CHRISTMAS CINEMA: Christmas Evil (1980)

I learned about this movie from John Waters and if there’s one thing I know, it’s that John Waters has never let me down. He said of the film, “I wish I had kids. I’d make them watch it every year and if they didn’t like it, they’d be punished.”

Christmas Eve 1947: Harry Stadling (played later in the film Brandon Maggart, who is the father of Fiona Apple) watches his father — dressed as Santa — get sexy with his mother. He gets so upset that he smashes a snowglobe and uses it to slice up his hand.

Fast forward to 1980: Harry wants to be Santa. He sleeps in costume, his home is constantly decorated for the holidays, he works in the Jolly Dreams toy factory and keeps a book of who is naughty and who is nice. Of note, the toy factory was owned by the family of producer Edward R. Pressman and was known for making the board games Triominoes and Mastermind.

Harry notices an employee that called in sick is at the bar, even after he had to fill in for the man on the assembly line. He gets so mad that he smashes one of his dollhouse figures and cancels Thanksgiving. There’s a bright spot, though, as his boss announces that if they increase production, they can give toys to the kids at a hospital.

Harry realizes that everyone sees him as a loser, so he has a nervous breakdown and becomes Santa. He starts making toys in his basement and steals toys from the factory to give to the hospital. But he also does some insane things — like leave dirt on a bad kid’s door. And oh yeah — he murders a bunch of young adults who make fun of his costume, an act which his co-workers witness.

Harry goes full nutzoid, destroying his nephews’ gifts and replacing them with toys he’s made and killing a co-worker and leaving more toys behind.He attends the company Christmas party and dances to an increasingly faster an more frenetic version of “Here Comes Santa Claus” before threatening to put people in his bad book.

Then, Harry activates the assembly line and makes more toys before getting his van stuck in the mud. He escapes a mob who recognizes him as a killer before making it to his brother’s house. A battle ensues between the two, but Harry escapes and he’s forced to drive his van off the bridge by the mob. But in his mind, the van flies off like Santa’ sled to the words of “The Night Before Christmas.”

Obviously, this is not the movie to share with the kids. But if you’re an adult who has had it up to here with the holidays, by all means, this is the tonic you’re seeking. You can find it on Shudder, so bad humbug to all!

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