The Cloaked Critic's Holiday Horror Faves! Picture

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Christmas might have passed, but my crippling holiday depression hasn't, so with that in mind I now review two of my favorite holiday-themed "not-so merry" movies.

The first on our list of naughty Christmas films is "Santa's Slay", a 2005 dark comedy horror which stars former pro wrestler Bill Goldberg as a murderous psycho Santa Claus who doesn't give a reindeer's tailbone who's been naughty and who's been nice. He's killing everybody! The opening scene for this movie is definitely one of the funniest, and incidentally exists as an antithesis for my criticisms of "Halloween: Resurrection". For those who have never seen the aforementioned film, in "Halloween: Resurrection" the filmmakers had the main baddie, Michael Myers depart completely from the central plot of the franchise solely so he could go and kill a bunch of B-List celebrities of the time (most of whom I'm sure no one either remembers or cares about). However in this movie, the noted celebrity cameos are just that...CAMEOS! Who appear during the movie's opening scene and are then promptly killed off by ol' St. Nick. THAT is how you handle celebrities in a horror movie! I also like how the humor of this scene lightly mirrors older holiday classics like "Christmas Vacation" before Santa shows up to fuck up everyone's holiday in the totally major badass way! Of course to be perfectly fair, everyone who Santa kills in this scene was most assuredly naughty...except for Rebecca Gayheart's character, but she got bonked for simple association...and likely because she was Jewish.

So the basic premise of this story is that a thousand years ago, Santa Claus, the virgin-born son of Satan, lost a bet to an angel in a curling match and was forced to deliver presents to the children of the world on his birthday (Christmas) for the next thousand years, which according to this movie's timeline ends on Christmas Eve of 2005. With the terms of the bet now null and void, Santa is looking to turn Christmas back into "The Day of Slayings" where he goes around killing and maiming everyone in sight, and to kick off his new freedom he travels to Hell Township in search of the angel who tricked him all those centuries ago. Of course by this time, the angel is mortal, having given up his immortality for the love of an earthly woman. Now a grey-haired old eccentric with a teenage grandson, the archangel, Yuleson, tries to warn his grandson, Nicholas, of the impending danger before Santa Claus comes to town.

Now the concept of a murderous Santa Claus is certainly nothing new. There's only been several such characters across the spans of multiple movies and television (and don't get me started on the internet). Perhaps the earliest concept for a cinematic homicidal Santa Claus began with the slasher horror franchise, "Silent Night, Deadly Night", of which a psycho killer Santa was the pivtol iconic character...except for the fourth installment of the series which for some reason deviated to some hogwash about lesbian witches. From there on we have such memorable and generally funny adaptations such as Robot Santa from Futurama and Zanta Claws from the Newgrounds Flash series, "Eddsworld"...all of which I like a great deal more than the Tim Allen and Mickey Rooney adaptations.

Although the movie does make up its own mythology regarding the history of Christmas and Santa Claus, I do appreciate how they kept in tact his Nordic associations, as many cultural clues do allude to the oldest inspirations for the folkloric character being found in Norse mythology. In particular, Odin the All-Father is considered to be the original source for many of the beliefs regarding Father Christmas, and while they don't make any mention of Odin or Norse myth in this film, they do still heavily allude to the origins of Christmas being Pagan, which it most undeniably is. Seriously folks, Jesus didn't have a damn thing to do with this season.

Regarding religious and folkloric themes, I can't help but get the feeling there's a touch of antisemitism present throughout the film. A number of things from the brutal murder of Nicholas' Jewish boss, to the group of Amish men that Santa hisses at, to even the opening scene where all the characters Santa murders are played by Jewish actors. It's unclear whether this is done explicitly for the sake of a joke or if there's some kind of subtle message behind it. I highly doubt its meant in anything less than jest however as a quick look at the cast reveals that most of the actors in this movie were Jewish. In fact, even the director was Jewish. I suspect there's a joke here that I'm just not getting.

As I watch this movie, many of its themes and comical tones remind me slightly of "Gremlins", another more famous holiday horror classic. In fact, the closer I look the more I start to think the filmmakers used the Spielberg film as a template. It's almost the same movie just with Santa instead of Gremlins. You have a small rural town where everyone seems to know each other, a young male protagonist who lives with a relative that's also an eccentric inventor, that same young protagonist has a girlfriend that happens to also be a co-worker, a foreign supernatural force descends upon the town and decimates the general populace...oh, and of course this all takes place over the course of Christmas Eve and Day.

I also have to give the filmmakers credit for owning up to the comedic nature of the film in true satirical fashion. Not only do they give vague nods to older Christmas classics like "Gremlins", "Deadly Night", and "Christmas Vacation", but they even toss a little Rankin & Bass in here too. The flashback scene which tells the tale of how Santa Claus was first tricked by Yuleson is done in the style of stop-motion animation made popular by the Rankin & Bass holiday specials. Seriously, for a cheesy low-budget holiday horror flick this film is surprisingly full of wit and clever satire. As such it has become one of my two favorite anti-holiday cheer films. Best way to deal with holiday depression...watch holiday-themed movies where people get brutally butchered and mangled. Merry Christmas, Ya Filthy Animals!

!!!!SPOILER ALERT!!!!

"Jack Frost" is a comedy horror holiday flick released back in 1997 (not to be confused with the Jack Frost film starring Michael Keaton which was released the following year). This movie is pretty much like "Cape Fear" meets "Nightmare On Elm Street" with a splash of Batman and a Frosty the Snowman motif. Now despite all its gory death scenes, this movie definitely lends itself more to comedy than horror. Any doubt of that is immediately blown away by the opening narration which features a cantankerous uncle telling a scary bedtime story to his whiny little brat niece.

This film's take on Jack Frost is a murderous serial killer who after evading the FBI for five years is finally caught by small-town sheriff, Sam Tiler, but while Jack is being transported to the place of his execution the prison van crashes into a truck carrying an experimental genetic acid. The genetic material causes Jack's body to mutate and fuse with the snow on the ground. Jack is presumed dead, but he soon returns as a mutant killer snowman seeking revenge on the sheriff who caught him...sounds more like the premise for a comic book than a horror movie doesn't it? And speaking of comics, the villain in this movie is so cartoonish until it almost completely shatters the suspension of disbelief to remember that he was originally human. Even the Joker from Batman wasn't this sadistically silly, and he was a deranged lunatic clown!

Apart from the outrageous campiness and the wacky nature of the titular killer there's not too much out of the ordinary about this movie. Jack rolls into town and slaughters several people before closing in on his primary target. It's very by-the-numbers as far as most slasher horror go. About the only thing that comes off a little extreme and at the same time mildly clever is the cold-blood rape scene featuring Shannon Elizabeth more than halfway into the film. In any other instance such a grotesque depiction would be seen as vulgar and contemptible, but here it's played off rather subtly. Jack tricks Shannon's character by posing as a bath of hot water before refreezing himself back into a snowman trapping her arms and legs within his frosted body after which he proceeds to body slam her against the wall numerous times before she finally falls dead from blunt force trauma. Originally watching this I didn't even pick up on the idea that this was heavily implying rape. Namely because its filmed in such a way that no such notion of molestation or penetration is at first obvious, but looking back on it now I can definitely see the visual connotations.

It's a little hard to believe this movie came out so long ago. I don't know why. For some reason it just feels like it was a little ahead of its time. It's so campy and oddball until it vaguely reminds me of something you'd expect to see on the SyFy channel...but then again this did come out the same year as "Leprechaun 4", so what am I talking about?

As silly as this movie is I will give it credit for being surprisingly well-written. For example, they don't cop out with the conventional ideas of what might be expected as being the Achilles' Heel to a killer snowman. Jack Frost proves to be surprisingly resilient bouncing back after multiple attempts to melt him with fire and heat. It isn't until the accidental discovery that he's susceptible to antifreeze that Jack is finally defeated, but what's more surprising is how the film's protagonists make this discovery. They might have never been rid of Jack had Sam's son, Ryan, not laced his father's oatmeal with antifreeze, but this is seriously the one part of this movie that has me raising an eyebrow. They play it off as innocent childlike ignorance, but that doesn't stop me from shouting "What The Fuck?!" Seriously! Is this kid retarded?! I mean he has to at least be 7 or 8. How sheltered has this kid been that he thinks antifreeze is an okay thing to put in oatmeal or any other type of food? Antifreeze is a solution they put in car engines to keep the oil from freezing, but that doesn't mean it keeps people from getting cold. Imagine how fucked up this story would have been if Sam had actually eaten that shit! I can see the headlines now! "HERO SHERIFF CAPTURES INFAMOUS SERIAL KILLER ONLY TO BE POISONED BY RETARDED SON! WHAT A DUMBSHIT!!"

But all in all, this movie is a lot of laughs blended with a clever tailoring of drama and campy horror...of course the main draw for me is the laughs. Is it wrong that I laugh so much at all of Jack's twisted puns and one-liners?
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