It may not appear obvious at first, but Christmas is a great time to be a horror fan.

Not only do you get the chance to ask for plenty of horror-related goodies from family and friends (which I have done many times), but it is also the perfect excuse to settle down and revisit the myriad festive frights that have popped up on the big (and small) screen over the years.

One that I checked out again after many years this week was 1980’s Christmas Evil, which the Horror Channel usually roll out at this time of year.

Now the channel often claim Christmas Evil to be the best of the holiday horrors (it isn’t – 1974’s seminal slasher Black Christmas is in my humble opinion), but it does offer up something very different.

In fact, you could make a case that Christmas Evil isn’t really a horror at all, more a slow-burning effort that people like to dub a ‘psychological thriller’.

It all kicks off in a very traditional horror vein in that we are taken back in time to look in on an event that is to shape the killer’s later years.

In this case it is 1947, with a couple of young kids and their mother sat on the stairs while ‘Santa’ (who is actually their dad of course) comes down the chimney and piles presents under the tree.

Now that’s all well and good, but when the younger son decides to pop downstairs later that night for another look, he stumbles across ‘Santa’ and his mother getting jiggy in front of the fire.

That triggers some confusion and anger from the child, who ends up cutting himself on a snow globe in frustration.

Fast forward to ‘present day’ and the kid (Harry) is now fully grown and working in the Jolly Dream toy factory.

He’s still a bit strange of course, especially when you consider that his apartment is crammed full of Christmas gear, and he takes to walking the streets spying on kids to enter into his ‘naughty’ and ‘nice’ books.

But, despite all that, Harry is getting by relatively unnoticed.

He has a stunted relationship with his brother (played by The Walking Dead’s Jeffrey DeMunn), keeps himself to himself and sits at home most evenings looking over his festive memorabilia.

Harry’s grip on reality is slowly loosening though, and as Christmas approaches things come to a head when he gets himself in a lather over Jolly Dreams dishing out presents to a local kids’ home.

In Harry’s eyes the company aren’t doing enough, so on goes the Santa suit and, after swiping a load of the factory’s presents and commandeering a van decorated as a sleigh, off he goes to distribute some festive cheer.

Before long though it all becomes too much for poor Harry and we end up with a spot of carnage to finish (including some poor sap whose eye gets skewered by one of Harry’s toy soldiers) before the troubled man rides off into the distance – although the final shot is so outlandish it appears the lines between reality and fantasy have well and truly blurred.

Brandon Maggart is pretty effective as Harry it must be said – you are certainly creeped out by him, but there is just enough humanity in there for you to sympathise with him in parts.

The rest of the cast are no great shakes, but that is hardly anything new for a slice of exploitation such as this.

I would say though that it is pretty essential that you know what you are letting yourself in for if you choose to watch Christmas Evil.

Anybody expecting a schlocky slice of sleaze in the vein of Silent Night, Deadly Night will probably be bored rigid, while anyone expecting a tense scarefest a la Black Christmas will find this 1980 effort severely low on chills.

But as a Taxi Driver-esque character study of a man being pushed to (and over) the edge – albeit in a very outlandish way – director Lewis Jackson’s (who only ever directed this one film) effort certainly deserves a watch – or a rewatch.

 

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.