DISMEMBERCEMBER: Santa Claws (1996)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was first on the site on April 12, 2022 and you can now buy it on blu ray from Terror Vision. It’s also a combination Pittsburgh Made/holiday movie!

John Russo lives in Glassport, which I can see from my house, and he wrote the idea that became Night of the Living Dead, which would probably be enough, but he also helped make Return of the Living Dead happen. And he also made Midnight and The Majorettes, two movies that fall into that strange genre that can only come from Pittsburgh, the yinzer giallo. He also was the publisher and managing editor of Scream Queens Illustrated, which figures into this movie.

Raven Quinn (Debbie Rochon) used to be a scream queen but ever since she had two children with a scream queen magazine publisher who would rather take nude photos of models than work on his marriage. Luckily, she has Wayne (Grant Cramer), a neighbor who once watched his mommy do more than kiss Santa Claus, lost his mind and killed them both. So perhaps she is not quite so fortunate.

Beyond getting to see Night stars like Marilyn Eastman, who played Helen Cooper, Karl Hardman, who played her husband Harry, and first zombie — and the director of The Majorettes and FleshEater — S. William Hinzman, you can pretty much see this as an American Night Killer. They’re both set at Christmas, they both deal with broken marriages and they’re both absolutely berserk movies seemingly made by maniacs.

Waste not, want not, as Russo edited this into Scream Queens Naked Christmas.

Yinzer bonus: Numerous scenes of characters wandering Market Square before anyone went there, back when George Aiken was still making the best-fried chicken ever, when National Record Mart still had that huge store and G.W. Murphy’s was still open. I mean, the killer runs into the Oyster House for a second and I was awash with 90s dahntahn memories, like Honus Wagner, the smell of Hare Krishna’s t-shirts, Candyrama and so much more.

In short, a killer that uses a garden cultivator as a weapon, like a total South Hills Blood and Black Lace, all with softcore dancing that makes me wistful for dollar pizza at Anthony’s and the old sign that was painted on the wall at the Cricket and hey, John Russo wrote two songs for this, “Christmas by Myself” and “Brand New Christmas.”

If you remember that old store Novelties in Market Square that never seemed to sell anything and was put out of business for a Dunkin’ Donuts, well, I want you to know that this movie has the killer buy his Santa Claus suit in that very store.

Welcome to the yinzer giallo list, Santa Claws. Meet us under the Kaufmann’s clock for your framed certificate.

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