch a movie and the whole entirety of a scene becomes this blur due to an object of some sort that catches your eye and won't deviate from your attention? The daughter of a murdered business executive keeping up with the Santa killing cases has this tree on her table. Its this half-assed tree that looks plucked from the ground before it had a chance to form into something the least bit impressive. Just throw some d├ęcor on it and plop that bad boy on your coffee table. Its a train wreck much like this movie...couldn't resist.
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

Something never quite crossed my mind and into when I write about Silent Night, Deadly Night, until I was responding to a thread comparing it to Christmas Evil, in regards to why the former seemed so much more popular and discussed than the latter. This thought had nothing to do with the films in the same discussion but about the end results of SNDN; of the muscled killer after his murderous rampage led to the orphanage where he was tormented by Mother Superior who failed to understand how damaged he was, he never achieved success, really. Mother Superior thought she knew what was best for the child. He needed sympathy and a paternal figure that could give him care and proper treatment. But she, in her infinite wisdom, thought hard, tough confrontation of the very thing that damaged him—Santa Claus (well, the dirtbag rapist/psycho who murdered his father/mother dressed as Santa)—was the right thing to do. Ill-advised and wrongheaded (she thought her way was the only way, despite objections from her “inferior”, a sister with affection for him) as Mother Superior was, the one punished was Billy. The thought was that, despite all the killing, Billy never truly exorcised his demon: Mother Superior. Sure, the genesis of the trauma—the human beast in Santa costume—was ultimately responsible for that horror that coursed through the veins of Billy’s tortured psyche, but Mother Superior encouraged the beast to reach from the depths and raise havoc. She had become condemned to a wheelchair, no longer even able to really use the blunt force of her personality and brute force of her Mother-knows-best attitude about raising children in her church’s orphanage, but as Billy, ax in hand, made his way towards her, he would not be allowed to avenge himself. Cut down before that ax could carve into her face, Billy laid at the foot of a wheelchair, Mother Superior able to hold onto her superiority and thumb her nose at this good-for-nothing kid she was ashamed of.




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