Lewis Jackson’s single directorial credit is a total triumph of Christmas horror and one of the most surprisingly accomplished features to grace the sub-genre. Not only does Christmas Evil manage to remind you what Christmas is all about, entertain, and look absolutely gorgeous, it successfully questions the real-world implications of a Santa Clause.
The idea of Santa is a bit of a mind-fuck, especially these days. An old guy flies to your house on one of the least majestic mammals possible, creeps down your chimney, eats your biscuits, leaves presents if you’ve been good, coal if you’ve been bad, and oh yeh, he’s watching all the time. Pft. The confusingly far-fetched Santa Clause, is essentially a lie too far for Brandon Maggart’s Harry Stadling, who decides to actualise Santa in himself to reward and punish the people of his town. Racing around keeping an eye on the neighbourhood’s kids, Maggart keeps an epic tomb-like record of the nice and naughty lists with an almost comic effect. As the film goes on (its first kill doesn’t happen til roughly 50 minutes) it makes solid attempts at exploring not just Christmas or Santa, but what they really mean to us.
Maggart’s is the most psychologically complex, likeable, despicable, and tormented of the evil Santas. His is a man broken down by the processes of his own deranged mind as well as the festive season itself. Festive fear comes from watching Maggart’s descent into madness because you’re never really sure where the film is going. Maggart could flip at any second and take the neighbourhood with him but he could also do the exact opposite. Harry Stadling is the most grounded and realistic horror Santa ever put to screen.
Christmas Evil is a weird but wonderful film. It’s basically Christmas exploitation but its camp and fun too: trashy, whimsical, grim, and gritty, it’s got heart and a black old soul. Perhaps that’s why cult auteur John waters thinks it’s the ultimate Christmas film. Even if not that, it’s definitely my favourite film of the Christmas countdown and the ultimate essay on the fetishisation of Christmas. Its also the only film from my 6 that delivers an ending of such surrealist Christmas wonder, it leaves you feeling suitably disturbed and properly festive.