Christmas

Wicked Wednesday: Elves (1989)

Oh my.

Oh my.

How does one begin to talk about Elves? This 1989 film is hands-down one of the most bewildering movies I have ever seen. “Bewildering” being one of the nicer adjectives one could use.

So let’s just jump straight into this one.

Teenage Kristen hates Christmas. She hates it enough that she gathers her two friends for an anti-Christmas pagan ritual. They gather in the woods to begin to ritual, but Kristen cuts her hand, and bleeds over the ground. The girls decide to pack it up and head home without doing the ritual. Unbeknown to them, a hand reaches out of the ground as a creature from below awakes.

In fairness to Kristen, anyone would hate Christmas with a family like hers. Her brother pervs on her when she’s in the shower. Her grandpa slaps her about. And her mother drowns Kristen’s cat! JUST BECAUSE! Not exactly the group of people who fill you with festive spirit.

Kristen’s wheelchair-bound Gramps is upset for her being in his room. When her mother finds out, she tells Kristen she’s taking away the money in her savings account. Poor Kristen works a crap job at a cafe in a department store. Despite not being able to keep anything but her tips, she keeps her job.

At the department store, former police officer Mike McGaven visits the store to ask for a job. Though he’s initially turned away, he eventually gets work as Santa after the original Mr. Claus is killed by the elf after he pervs on Kristen. In room where the former-Santa was staying, he finds a symbol on the floor and decides to investigate it.

You can’t stop a cop and he’s old habits, eh?

That night, the elf digs up Kristen’s dead cat and dances it in front of her window. Though it’s clearly trying to protect her, it’s got a sick sense of humour. Seeing an elf (which she keeps calling “troll”) is obviously upsetting to Kristen. Her grandfather becomes angry with her when he discovers her drawing of the Christmas virgin, or whatever.

Mike and Kristen become friendly with each other as Mike becomes a regular at her cafe. Mike, having been kicked out of his mobile home, begins to stay in his Santa room. Kristen plans a night with her two best friends and three boys to pal around the department store after hours.

But there are other plans being formed for Kristen. While she plans with her friends at the cafe, a man in a not-at-all subtle black coat listens in on them.

A group of Germans in similar black coats interrogate Kristen’s grandpa. They remind him that his granddaughter is key, and she will begin a new world order.

Then this fucking line drops.

“When there is no more room left in hell, the elves will walk the earth.”

….

Anyway, Mike’s research on the mysterious symbol eventually leads him to believe that the Nazis are somehow involved with the murder. While he’s out, the girls begin to prepare for their night in at the department store, and Kristen begins to contemplate whether or not she wants to lose her virginity that night. She wants it to be “special.”

When Mike, who has returned to his room at the department store, hears the girls giggling and slapping on blush, he tells them off. But Kristen, pointing out that he’s also there under shady circumstances, makes a deal with him and neither will rat out the other.

But the shady black-coat men break into the store after killing the girls’ boyfriends. The girls scatter in different directions. One girl is killed by the men in the elevator while the other is killed by the elf (again – no idea why).

Mike is able to protect Kristen using his ex-cop skills, and is able to get her to safety. Though she’s blamed for all the damage to the shop and Mike gets into trouble with the police. But that’s not nearly the amount of trouble Kristen gets into with her mom.

At Kristen’s house, Mike tries to defuse the argument happening in the family. But while talking down Gramps, he notices the murder-scene symbol carved into the hardwood floor. Mike leaves the house to continue his search, certain that the symbol has something to do with why Kristen was being targeted.

He goes to two professors for some help, and boy. Here is gets fun.

The first professor says that the symbol is the symbol of the elves. When Noah took two of each animal in his ark, he also took the creeping creatures: elves! And apparently the Nazis news his story and believed.

The second professor shares two different theories with Mike. The first is that the Nazi’s experimented with elves to form assassination teams. The second, wait for, was that elves were used in genetic experiments by the Nazis. Their sperm housed the master-race genes. Since elves were immortal, this was an ideal way to protect their Aryan ideals. The elves must consummate with a virgin on Christmas Eve because plot.

Kristen is told by her grandfather to pack, but her mother catches her. She reveals to Kristen that Gramps is not only Kristen’s grandfather – but her real father!

When she confronts Gramps, he admits that he indeed drugged his daughter and when he rapped her, she was at least unconscious. Because, sure that makes it better. Kristen’s grandpa explains that it needed to happen in order to create Kristen: the perfect Aryan specimen.

Then things get a bit worse/better: Mike manages to escape from his car that is loaded with dynamite, and Kristen’s mom is killed when the elf electrocutes her in the bathtub!

Mike arrives at Kristen’s house to protect her from the Nazis (yes), and Gramps tells Kristen that she knows how to defeat the elf because her dreams already told her stuff…or something. He also drops this little nugget: if the elf impregnates Kristen, she will give birth to the anti-Christ.

Obviously this man doesn’t believe in the woman’s right to choose.

The Nazi’s arrive and kill Gramps. Despite Mike’s best attempts to find them off, he’s shot as well. But Kristen manages to escape with her brother Willy into the woods.

Kristen injures her ankle when she becomes stuck in the elf’s hole (ew), and she can’t run away. The elf eventually corners her. Willy runs off and collects a red gem from Gramp’s study. He brings it back to Kristen, and she uses it to kill the elf.

While everything seems peaceful, the credits begin to roll over footage of a fetus, whose heart is beating. Presumably inside Kristen’s womb. Meaning the elf managed to rape her after all.

So the Nazis win! Merry Christmas! At least Kristen said she wanted to lose her virginity to someone special. Doesn’t get any more special than an elf, right? Eh?

This movie is so wonderfully strange. It’s so horrifying (elf rape!), and straight-up nonsense, but it is truly a spectacle to behold. It has some great lines: “Are we going to be alright?” “No, Willy, Gramps is a Nazi.” And “Are you hurt? Good.” It’s certainly something I want to tell everyone about, even if it’s a bit shit. But it’s shit in a special way.

I have to admit, I don’t understand 90% of this film’s mumbo jumbo, but it certainly makes me laugh.

Elves has not had a DVD release yet, but hey, we can only hope.

And from American of London, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! May it be Nazi-free!

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Riverdale Ep. 22 “Chapter Twenty-Two: Silent Night, Deadly Night”

If I had a Riverdale Christmas wishlist it would include:

  • More Alice Cooper (more parental drama overall, please).
  • Betty/Archie/Jughead/Veronica to sort their shit out. I’m so bored with the off-and-on again relationships.
  • The return of Molly Ringwald.
  • Jughead to remember that he’s a “weirdo” not a feisty gang member.
  • And a better fucking ending than we just got in episode 22.

So. This was a bit of a mixed-bag here for a mid-season finale. Apparently it’s Christmas, which means Riverdale officially has the most confusing seasons. Didn’t Archie save Cheryl from a frozen river a few weeks ago? Why isn’t there any snow on the ground in December?

Anyway, Christmas means lots of gifts and Secret Santa. It also means no one has any money.

The Blossoms are broke. And the Andrews are definitely screwed. Thanks to terrible health coverage in America, Fred receives a bill for $86,000 from the hospital. He and Archie try selling Christmas trees just to make more money, but it’s obvious that that whopper of a medical bill will make things a little more than tight this season.

But Archie has other things to worry about, namely his ex-girlfriend. Yes the two pairs are still calling it quits despite having the dumbest reasonings ever. Jughead still wants to “protect” Betty (though it’s plenty clear that every girl in Riverdale can protect themselves) by pushing her away. And well, Veronica just wants to “be there” for Archie. Of course they all still exchange gifts they got for each other before they broke up.

At Kevin’s Secret Santa exchange, things get more awkward. Veronica gets a couples message (for $20 – sure), and Betty gets a really cute gift from Archie that makes both Veronica and Jughead sweat.

Though don’t let that Christmas spirit fool you, because there’s still a serial killer on the loose! Betty and Archie both realise that Mr Svenson (aka Joseph Conway) is gone, and has been replaced by a temporary janitor. When B&A inquire about Svenson’s whereabouts, they’re told that he usually takes this time of the year off, considering he has no family.

You know, despite the fact that he was adopted and would have a family that way. But adopted families don’t count.

The two go to Mr Svenson’s house, and he doesn’t answer. All they find is a bowl of chicken soup left by the school secretary days before. Instead of calling the police about their concern, the kids just go away.

When Betty gets home that night, Alice tells her that Betty has received a Secret Santa gift, and it’s waiting in her room. But it’s something that probably wasn’t on Betty’s wishlist: Mr Sevnson’s finger.

Jughead continues this now-tedious storyline of him and his “payment” to Penny Peabody (anyone else get her and Sweet Pea confused?). FP has shouldered the blame for it in order to protect Jughead. But since Jughead has since long ditched his copy of Perks of Being a Wallflower, he’s full-on snake now.

He keeps trying to get FP to stop the drug deliveries, but FP is determined to keep the peace with Penny. After FP’s parole office stops by, Jughead realises that he needs to take matters into his own hands. To protect his dad or whatever. Obviously no one thinks any adult can handle themselves in this stupid town.

Jughead eventually rallies the young Serpents and asks them to join him in getting rid of Penny. They eventually kidnap her and take her to Greendale where they cut off her Southside Serpent tattoo. Well, if we can have Dark Betty, I guess we also get Sadistic Jughead. GREAT!

Living the free and single life, Veronica has nothing better to do than dig up dirt on her parents. She asks them for help paying Fred’s medical bills, but they insist they can’t, and don’t want to. So when you don’t get what you want, just dig through your father’s files!

Veronica learns that her parents did buy Pop’s after all, despite lying to her about their “charitable donation” earlier. In revenge, she calls the hospital and pays of Fred’s bills with her mom’s black American Excess card. When she confronts her parents, they finally tell her to grow up (kind of), and that she needs to be all in or get over it.

So Veronica finally learns the truth about Lodge Industries. Shame is, we don’t. Which really kills any interest I had in this story line.

Speaking of killing! Archie and Betty decide to go to Sisters of Quiet Mercy, where Mr Svenson lived after his family was killed. They learn that as a boy, he pointed out the wrong man who committed murder of his family. The group of people who killed the man came in only once, and all the Sister can remember is that one of the women had white hair with a red streak.

Nana Rose Blossom.

When B&A go to speak to Nana Rose, she tells them that the man wasn’t hung, but rather buried at the foot at a tree called the Devil’s hand. Oh and the man wasn’t hung – he was buried alive. Also, Betty’s grandfather was involved.

Betty becomes upset about her grandfather’s involvement, and Archie does his best to rally her. She takes this as her moment to make a move on Archie, which doesn’t seem to be either a good or bad thing. It just happens.

The two then go to the Cooper’s house where all of Betty’s grandfather’s photos are. They eventually find one of her grandfather in front of a tree, with small mound in front of them (and somehow no one has noticed that this was weird before, huh?).

They realise that the tree is the one in Pickens Park. When they arrive, they find a head stone with Conway’s name on it. They begin to dig and eventually find a coffin, only to discover no one is inside.

Then the Black Hood arrives. He holds the kids up at gunpoint, and demands that Archie get into the coffin. Archie complies, but then Betty is ordered to close the cover and start to bury Archie herself.

In the nick of time, the police arrive, successfully distracting the Black Hood long enough that Betty can hit him with the shovel. She gets Archie out, but the BH is already running away. Thankfully, the fool has dropped the gun. Archie and Betty corner the Black Hood at a bridge, that the Black Hood is about to jump off of.

Before Archie can shoot the Black Hood, Sheriff Keller does. With the Black Hood dead, Betty removes the hood, and learns that all along, the Black Hood was Mr Svenson.

Yes fucking really.

Later, then the gang is all together talking about the events, they all seem to easily believe that Mr Svenson was completely capable of being the Black Hood despite only being a character for about three episodes.

If there is one thing I have learned from reading a lot of mystery novels it’s this: never, EVER choose a small side character as your culprit – especially if they show up late in the book.

Well, you know, janitors! They’re everywhere! They see everything! He was repenting for his own sins! That totally explains away the green eyes, the Nancy Drew reference, AND EVERY OTHER CLUE GIVEN TO US ALL SEASON.

God.

There’s some shit after this about exchanging gifts, but I could care less. Veronica and Archie are together again after Veronica realises she’s jealous of Betty actually loves Archies.

Betty then burns her evidence from the case, but not her own black hood because she’s dark. Ooooh. You know what they say, “When one because a stripper, it’s a slippery path to becoming a serial killer.”

Ugh.

Cheryl has a really weird subplot this episode. But she was nuts and that’s how we like her best. She goes on a Christmas rampage, buying a tree without her mother’s permission. She then tells her mother that Mrs Blossom needs a job, probably from the Lodges by 2018. Then she catches her mom with the Christmas tree salesman. Because of course.

So the Black Hood is Mr Svenson? Well, I hardly believe it. Or maybe I just don’t want to believe it. The first season absolutely stuck the landing with the reveal of Jason’s demise, and I have complete confidence that the writers would be able to do the same thing with the Black Hood.

My theory is, is that the Black Hood has been making Mr Svenson be his puppet. We’ve never seen the BH not in total control. Why would he drop his guard now? Wouldn’t he even consider that Betty and/or Archie would have called the police?

Either way, this mystery definitely isn’t over. Whether Svenson was the Black Hood or not, there’s clearly a bigger problem on the horizon: the Riverdale Reaper.

I for one am looking forward to a break from Riverdale. The show will return in the third week of January (the 17th in the US, the 18th internationally on Netflix).

Wicked Wednesday: To All a Goodnight (1980)

Why is it that sorority slashers (or in this case “finishing school” slasher) try their best to be as indistinguishable as possible? A rare few set themselves apart, and yet these movies keep trying to do the same thing. Sure they’ll throw a twist on it, but the twist is inevitably always about someone who was killed years ago and their parents are getting revenge.

Is this because the term “house mother” exists? Either way, To All a Good Night is about as standard as it gets when it comes to slasher films. Only this one has a killer in a Santa Claus outfit and mask.

It’s Christmas holidays at the Calvin Finishing School for Girls where students are going home for the holidays. Five girls, though, stick around for a few days more.

During their dinner, their house mother Mrs Jensen tells them that the school president has left and won’t be back for a few days. The news comes to a delight to most of the girls, as a group of boys will be arriving by plane that night.

One girl, Nancy, is a little less enthused. She’s dateless and a hopeless virgin, but at least that cements her right to be Final Girl. She has the school gardener Ralph following her around and warning all the girls about the impending evil.

Unbeknownst to the girl, another student is at the school. While her boyfriend waits outside for her, he’s stabbed by an unseen figure. The girl is also killed when she leaves the school.

Two years prior to the events, a girl died after falling off a school balcony. What was essentially a prank gone wrong, has clearly left someone with the desire to get even.

And they probably deserve it. The girls decide to drug Mrs Jensen so she falls soundly asleep throughout the entire night. Nancy is tasked with the job because she’s easily the most believably nice.

With their house mother out of the way, the girls go to pick up the boys. These four boys are about as irritating as you’d expect. None of them are good-looking, but act like they’re each a special gift from Our Lord. One of the boys, Blake, plays guitar and attempts to sing. Again, about as bad as you’d expect.

The couples begin pairing off, leaving Nancy behind. But at least we have the comfort that she survives. Plus she gets to sit around, chill and drink milk while the others are getting killed by an evil Santa. Though she does have to deal with creepy Ralph following her around again, warning her about evil.

So some kids get their throats slit, while one girl gets her head chopped off when the killer is in a suit of armour! Two ladies and two boys are now out for the count after night one. That leaves the score at: 2 creepy school workers, 3 ladies, 2 boys.

In the morning, the remaining kids begin to wonder what happened to their friends. They tell Mrs Jensen that the boys’ plane has broken down, and they can’t leave until it’s fixed. Meanwhile, Santa buries the corpses of their friends. ‘Tis the season, eh?

Two of the kids, Melody and the “dorky” Alex, run off into the woods together. When Nancy decides to wander into the woods as well, she’s scared by Alex when he leaps out at her. While running away, Nancy stumbles upon Ralph’s corpse in a field.

After the discovery of Ralph’s body, the police are called to the school. This causes the students to become more concerned about their missing friends’ whereabouts. Detective Polanksy tells everyone at the school that he will be keeping two of his policemen on campus to keep an eye out.

One of the policemen is killed off later that night. The other kids, meanwhile, shake-up the relationships a bit. Regular Nancy-tormentor Leia goes off with the not-dead-yet policeman while her boyfriend goes to fool around with Melody.

That leaves Nancy and Alex to search the school unnoticed.

After sleeping together, Leia decides to take a shower, where she discovers her friend’s head in the shower. The policeman is also stabbed before she can leave the room. Seemingly at the same time, Leia’s boyfriend is strangled while making out with Melody by a tree.

Melody finds Nancy and Alex, and explains what happens. When they find Leia, they discover that she’s incoherent, and is simply just dancing around.

While trying to escape the school, the three girls run into Santa, who is revealed to be Mrs Jensen (shock). She begins to attack Nancy, believing she was present when Mrs Jensen’s daughter was killed two years prior.

Melody tries to make her escape by going to the plane. Only when talking to the pilot does she discover that the plane really isn’t working. While looking at the engine, someone in a Santa suit turns on the plane’s propellers, beheading both Melody and the pilot.

Nancy, meanwhile, is trying to fend of Mrs Jensen as she’s stalked throughout the school. In a probably-meant-to-be-poetic moment, Mrs Jensen falls off the same balcony has her daughter did, meeting the same fate.

But before you can say “Merry Christmas,” Nancy is attacked by a second Santa, who is revealed to be the the detective. Apparently he’s the dad or something, there’s really only about half-a-line here to explain things. Before Nancy can be killed, Alex saves her by using a crossbow to end Polansky’s life.

Despite both killers clearly being dead, Nancy and Alex run away from the house, leaving a dancing Leia behind. Why? Who fucking knows. But at least it’s over.

To All a Goodnight shares a lot of similarities to other films, but doesn’t really compete with any of them. It is a sorority Christmas-set movie like Black Christmas, but doesn’t fill the screen with enough Christmas imagery to really work. It’s also like The House on Sorority Row (which this film predates), but it isn’t nearly as memorable or good-looking.

There are some things that are unintentionally funny. For example, 90% of the film is meant to take place at night, but much of the movie was clearly filmed during the day. But it’s not bad enough to be amusing or good enough to enjoy thoroughly. Just skip this one. Even if you don’t, you’ll probably forget that you’ve even watched it.

Wicked Wednesday: A Christmas Horror Story (2015)

In all honesty, Christmas horror movies are about as hit-or-miss as it can get. There are the 1974 Black Christmases of the bunch as icons of the genre, then there are the Silent Night, Deadly Night sequels (which rarely make the so-bad-it’s-good level of film making). Take your pick of the worst.

And somewhere in the middle lies this 2015 Canadian snoozer, A Christmas Horror Story. The film is done in the anthology style, though each story is told intermingled with each other instead of shown as separate segments. It’s heavy-handed, unoriginal, but at least has it’s moments of shining glory.

It’s Christmas Eve in the town of Bailey Downs where everyone is preparing for the holidays. Radio DJ Dangerous Dan (played by William Shatner) is covering the shift before Christmas, reminding everyone to head down to the shopping mall to partake in a holiday charity event.

The Virgin Mary

Three teens, Molly, Ben and Dylan, decide to do their school project together at a local prep school where two teenagers were murdered the year before. Together, they watch a video of the police footage of the officers looking at the crime scene. A boy and a girl were found in the basement, murdered, along with the Bible verse, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.”

They get keys to the school from Dylan’s girlfriend, Caprice, so that they can sneak into the school and get their own footage.

As they begin exploring the school, they discover that the principal is also in the school. The teens somehow think this makes the man guilty. Sure. No leap in logic there.

The teens head down into the basement, and Molly explains to the boys that it’s the area that used to be where they kept the unwed mothers that went to the convent. She shares a delightful tale about a young mother who had lost her baby years ago.

After the kids explore the room where the bodies were found, they try to leave and discover that the door back to the school is locked. They, again, believe it’s the principal.

But after waiting hours, the kids become cold and hungry. And Molly begins seeing ghosts.

After the ghost of a young girl appears to Molly, she faints. The boys, unable to help, just keep her next to some creep mannequins wearing nativity clothes.

Later, Molly awakes, and sees that Ben is a sleep. She asks Dylan to go into the room where the other kids were killed with her. She tries to come on to him, but he rejects her because of his girlfriend. She glowers at him as the crucifix on the wall begins to shake.

Ben is later woken by Molly, who tries to come on to him as well, only she’s much more successful with him. After they have sex, Molly wakes up from an apparent trance. She becomes frantic, as she wasn’t completely aware of what she was doing. It’s then that Ben realises that Dylan is missing.

The two begin to look for their friend, and find him murdered in the bedroom. As Ben panics, Molly realises that she’s meant to carry the baby of the ghost girl, who lost her baby. The other teens had been killed because they refused to have the girl’s baby. Ben looks on horrified, but is promptly killed by the ghost, who is now protecting Molly and the baby.

The door unlocks, and Molly is allowed to leave the school.

The Changeling

Police officer Scott and his wife Kim take their son to get a Christmas tree. Dad, being one of those law-breaking cops, goes into a private woods to chop down a tree. While heading back to the car, their son Will disappears.

They eventually find him inside a large hole in the tree. The parents take Will home (unbeknownst to them, being watched by an old man), and begin to notice that he’s behaving strangely. He’s aggressive towards Scott, and really likes pasta. He stabs his dad in the hand when Scott tells Will he’s had enough to eat.

That night, Scott tries to get intimate with Kim, but she tells him no. Angry, Scott goes into the living room and drinks while he looks on the evidence of his unsolved murder case of the two teens at the prep school. Kim, meanwhile, falls asleep and her son – or what ever it is – climbs into her bed and tries to feel her up.

He eventually falls sleep, and wakes up to see that someone got into the gifts, shattering the thing that Scott got Kim for Christmas. Assuming that it’s Will, Scott goes into his son’s room and begins to beat Will with his belt.

Kim sends Scott away, and comforts the clearly-not-Will. She receives a call from a man, who says that he owns the land that they took the tree from. He informs her that her son is not longer her son, but a Changeling. Unbelieving, she hangs up on him. She begins to research Changelings when she hears a strange sound. When she goes into the living room, she finds Scott tied up, missing a hand, and very much dead.

Kim calls the man back, who then explains that she must bring the Changeling back to the woods. And the Changeling can’t feel threatened, but when you’re trying to stuff your kid in a bag – it’s going to be threatening. She bashes the creature with a bat, and manages to get him into a bag and back to the woods.

At the woods, Kim meets the man on the phone. He explains to her that she probably won’t get her son back. He’s the Changelings’ caretaker and they won’t hurt them while he’s around. While brandishing a gun about, Kim accidentally shoots the man, killing him. But the Changeling goes back into the tree, and out comes Will, good as new.

Krampus

Caprice’s family are driving together to visit her father’s elderly, wealthy relative, Aunt Etta. When the family arrive, they receive a cold welcome from Etta and Gerhardt, Etta’s caretaker. Before the father goes away with Etta to discuss money, she tells them about the legend of Krampus as it is Krampusnacht. Caprice’s brother then decides stirs up trouble by breaking a Krampus figure.

Gerhardt immediately become upset, and Aunt Etta, upon hearing the ruckus, demands that the family leave. The family drive off, but get into an accident when something jumps in front of their car (they’re Canadians – you’d think they’d know not to break hard in the snow).

The family resort to walking through the woods, back towards Aunt Etta’s house. As night falls, and Krampusnacht begins, the father is attacked by something on a chain. The chain then wraps itself around the brother, dragging him away into the night.

Mom, Dad and Caprice manage to get themselves into a nearby chapel in the woods where they seek refuge. But it isn’t long before Ma and Pa get picked off as well by the beast, which is revealed to be the Krampus.

Caprice runs into the night, trying to escape the Krampus. When she gets to Aunt Etta, she finds that no one will let her in. The girl then decides to face the Krampus herself, and kills him off with a pipe through the neck. As the Krampus dies, she realises that it was actually Gerhardt.

After the death of the Krampus, Aunt Etta allows Caprice in and tells her about Gerhardt. She explains that anyone can become the Krampus if there is anger in their hearts. Then Caprice realises that her Great-Aunt had planned for the family to get murderd by the Krampus all along. She then begins to take on the Krampus form herself.

Santa and his Christmas Elves

At the North Pole, Santa and his elves are preparing for Christmas deliveries when the elves start to become infected by a virus and become zombies. It’s up to Santa to killed them all off for good. He eventually kills Mrs Claus. That’s about it.

But as Santa is about to hitch up his sleigh to leave for the night, he hears someone arrive. The new arrival is the Krampus, who engages in battle with Santa. This is meant to be epic, I guess, but is incredibly cringe-y. Before Santa can kill Krampus, the beast turns into a man who is begging for his life.

It’s then revealed  that Santa is in fact DJ Dangerous Dan’s weatherman, who hasn’t been heard from all night during the massacre in the shopping mall. The man had imagined himself as Santa, needing to kill off all the elves – or rather, the mall employees and shoppers.

Before the weatherman can get away, he is shot by the police and everyone probably has a nice Christmas.

Let’s be honest. I haven’t been this irritated by a movie in a long time. But I feel like I’m in the minority with this one, as it has actually received average ratings. Admittedly, this is a style of contemporary horror that really doesn’t work for me. Nothing is stylish, it isn’t nuanced. It’s ugly as hell. The death and gore is boring and derivative.

And yet, a lot of people here are people I like. Julian Richings and Zoé De Grand Maison both of Orphan Black fame are here. Ginger Snaps producer Steve Hoban was on board. Freaking William Shatner is here!

But all that talent is wasted on a basic, uninspiring, muddled mess of stores. Since the stories are interwoven, the tonal shifts don’t work. The Santa story could have been a hilarious horror comedy if I wasn’t meant to take the scenes around it seriously.

Blame it on my Scrooge-like demeanor this week, but this movie really didn’t work for me.

Wicked Wednesday: Tales from the Darkside “Seasons of Belief” (1986)

It’s the wrong side of Thanksgiving, which means it’s officially the Christmas season. Internally, I’m screaming. I’m counting down the days until it’s Halloween again. But we all have to at least give it a shot, right?

Christmas horror is good. That’s, at least, something to be grateful for. Especially when it’s from Tales from the Darkside.

This season 3 episode is a wonderfully twisted tale called “Seasons of Belief.” On Christmas Eve, a family settle in together after dinner. The daughter, Stefa, is a bit of a brat – demanding to watch television specials. But her parents insist that the kids celebrate traditionally.

Though the parents are shocked when they learn that their two young children don’t believe in Santa Claus. The parents tell their children that if they don’t believe in Santa, their gifts will all be broken within the month. When they head into the living room, the toy train under the tree jumps the tracks and breaks.

The parents allow their children to open one present each before settling down for a quiet, relaxing time. But eventually the children get bored and beg their parents for a story – a good story.

The story from Mom and Dad, though, isn’t about Sugar Plum Fairies. Dad begins his story by telling his children that the creature in his tale is the most dangerous in the world. Instead of saying the name out loud, he writes it on a pad of paper and shows it to the kids.

On the paper is the name “The Grither,” which Stefa and her older brother Jimbo read aloud immediately. It’s only then that their father tells them not to say the creature’s name. He tells them that the Grither lives on the other side of the mountain from Santa’s workshop. But while Santa’s place is cheerful, the Grither lives alone in a cave.

The Grither believes itself to be the most important thing on earth. So every time someone says his name “in vain,” his ears grow a little larger. Dad informs the kids that since they said his name, the monster will be on his way to their home. The only way to stop the creature’s arrival is by finishing the story.

As Dad tells the story, the family begin to hear scratching sounds, and the shutters on the windows begin to bang. The parents begin to sing a made-up song about the Grither, that the monster supposedly sings about himself. But Dad stops telling the story altogether when the phone rings. Despite Stefa’s pleading, Dad leaves the room to take the call.

While on the phone, he menacingly tells the person on the line, “We’re all here.”

When Dad finally returns, he’s been on the phone for a while. He tells them that he didn’t know the person on the other end of line, but they had asked a lot of questions. Mom informs everyone that the Grither is flying to their home as they speak, via his really giant-flapping ears, apparently.

But Stefa becomes upset, so Dad finally tells the children that if they don’t believe in Santa Claus, the Grither isn’t real, either.

Then, a banging begins on the door and a man begins to sing the Grither’s song. The children become petrified, but the man reveals himself to be their Uncle Michael.

While they laugh at the joke, the front door blows open again, scattering things about the room. Jimbo finally manages to get the door close.

Before the family can collect themselves, a pair of giant arms shatter the glass on the living room windows, and the hands latch themselves over the parents’ heads. The creature snaps both the mom and dad’s neck before seemingly leaving.

Uncle Michael rushes to help the children, to which Stefa tearfully tells them: “That wasn’t Santa Claus.”

No, sweetheart it wasn’t.

“Seasons of Belief” isn’t a particularly terrifying episode of television. Much of the episode is spent telling a story that  the parents clearly believe is false anyway. Little suspense is built, but there is something wonderful about these 22 minutes.

There’s something truly twisted about a pair of parents willing to torment their children on Christmas with tales of monsters. The Grither like the Krampus, if only he was super sensitive and had vanity issues. So I guess there’s something to be said for tradition, right?

Happy Christmas from American of London!

Happy Christmas from American of London! Hope you and your loved ones have a safe and happy holiday. I’m enjoying my first Christmas with my family in almost four years. Plus, I’m in Texas for the first time ever which means I guess means that I should be saying things like “ya’ll have a merry Christmas now, ya hear?” Or something.

I’m off to a day full of Christmas cookies and translating my husband’s Yorkshire accent into American and turning Wisconsin into “normal words.”

Merry Christmas, all!

Wicked Wednesday: Christmas Evil/You Better Watch Out (1980)

christmasevil

Ah this is a bit of a different week. One, I’m about to leave for Texas tomorrow to visit my sister’s family – so life is going to be a notch more hectic than usual. Two, I watched this film a couple weeks ago in a cinema and not in the comfort of home with my notebook and pen at the ready.

Arrow Films (the distributor) have had a number of film showings at the Prince Charles Cinema in the past few months. Somehow, I managed to be busy during every single one of those events. When I saw Christmas Evil was showing on a night I could venture out, I was determined to not miss it for anything.

Now, I went with my husband and a couple of our friends. To say something like Christmas Evil isn’t to their tastes is probably an understatement, but I was pretty chuffed that all of them admitted they rather enjoyed the experience (my husband stopped short of saying he liked the film, but I’m working on him).

Christmas Evil (also sometimes titled as You Better Watch Out and Terror in Toyland) is about  a young boy who grows up to like Christmas a little too much. Harry (Brandon Maggart) works at the town’s toy factor. He counts down the days until Christmas every day of the year and likes to watch the local neighbourhood kids to see if they’ve been naughty or nice.

Like similar Santa-gone-mad movies, a young Harry spies his mom getting a bit frisky with “Santa” on Christmas Eve night. It’s pretty heavily implied that Santa is just his father dressed up, but young Harry can’t seem to figure out his own reality.

He’s well loved by the children of the neighbourhood, who shout hellos at him and tell him what they’d like for Christmas, but Harry has it out for one particular naughty boy who doesn’t listen to his mother and cuts pictures out of naughty magazines. To scare the boy, Harry hides in the bushes and spooks him, and leaves a sack of coal outside on the boy’s doorstep.

And well, Harry isn’t completely hinged in other places of his life. While he loves working at the toy factor, he’s been promoted to a desk job and moved off the production line, but it doesn’t stop him from getting tricked into working a shift for his asshole co-worker, Frank, who calls in but whom Harry spots in the pub later than night.

At the factory’s Christmas party, Harry becomes wound up when he watches a video of the factory owner. The owner promises to donate toys to the local hospital for disadvantaged children, but only if the workers increase production.

As the countdown to the big day gets closer, things for Harry start to become stranger. Noticing all of these changes is Harry’s younger brother, Phil. Harry doesn’t go to Thanksgiving (he’s waiting to see Santa at the Macy’s parade). Then Harry says he isn’t going to be at Phil’s house for Christmas.

Though it wouldn’t be Christmas without a rampage, and it certainly isn’t Christmas without a fabulous fur-trimmed Santa suit. Harry’s outing is rather a back and forth. You root for him as he delivers toys to the children at the children’s home. You gape as he stabs a man in the eye with a toy soldier. Should you like him? Well, he mostly targets toffs in suits and liars. But, you know, killing on Christmas.

It’s painful watching Harry on his Christmas mission. No one likes him, and no amount of justice seeking will help that. Which in a way, is rather like the holiday itself: nice sometimes, but it’s also cringe-worthy.

What really works for Christmas Evil is the performance given by Maggart. He’s manages to be both unsettling to watch and likable. It’s what separates it from many crazy Santa films. There is (underneath all the silliness) an actual heart to the film that makes it so endearing.

“But I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight, ‘Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!'”