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The First Annual Christmas-sacre!

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Guest TSMAdmin

All right, so it’s not Christmas, or even the night before Christmas, or even December, so this is either one month late or eleven months early; your pick. Anyway, I’ve always been a fan of the Christmas spirit (in its original form of giving and good will towards man, not necessarily its evolution into crass commercialism), but some of those Christmas movies have really got to go. 24 hours of A Christmas Story? Please. Just let the kid shoot his eye out. Jingle All the Way? Tickle me awful. I prefer more “unique” holiday films, and with that in mind offer mini-reviews of several such films.


I’d like to apologize in advance for several things: one, the fact that this is such a shoddy column; it’s basically a bunch of cut and paste mini-articles I’ve been working on for a month, finished off and rushed so I can work on something else without feeling I let you down (think of it as one of those “for hardcore fans only” b-sides/demos compilations). Second, the fact that I forgot the classic slasher Black Christmas - this should be inexcusable for an “alternative Christmas film” column, but the fact of the matter is it’s always rented out at Hollywood and your friendly neighborhood Border’s only sells the “lesser special edition” as opposed to the uber-swank super-duper-hyper-turbo-special edition. Thirdly, there aren’t any screen captures (there is, however, a new logo courtesy my buddy The Amazing Rando). There are two reasons for this; one is that I’m currently separated from my DVD collection for a couple days, and the second is that the majority of the films are titles that I saw on (gasp!) VHS. Now then, let the post-holiday letdown begin!


Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)

Despite IMDb’s allegations that a remake was made in 2002, it must have been such an obscurity that it even slipped through my cracks. And though I have many cracks to slip through (that didn’t sound right), that’s still a difficult task. Although I can’t imagine it being anything but better than the original, it’s still better to stick with this tried and true anti-classic. By now, everyone’s heard of this one; hell, I even caught it on an article on MSN! Don’t let its mainstream awareness scare you though, this one’s every bit as, uhh, interesting as they come.


Live from North Pole, it’s Santa Claus! Unfortunately, good little Earth boys and girls aren’t watching, rather those dastardly soulless Red children. And by that I of course mean Mars, not the Soviet Union (though for a historical note Soviet children were dastardly and lacking in souls as well). In one of the most depressingly true revelations that can only be found in a b-movie, the Martian children’s lives hold no meanings, because the Martian society forces them to grow up so fast that they never had a childhood, never had a Christmas; as mentioned in the film, they’re adults in children’s bodies, and having nothing better to do than watch earth children on earth television all day, they get introspective, moody, and most of all very sad. So, the Martian consulate decides the best solution would be to implement Christmas on Mars this year. Of course, you can’t have a Christmas without a Santa Claus, so a team of high-ranking Martians decides to lure him in by kidnapping an all-American brother and sister duo. Throw in Droppo, the clumsy comic relief servant who stuffs pillows under his shirt to pretend to be the “Martian Santa Claus”, and some havoc-causing Martians who hate Christmas for unexplainable reasons and are thus EVIL~! and you’ve got a decent kids’ film, right?


Wrong. While far from the worst atrocity ever committed to film, or even the worst holiday-themed atrocity ever committed to film, the majority of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is just boring; the plot carries along, and although there are never any huge logic gaps, very little actually happens (it’s mostly just Santa laughing at his bad jokes and Martians arguing/contemplating what to do about their children). The cheap sets actually look pretty convincing (particularly a few “sabotaged toys” that I thought were rather clever) and invoke that sense of ‘60s, Star Trekkish cardboard sci-fi charm, and somebody out there might care that a young Pia Zadora played a Martian child, but other than that there’s little to recommend. The ONE REDEEMING SCENE~! would have to be Santa and the kids blasting away at the EVIL MARTIANS with the equivalent of Nerf softballs, baseball bats, remote airplanes, and various other toys to save the day. That’s the closest thing to violence (understandable since this is a kiddie flick), however I feel cheated by false advertising; there was no conquering, unless you count the theme song’s victory over my brain cells that had “S-A-N-T-A-C-L-A-U-S / Hooray for Santy Claus!” in my head for a week after viewing. At least there’s a robot. For those interested, this one’s on VHS from Something Weird (interestingly enough, without their usual SWV watermark throughout; the print used is very dark though) or on DVD from a few nondescript public-domain companies (I’ve seen it around, but not as often as, say, Night of the Living Dead, The Giant Gila Monster, or other public-domain DVD commoners).


Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

“NAUGHTY~!” There have been several Christmas-themed slasher flicks over the years (including four sequels to this film!), but this is still one of the most enjoyable. Poor little Billy is orphaned at age 5 when his parents are raped and murdered by a stranger in a Santa costume. Like all orphans in such traumatic situations, instead of being placed with living relatives or a foster home, he’s brought up in a strict Catholic orphanage by semi-psycho Mother Superior. Thirteen years later, he’s told to dress as Santa for a job, and is it any wonder that his upbringing and terribly wrong notions of Santa lead him to grab sharp objects and punish all the naughty little boys and girls?


Silent Night, Deadly Night is fairly by-the-numbers and predictable (as are most slashers), however it’s unique in that you can empathize with the killer. Billy’s had a very hard life, and the film shows all the horrors of his experiences in Catholic school, but whereas your buddy was able to come home to his Cure records and porn and was able to recovery, Billy had nowhere to go but back into more mental torture and abuse from someone who had no compassion towards him or his past. The world has wronged him, and in stark contrast to the majority of genre victims whose deaths are desired for their idiocy, Billy’s kills in this film are cheered because he “deserves” this vengeance. It’s surprisingly deep, and even more surprisingly powerful and lasting.


Although not available on DVD (and I believe even out of print on VHS), about half of the film was cut into the on-the-cheap sequel, with Billy’s brother Ricky as the killer. Why is this relevant? Well, besides illustrating that good old-fashioned low-budget exploitation (even when it’s exploitation of your own film) will never die, Anchor Bay acquired the rights for Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 (strangely, not the original) and will be releasing that later on this year. I’ve only seen half of the sequel (guess which half?), so I can’t vouch for whether it’s better than the original or not, but if they include Billy’s killings in flashbacks or something I suppose the gorehound in me won’t really complain, despite my increasing distaste for Anchor Bay for reasons I won’t mention. ONE REDEEMING SCENE~? How about a Santa Claus rape? The only thing that could be more demented but at the same time entertaining in a total-reversal-of-holiday-images sort of way is…


Jack Frost (no, not the one with Michael Keaton!) (1997)

…a snowman raping Shannon Elizabeth! I wish I could share this beloved holiday treat with those of you who haven’t seen this monstrosity, but alas, no screenshots.


That’s really the only reason to watch the film though. Set in Snowmonton, Colorado (which, ironically, has no snow, unless you count that thin layer of fake stuff), it tells the story of a small town sheriff’s struggle against Jack Frost, a notorious serial killer who was melted by experimental governmental chemicals and has now become a notorious serial killer mutant snowman. You’d think a film like this would be a ton of fun, but it’s really not. The jokes all manage to fall-flat and old Jack, despite barely being able to move due to the incredibly cheap-looking costume (if only he looked as menacing and cool as on the front cover), shows more charisma than the rest of the cast. Because of this, certain scenes of the film, like the “climactic fight to the finish”, are at least bearable in an MST3K way. As for the rest of the film, unless you want to go “Idiot-spotting” (something I’ve never done, though the end credits challenge it, as well as report such useful information as “don’t eat yellow snow” and “mongo like movie”), just do what I do, skip up to a certain chapter, watch Shannon Elizabeth’s best performance to date, laugh, then hit stop and change the disc.


Simitar actually had this one on a barebones letterbox DVD back upon its first release, but I believe they’re out of business, and A-Pix, who owns the distribution rights to the Jack Frost franchise (along with several other mid-late ‘90s low-budget films), went under last year as well, so this one’s going to be rather difficult to find. Which might not be that bad a thing.


Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman (2000)

On paper, and having read what I just wrote, this would seem to be another one of those “who the HELL green-lighted this?!” sequels. Surprisingly, it’s not the case; Jack Frost 2 manages to be both better made, fresher, and funnier than the original.


After surviving his encounter with notorious serial snowman Jack Frost a year ago, Sheriff Sam Tiler is traumatized, and not just because everyone laughs at his story. So, for this year’s Christmas, the good Sheriff, his wife, and two friends (who also happen to be newlywed husband and wife) head to the Caribbean to get as far away from snow as possible. Unfortunately, a certain mutant killer snowman is resurrected and, due to one of those unexplainable “victim/killer connections” that only exist in horror films, he melts into water and travels through the ocean to that island, turning the tropical paradise into a winter wonderland.


Jack appears in several forms throughout Jack Frost 2. First there is his “normal” suit, which looks to be slightly upgraded from the original. There’s also CGI used in several snowman shots, which doesn’t look as obviously out of place as in some low budget films (e.g. Crocodile or Full Moon films), but still fairly distracting since it’s nowhere near polished like in a Hollywood blockbuster. Finally, there are the little snowballs, which Big Daddy Jack coughs up near the end of the film. Cuddly little killer critters, they too are interesting, funny, and just cute enough to carry the last half of the film. True, it’s no different than Gremlins or any other mini-creature feature, but the concept hasn’t been used for several years, which is enough time elapsed for it to count as an original, clever idea again. Plus I rather enjoy the ONE REDEEMING SCENE~! where a shack is opened for a planned ambush and “punk” snowballs with icicle mohawks ambush a guy and eat him alive.


Unlike the original Jack Frost, A-Pix’s release of Jack Frost 2 (which, despite the company going under, is still in print to the best of my knowledge) has trailers and even a director’s commentary, however there’s a huge flaw in the pressing. For whatever reason, when putting it in the DVD player, regardless of what the parental control ratings are, it automatically flags an adult check and won’t play the disc (even if you turn off parental controls it won’t work in some players). So, if you have a player with parental controls, don’t buy the disc, because you won’t be able to play it.


Well, that’s all for this year. My apologies for the uncharacteristic lack of depth and sloppiness – I just really wanted to get this done after a month (I HATE scrapping columns). As you’ve probably noticed, my output as of late has plummeted since entering college, and that’s because, simply put, academia is sapping away my flair (wh00!) for writing. Hopefully I can find it in me to get back to you soon. If not… you can always just buy me something based on my previous (excellent) work.


Here’s to a “killer dreidel” film by Winter 2004…

Edward Robins

[email protected]

DVDaficionado.com list – You thinking of buying something I own? I’ll review it on request!

Missed a column? Now you can catch up!

Amazon.com wishlist – ‘Tis better to give than receive; you know if I had money and you had a wishlist I’d buy something. Just saying.

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