The 25 Slays of Christmas – 9 – “Gremlins (1984)”




Well, here’s the moment where I have to admit that I’ve never seen this movie before. I know, I know, it’s a classic and I must never have had a quality childhood without seeing “Gremlins” when I was a kid. I also didn’t see “The Goonies” for the first time until last year so go to town on that one too. I swear I saw a lot of “classic” films when I was a kid, I just never got around to seeing these ones. I saw “Memphis Belle” like 3 times though, that’s gotta count for something.



Anyway, by this point you must know the plot to this one by heart. That band Mogwai named themselves after that cute little creature on the poster, who was given as a Christmas gift but with strict rules. Never get him wet or feed him after midnight. Both of these things happen and an army of “gremlins” are unleashed upon the nation. Can they be stopped ?! Where did they come from ? Are they basically just Ewoks in some ways ?



This one has a lot of talent behind it. Directed by Joe Dante (Piranha, The Howling), Produced by Steven Spielberg (1941, Hook), Written by Chris Columbus (The Goonies, Home Alone), Music by Jerry Goldsmith (Planet of the Apes, The Omen) and Starring Corey Feldman, Phoebe Cates, Judge Reinhold and the voice of Howie Mandel ! As the Mogwai. It’s weird, he’s sort of doing a version of his “Bobby’s World” character.



Anyway, no doubt I’m gonna catch hell for this, but I didn’t really like this movie very much. I think a lot of it has to do with not seeing it as a kid and therefore having no prior attachment to it before this. I mean, as a big horror fan and a kid that was into comics and sci fi it really seems like I would have seen this at some point. I assume my parents thought it looked too scary (I was only 2 when it came out) and didn’t want my fragile little mind being warped. You know what they say about the best laid plans …



It’s not that there’s anything “wrong” with the movie, far from it. I think I would have loved this as an 8-10 year old. I really couldn’t shake the similarities between the Gremlins jokey kid-speak and the Ewoks. It was all very cutesy and frankly kind of annoying at times. It’s funny to learn about Howie Mandel voicing Gizmo after the fact, it makes a lot of sense. Suffice it to say, at 30 this movie just doesn’t have the appeal to someone coming in fresh.



I realize I’m in the minority here but considering the hype and talent involved I found this to be a letdown. That said, my roommate loved it as a kid and watched it with me and his girlfriend. She didn’t like it either and he admitted it wasn’t as good as he’d remembered. Sometimes a movie like this just doesn’t work when you catch it 20 years too late. I loved “Labyrinth” as a kid but never saw “The Dark Crystal” (which many people love). I’m afraid that too would be a case of catching the train two decades too late.


In the end, I respect all of you who love this movie that you loved as a child, but sadly it just didn’t do it for me. Frankly “The Goonies” was better, just saying.



The 25 Slays of Christmas – 8 – “Rare Exports (2010)”



I’ve been hearing nothing but great things about this one since it came out a few years ago. It’s a Finnish film (with some English) and apparently more of a dark family film than an outright horror. Obviously there are violent elements, but not the gore of “Black Xmas” or “Don’t Open Till’ Christmas”. I’d meant to watch it last year but just didn’t get around to it. So, does it live up to the hype ?


The story revolves around an archeological dig hired by a mysterious (and wealthy) businessman who is searching for … Something. They do indeed find something frozen in a mountain and are eventually killed while trying to unearth it. Meanwhile a father and son have caught an old naked man in a trap and set about trying to figure out who he is. Upon deducing that he is actually Santa Claus, they set out to sell him to the wealthy businessman while trying to avoid hordes of elves who will stop at nothing to protect their “boss”. Pretty awesome plot, no ?


While that description may sound complex or convoluted, it doesn’t come across that way in the film. The filmmakers do a great job juggling storylines and keeping you guessing until all is revealed. A somewhat questionable (but ultimately satisfying) twist ending results and ties up the films’ multiple storylines nicely.


The acting is well done, albeit with the usual caveats for a child actor. I wouldn’t say he’s irritating or anything, but certainly not the most interesting character. Probably my favourite element was using the one Finnish guy who could speak fractured English as a translator while trying to negotiate the sale of Santa with the businessman. It was a well done bit of comedy and added nicely to the story.


It’s interesting to see so many recent Christmas-related foreign horror films. This one is a great example, as is “Inside”, a well done French film that I’ll be revisiting in this marathon in a couple of days. I’m also looking forward to watching “Sint”, a Dutch film that also tells a much darker version of the Santa Claus mythos. It’s interesting to see different takes on the subject from different parts of the world. Each have their own flavour and visual flair, lending itself well to the subject matter.



As implied by the story and reviews, “Rare Exports” is a delight. It works both as a Christmas horror film and just a fun film in general. While not particularly scary it’s never boring, a problem that can sometimes affect films like this. I certainly look forward to watching this again next year, it’s earned it’s place on the ultimate “12 Slays of Christmas” list. Maybe next year we can all pitch in and buy our own Santa !! Probably not though, we don’t have that kind of money.



The 25 Slays of Christmas – 7 – “Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 (1987)”



You might be wondering why I have the sequel on here and not the original “classic”. Well, for one thing this one is about 50% flashbacks of the original movie and is essentially a “best of” in that sense. Additionally, the new stuff in this one is hysterical and a much more entertaining film, including the Internet classic “Garbage Day” line. Re-watching this one made me go out and buy the recently released 2 disc DVD of both movies. I’m not usually one for DVD commentaries, but this is one I’d definitely like to hear !


The first SNDN was about a boy who sees his parents murdered by a man dressed as Santa Claus. He’s sent to an orphanage run by the extremely strict Mother Superior. After years of torment he grows up and receives a job at a toy store. When he’s asked to dress as Santa and witnesses a potential rape, he snaps and begins dispatching “naughty” people on his way to exact revenge on Mother Superior. This sequel sees his (now grown up) brother relating this story to a psychiatrist while in an institution. Eventually he escapes and sets off to finish what his brother started.


Now, technically this is a pretty bad movie. It doesn’t really have anyone of note (apart from archival footage of Linnea Quigley from the first film) and the producers decided to cast Eric Freeman in the main role rather than going with a better actor who had more experience. They chose Freeman for his looks (such as they are) and we all reap the benefits of his amazingly over the top performance. Freeman has since disappeared, despite attempts by fans to track him down. At least we’ll always have this gem of a movie to remember him by.


Although the original is arguably the best known of the series, there are actually 5 SNDN movies in total. The third carries on the story of Ricky (played by the much more capable Bill Moseley of Devils Rejects and TCM 2 fame) but does not feature him in a Santa suit at any point (sadly). 4 is completely unrelated and involves killer bugs, 5 stars Mickey Rooney as a crazed Toymaker. I initially bought the 3-5 DVD set that Lions Gate released a few years back, but after suffering through part 3 I gave up and sold it. 1+2 (but mostly 2) are really all you need.


I suppose it takes a certain atmosphere to really appreciate this viewing experience. Freeman’s over the top performance is amazing though, and it really would have been a drag to see someone “better” playing it straight. Nearly every line of his is deliciously laughable, and I couldn’t imagine a Christmas Horror list without this stunning classic. Again, I use the term “classic” somewhat loosely, but if you can’t watch this one and enjoy it for what it is, well, maybe your heart is 2 sizes too small !!

Nah, I’m just kidding, you’re alright.


The 25 Slays of Christmas – 6 – “Silent Night, Bloody Night (1974)”



Well, apparently it wasn’t enough that I fell asleep during “Don’t Open Till’ Christmas”, so I followed that up by falling asleep during this one too. Yet again I didn’t feel I could BS a review on a movie I only saw part of, but I didn’t get a chance to re-watch it for a few days, thus the tardiness of this review. On the plus side I saw some pretty cool movies since then, and even better, this is a cool flick !!



The plot revolves around a house with a checkered past that was willed to the owners grandson upon his death. The only stipulation was that the house be left untouched and remain in the family. 20 years later the grandson has decided to sell the house. As word spreads, a mysterious figure escapes from an insane asylum and makes their way to the house, killing any who get in their way. Who is the killer, and what is their relation to the house ? What exactly happened in the house anyway ?!



SNBN sports an impressive cast, including John Carradine (The Howling, Bride of Frankenstein), Phil Bruns (Return of the Living Dead II, also played Jerry’s original father on “Seinfeld” for 1 episode before being replaced), Mary Woronov (Death Race 2000, The Devils Rejects), Patrick O’Neal (Under Siege, The Stuff) as well as several former “Warhol Superstars” such as Ondine and Candy Darling. The acting is largely fine, especially for a low budget affair of this ilk. Interestingly this was also produced by Troma bigwig Lloyd Kaufman ! Neat !



One of the first things I noticed about this film was the excellent minor key version of “Silent Night” used over the opening credits. It was quite lovely and really set the tone nicely. And I don’t just throw around terms like “lovely” all the time I’ll have you know ! The film was completed in 1972 but wasn’t released until 1974 (the same year we were graced with “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre”). It certainly has an uneven feel at times, but this adds to the surreal, dreamlike feel the film maintains.



While not super gory, SNBN does have its share of murders, including a few axe murders in the opening 15 minutes. The plot is really something to behold. At times I felt like I was lost, but by the time the twists are slowly revealed I came to really respect and enjoy what they were going for. There are elements of incest, insanity, murder, conspiracy and faked deaths, etc. You know, all the “good stuff”.



To be honest, I did a complete 180 on this film upon re-watching it and would definitely say it has been one of the unexpected highlights of this holiday slayride. It kept me guessing and, like most good films, made me want to watch it again after it was over. I’m certainly glad I gave it another shot after starting it too late initially, and I highly reccomend giving it a go. The best part of it is, it’s in the public domain so technically you own it already ! What a world !


The 25 Slays of Christmas – 5 – “Don’t Open Till’ Christmas (1984)”



Now here’s a film that makes a lot of the “typical” Christmas Horror lists (along with Christmas Evil, Black Christmas, Jack Frost, etc). Last year was the first time I’d seen it, but all I really remembered was that it was British, gory and flipped the “Killer Santa” gimmick by having their (creepily) masked killer only murder people dressed as Santa. Ideally he killed a few murderous Santas, but we can’t be sure of that.


As previously mentioned, this flick revolves around a masked killer who clearly hates Christmas and has taken to murdering anyone dressed as Santa Claus (except for a female stripper, but she didn’t have the beard, so maybe that’s a loophole). Scotland Yard is baffled and will stop at nothing to end this enormous pile of Santa corpses by any means necessary.


The cast is made up of unknowns, with the exception of Edmund Purdom (who only agreed to star in it if he could also direct) who played the killer in my recent October Horrorthon entry “Pieces” (SPOILER). It won’t surprise you to learn that this film was produced by the same people who brought us “Pieces”, so you can expect a similarly gory and sometimes confusing piece of cinema.


Now, I’m not going to lie to you. I started this one pretty late and fell asleep halfway through. Not because it sucked, but likely because I chose to watch the latest episode of “American Horror Story” first (featuring a Killer Santa !!) and didn’t get this rolling till’ about 11:30. Anyway, I knew I owed us both more than just phoning in this review, so I re-watched the last half yesterday to do it justice.


Prefacing this with the fact that this movie switched directors midway through and is kind of jumbled and confusing at times, I actually kind of dug it. It has a really high body count, lots of gore and an interesting and (for this kind of flick) unique storyline. There seemed to be at least 1 kill every 10 minutes which is a pretty solid ratio for a horror flick. I mean, nobody got stabbed with a candy cane, but a guy got his face burned up pretty bad so that’s something.


I have to respect the producers for knowing exactly what kind of movie they wanted to make and, despite it taking two years to complete, putting out a holiday gorefest that topped the better known “Silent Night, Deadly Night” (which had been released one month prior). Ironically, if the original director hadn’t left then this would have beaten SNDN to the screen, but both movies are different enough that they can co-exist. Now if only we can get a “Vs” movie and pit SNDN’s Santa against DOTC’s Santa Killer we’d REALLY be in business ! Still, until that happens I guess a double bill will have to do.


The 25 Slays of Christmas – 4 – “Santas Slay (2005)”


On the surface this is the perfect Christmas horror movie. It has a surprisingly known cast, a good budget, lots of kills/swearing, some nudity and (of course) a murderous Santa Claus. That said, all I remember about it from last year is a promising start before getting worse and worse. Has time been kind to our wrestling friend ?

The movie has a pretty straight forward plot (for a movie like this anyway). Santa Claus was essentially the anti-christ and Christmas had been a day of soul crushing evil. Eventually Santa is challenged to a game of curling (bare with me) by an angel and loses. This gave the world a 1000 year respite from his terror, but, but that was exactly 1000 years ago ! Now he’s back to wreck havoc on us all !! Can he be stopped ?


As I mentioned, the cast is pretty respectable actually. The opening scene alone has Fran Drescher, Chris Kattan, James Caan, Rebecca Gayheart and (of course) Bill Goldberg. We also get appearances by Dave Thomas, Robert Culp (who was also in Silent Night Deadly Night 3), Saul Rubinek and Tiny Lister ! Yeah, that huge black prisoner from the boat in “The Dark Knight” ! Plus the main girl played Claire in “Lost”, so that’s something.

The cast is clearly enjoying themselves, and seeing as this was produced by Brett Ratner I have to think he pulled some strings and convinced a lot of people that it would be fun to make a direct to video tongue in cheek Killer Santa flick. I remember when it came out I saw it at Blockbuster and thought “That could be okay, but I bet it sucks”. It wasn’t until years later that I finally had a chance to see it.


Well, maybe it’s just the Christmas spirit or the beverages involved, but this is a really fun movie. Yeah, it’s stupid and corny and by no means a masterpiece, but it achieves exactly what it sets out to be. A ridiculous, over the top, tongue in cheek holiday horror flick with its heart in the right place (ripped out and stuffed in a stocking I assume).

One thing that I remember finding somewhat irritating the first time around was the over abundance (or, apundance) of puns that Santa felt the need to spout off. Now, as you may know I’m a big fan of puns. I’m not sure what it takes to cross the line from chuckle worthy to groan inducing, but I didn’t find it nearly as distracting upon second viewing. I mean, he has the usual clunkers (“Yes Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus !”) but he also had some pretty good lines too. Mostly bad ones though.


The deaths are plentiful and include the usual suspects – Stabbed with a candy cane, Jewish guy impaled with a menorah, Guy electrocuted with stripper pole (wait, what), hellish reindeer exploded with rocket launcher, etc. The movie knows what we expect from an R-rated Killer Santa flick, puns and guns, and it delivers right to your stocking !!

As I said, “Santas Slay” isn’t necessarily a “good” movie, but when viewed with friends, an open mind and some “holiday cheer” it can be quite entertaining. I don’t think I’d watch it at any other time of year, but I do think its earned a place in my permanent list of Christmas Horror flicks. Lets just call it a case of “Claus and Effect”.



The 25 Slays of Christmas – 3 – “Elves (1989)”


Not sure how I managed to avoid seeing this one for so many years. I mean, it involves killer elves (or elf, hard to tell), Nazis, Grizzly Adams, etc. on paper it’s an amazing Christmas horror cult classic ! On screen though ? Not so much

As for the cast, a lot of the appeal is that this stars Dan Haggerty, aka “Grizzly Adams” (“Grizzly Adams DID have a beard !!”). Honestly, he looks really embarrassed to be in this movie, and rightfully so. He robotically sleepwalks through the entire movie, but I probably would have too. The only other noteworthy actor (in my eyes) is Ken Carpenter, best known for his role in “Hellraiser 3” as the Camerahead Cenobite (“That’s a Wrap !”). Anyway, star studded cast.


The movie is about a girl (and her friends) who hate Christmas and inadvertently summon a killer Elf who begins dispatching various terrible actors (including a coked up Santa Claus). It turns out her Grandfather is a Nazi who is also her father due to an incestuous plan to have the Elf impregnate her with its baby that will help breed a race of Nazi Super Elf Men. I’m not kidding.

As you can tell, the plot is batshit crazy. I have to give it props for having such an ambitious plot, despite the fact that it doesn’t really work all that well. It seems ridiculous even saying that, I mean, apart from an increased budget I’m not sure how they could have pulled this off better. Well, maybe having more than one Elf in a movie called “Elves” would have been nice. Plus they call it a “troll” for most of the movie, but anyway.


That said, the movie’s not without its charms. Probably the best part is when the main girl sits on Santas lap and is telling him what she wants for Christmas. Santa begins sliding his hand up her leg and whispers “Oral”. She says “What ?” and he utters the timeless line “Santa said … ORAL !!” before promptly getting fired. Funny stuff !

In the end, “Elves” just doesn’t live up to the insane premise it lays out before us. I can’t even say it’s in the “So bad it’s good” category. Or the cate-gory category. It’s amusing at times, baffling most of the time, mildly gory at other times, uneventful at most times. I guess I was expecting more based on the premise, but that says more about me and what I’ve come to expect/hope for/dream of with movies like this.

On the plus side, Elf wearing a Santa hat is sort of fun, but he’s no Grizzly Adams !