These past few years I've been taking my Christmas marathon more seriously. Where as I would have normally tried to catch Jack Frost or Black Christmas, in recent years it's been more of an event. Last year I didn't blog but still watched. It's becoming a more solid tradition to engage heavily in Holiday horror and seasonal schlocks. Not just a little but to excess. Work kept me extremely busy this month so I didn't even have a chance to sit down to a movie of any kind for two weeks leading up to Christmas. Because of general exhaustion and getting a late start, it was a very low key Holiday. I committed to taking it easy and getting into some festive atrocities. Here's everything I watched on my three day bender ranked from worst to "best".
14. Yule Die (2010)
I've seen a lot of shitty killer Santa movies in my day but none so uninspired as "Yule Die". Not surprisingly it takes cues from Silent Night Deadly Night, and every other Christmas horror movie of this ilk. On top of being completely unoriginal, the acting is beyond dreadful. Clearly civilians reading lines for their friend's movie. The zero budget would be forgivable if there was some kind of pay-off or charm but it truly leaves you feeling cold. On her Lettboxd review Hollie Horror said she couldn't immediately tell whether or not they filmed this with a cell phone. A sincere question all viewers might find themselves asking. I cannot say enough bad things about it. It's the kind of terrible movie that makes you feel angry for having endured it. The kind that sets the bar so low for every other movie, nothing so horrendous could even sink to it's level.
13. Two Front Teeth (2006)
What can I say? It isn't good. But it's NOT Yule Die. The acting is bad but at least they're trying. They're trying REALLY hard. The overacting from the leading lady often had me cringing. The story was all over the place and actually quite ambitious. Killer elves, killer tooth fairy, killer nuns, killer rogue easter bunny. Lots of killer-things. The use of color was nice. The biggest problem was the forced dialogue. It tries to be too quipy and on-the-nose like say, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It doesn't succeed. Again, I didn't particular like it but after Yule Die, every film has a silver lining.
12. A Very Brady Christmas (1988)
I've been on a Brady kick lately. It happens every once in a while. I've been watching part of an episode before going to sleep. It's such ignorable popcorn, almost white noise. I've seen this before but it had been years. I hardly remembered a thing. Seemed like as good of a time as any to revisit it. It's possibly more square than the original series. Something about the Brady's in the eighties just doesn't feel kosher. All that teased hair and white furniture. It's odd. I'm still weirdly comforted by all of these characters. I know what to expect. They're all just a bunch of dependable old squares.
11. the Monster's Christmas (1981)
I was honestly surprised I didn't enjoy this more. Based on pictures I'd seen it looked like some kind of John Waters/Richard Elfman offspring. The creatures are neat and the witch's wardrobe kind of rules. Despite all of these things working in it's favor, it's utterly un-fun. Something like this should be brimming with quirky quirks. It's not. It falls extremely flat. The story meanders and completely failed to capture me. Oh well...
10. Santa Claws (1996)
I honestly expected this to be much worse. Again, and I'm seeing a trend here, it isn't good. But I found it tolerable. Debbie Rochon helped A LOT. I like her, she always brings something to the otherwise not-outstanding movies she appears in. She's smart, and it shows. I met her once, she was very sweet and classy. Written and Directed by Night of the Living Dead alumni John A. Russo. This movie has a horrible reputation for being in the gallows of shit Christmas horror, and aptly so. But hear this, any misgivings toward Santa Claws were formed many years before Yule Die was made and is therefore void of all meaning.
9. Kazuo Umezu's Horror Theater: Present (2005)
The one I thought would be the shining star of killer Santa movies this year. Also, my first experience with Kazuo Umezu's Horror Theater. I've read mixed but mostly unfavorable things about the whole series so I had certain reservations. This particular Christmas entry however, I was convinced would be great. Japanese Christmas movies are rare I figured by simply being NOT-Western, it would be interesting. It more or less followed the same cues as American killer Santa movies, leaving very little to celebrate. Mostly cheap, a little slow in spots (despite only being 50 minutes), and slightly confusing - it's never really made clear why the characters are seeing different killers. But still relatively engaging, at least enough to watch without resentment. I won't praise it from the rooftops but I won't send it to the clink with Yule Die.
8. Ski Party (1965)
Not really Christmas but there's snow and a snowMAN even, so whatever. Another Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello (though she's only in it for one scene) beach party vehicle. only it's a SKI PARTY, etc. Exactly what you can expect from literally every single one of these. They are fun and frivolous. This one does have a leg up for having a different setting, though there are inexplicably girls in bikinis IN THE SNOW. Some great musical moments from Leslie Gore and James Brown. Really fun and probably deserves to be higher on the list but I judged it harshly for being not-super-Holiday-ish. I'm very particular about watching seasonal stuff IN season. I will not watch anything else on this list (with the exception of Shake, Rattle and Roll perhaps) in any month other than December. Ski Party, I could watch whenever.
7. Saint (2010)
This one surprised me! It was recommended to me for enjoying Rare Exports. I knew of course, that nothing could or will ever top Rare Exports. It's totally wonderful and unique, but as you can see, I'm running out of options here! All suggestions must be explored. I had pretty much decided in all of my Scroogey Curmudgeon-ness that Saint would Suck. It didn't. It was far from Christmas perfection but I found it quite enjoyable and with a flavor I'm totally not used to. While it's nothing like Rare Exports, I've realized that my enjoyment of these films is rooted in the idea that Santa being an actual monster or killer is much more interesting than a guy in a Santa suit killing people. Especially when it's the European folklore style Saint Nick/Krampus/Belsnickel. Which I don't think has been explored enough despite being infinitely more interesting. Anyway, this movie is very flawed but the foundation is great. It has some amazing moments and a few that even made me jump.
6.Silent Night Deadly Night 4: Initiation (1990)
So, what the's deal with everyone hating this movie? Not just this one but the last three Silent Night Deadly Nights - I'll get to the 5th in a few paragraphs. I LOVED the 3rd. I thought it was totally idiosyncratic and dreamlike. I could maybe understand why these sequels would be reviled if the first, and second were stellar cinematic achievements but they're all essentially b-movies. The bar was not set by a'one of these films. That being said, this one which is probably the biggest misfit is about a coven of witches and is barely even a Christmas movie. I still say it has a lot working in it's favor. First, Brian Yuzna in the director's chair. Not his finest moment but not so far gone from what we love him for. The practical effects by Screaming Mad George aren't just addequate they are AMAZING. Totally disgusting and on par with Society. And lastly, CLINT HOWARD AND REGGIE BANISTER. I'm upset that this movie has been painted as some kind of wart on the Silent Night franchise. Sure, the script is weak and Neith Hunter's acting range isn't dazzling - but it's weaknesses are counteracted by all of the aforementioned strengths. You know what else? It's not Yule Die.
5. Shake Rattle & Roll (1984)
In the Philippines it's tradition to watch this (or it's brethren) on Christmas day. This has nothing to do with a content. The Metro Manila Film Festival starts on December 25th every year and with a whopping 14 sequels, this popular campy horror anthology series usually makes the bill. I've been told by word of mouth that it is somewhat synonymous with Christmas for this reason despite having no thematic ties to the Holiday (until the 9th sequel). I've been trying to spice up my Holiday marquee by digging a little deeper and exploring seasonal cinema outside of all these shitty Santas. This seemed like a good opportunity to learn about another culture's customs while conveniently experiencing the most popular pinoy horror film ever made.
Like all anthologies, it's patchy. Perhaps patchier than I'm used to. The opening story is an overdrawn historical piece about a love triangle and curse. It's not scary, or even very interesting for that matter. The second story, slightly better, was about a haunted refrigerator. While this sounds right up my alley, it took itself surprisingly serious which is uncalled for in a killer appliance story. There were also some weird sexual overtones that were far from sexy and left me with malaise of "ick", though that makes it sounds much more salacious than it is.
Finally there's the last segment, "Manananggal". Towering above the others, this one is about an "Aswang", or flying torso blood-sucking witch-type-thing, that's terrorizing some boys in a small village. This creature is akin the Leyak/Penanggalan flying headed with intestines hanging down that you've seen in Mystics in Bali, Witch with the Flying Head and Ghost of Guts Eater. This version's torso literally rips from her lower half and she sprouts giant bat wings, but the sentiment is the same. The penanggalan is possibly my all time favorite monster so I was won over immediately. The general flavor of this whole segment had those same qualities. The other two feel like filler, but the last part is a must see. I've heard that the 90's entries are even better. I could definitely see this becoming an unconventional Christmas trend for me.
4. The Magic Christmas Tree (1964)
Watching some kind of kitschy 60's kiddie matinee Christmas feature is a must. The obvious and traditional options are Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and Rene Cardona's Santa Claus. As all of my favorites, I re-visit those every few years, but I know there's more out there. Magic Christmas Tree entered my radar last year but I wasn't able to locate it in time. It's extra fun because it starts on Halloween and takes you all the way to Christmas, which really when you think about it is one big blur anyway. Some laughable dialogue and scenarios make it super enjoyable. Seems to exist in the same universe as something like Jimmy the Boy Wonder. Off-kiltered little gem. Totally worth working into the Holiday roster. Highly recommended.
Seriously dorky straight-to-video tape of organ player Dennis Awe. It's more of a special than a movie but with his sequined jacket, interactive rainbow puppets and ultra-kitsch personality there's really no reason to ever go a Christmas without popping this on. I'm adding it to my Things-to-show-at-Christmas-Parties list. The highest honor of shitty Christmas-dom!
2. Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker (1991)
I know I already vented a little bit about how I've been dissuaded from seeing these last few SNDN films, so forgive me as I go on. THIS one was shockingly entertaining. While admitedly part 4 was more balanced between good and bad, I felt completely and utterly won over by the Toy Maker. For starters, it's about Mickey Rooney making toys that kill children. Jesus Christ, people. What more could you ask for? Let's go a step further and add that again we have Screaming Mad George, Clint Howard and Brian Yuzna (producing, but still present). The entire movie had me endlessly delighted but the finale with Pino was almost more than I could bear. I've become instantly obsessed with this character and story arc. Brian Bremer's portrayal of this sexually twisted Pinocchio usurps the seminal Pin in his brief, maybe 15 minutes total of screen time. I can't even remember the film's flaws because I'm so enamored with him. Do I dare say it? Yes, this is my favorite Silent Night Deadly Night. But you know what? The whole series rules. Watch Yule Die, then any one of these and tell me otherwise.
1. Feeders 2: Slay Bells (1998)
The Polonia brothers entered my life this year. I saw Splatter Farm for the first time in October. In fact, I had planned a big review, I watched it TWICE, once with commentary and even took screenshots but wasn't able to find the time to write the lengthy review I had planned before falling into a work-spiral. So let's just say for now, the official Atomic Caravan Splatter Farm review is TBA. I will say that it was pretty much love at first sight with these guys. I adore their approach, sense of humor and style. I knew that for the Holidays I absolutly had to make the Feeders films a priority. I watched them back to back, thinking that the first was also holiday themed I spotted a "Seasons Greetings" sign in one scene but that wasn't really enough. It was good. Not as good as Splatter Farm but fun for sure. Part 2 on the other hand, was exactly what the doctor ordered.
Starring one of the two twin brothers, Mark Polonia. He plays a disgruntled insurance clerk who struggles to make ends meet for his family, barely able to give them some kind of Christmas. One night he witnesses a UFO landing. The Feeders have arrived, looking even more feeble and useless than they did first time around. We're treated to that awe-inspiring Polonia dialogue that makes these movies a treat, a Santa Claus that conquers the Feeders and then this fantastically breathtaking scene....
The greatest movie boss in history.
That about wraps it up for this year. I'm ready to squeeze in a few more good movies before committing to my Top 50 of 2014. I normally do 25 but I watched A LOT this year. Over 500 movies if you include shorts. I promise to at least link my list if I can't muster up the energy for a formal 50 review post, which is will likely be the case. See ya next year my little reindeer farts!