Support Us!
$2
$3
$5
Powered by
Got any friends who might like this scary horror stuff? GO AHEAD AND SHARE, SHARE!

SEE THE NEWEST CONTENT BELOW!

SEE THE NEWEST CONTENT BELOW!

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

You Better Watch Out: Celebrating ‘Christmas Evil’ at 40

So much of what we love about the holiday season is built on nostalgia. Those who celebrate during this time of year often recount fond childhood memories of family gatherings, songs of the season, or a favorite gift. They speak of warm feelings at stringing up lights with dad or baking cookies with grandma. And every year more voices seem to join the chorus railing against the commercialism and consumerism that have taken over the purity of the childhood celebrations they remember. 1980’s Lewis Jackson-directed Christmas Evil is often remembered as a “killer Santa” movie but is much more about this shattering of nostalgic fantasies and mourning the loss of these shiny, simpler times that may never have completely existed. 

The film sets us up to expect a typical slasher of the period. It begins in the past with a childhood trauma, much like Halloween (1978) or Prom Night (1980). Young Harry Stadling sits with his mother and younger brother Phillip on the stairs, watching through the vertical balusters as “Santa Claus” comes down the chimney and delivers presents. Harry is particularly enraptured by the scene which is filled with an unreal glow and cartoonish sound effects—all hinting that this is conflated memory and not true reality. 

After Santa goes back up the chimney, Harry and Phillip, who share a room, discuss what they have seen as they lie in bed. The younger brother tells Harry that it wasn’t Santa, but their father. Harry insists that it was and sneaks to the stairs where he sees “Santa” once again—caressing the silk stockinged leg of his mother. He runs back upstairs and smashes a snow globe, picks up one of the glass shards and slashes his palm. The screen fades to red as his blood drips onto the roof of the tiny house that was once encased in the glass sphere. The film’s original title appears in white over this blood red field: You Better Watch Out, alluding to that most disturbing of Christmas songs “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” which we hear again and again throughout the film.

Now in the present, Harry (Brandon Maggart) is a middle-aged man obsessed with Santa Claus. He sleeps in red silk pajamas trimmed with white, complete with iconic triangular hat. His home is filled with toys and decorated for Christmas. There are postcards and pictures of Santa Claus in various incarnations all over the walls. Among these artifacts, we see a chalkboard indicating that there are 55 days until Christmas, and we assume he and his house look this way year-round. Harry’s love for the holiday has grown to obsession and he has fallen into a world of fantasy. He believes he is Santa Claus, or at least should be fulfilling the duties of Santa. He spies on the neighborhood children and writes their deeds down in books of “good” and “bad” boys and girls, filling a new volume each year. 

From here, it becomes increasingly clear that Christmas Evil has a different intent than the popular slasher films that had begun to rise to prominence in recent years. Harry is more of an antihero than a villain, which is a subtle, but important difference. He has more in common with Travis Bickle, Robert DeNiro’s character from Taxi Driver (1976), than Billy Chapman in Silent Night, Deadly Night, which would come along four years later and be met with even more controversy than Christmas Evil.

Both Taxi Driver and Christmas Evil are tragedies of an invisible man. We are never asked to approve of either character’s actions, but we are asked to try to understand their motivations. Both characters desire to belong and be noticed but push people away by their inability to function in society. Both have mundane and isolating jobs, Harry at the Jolly Dream toy factory where he complains of the cheap products they produce. Both are outsiders looking in. Harry literally looks in on his brother, Phil (Jeffrey DeMunn), from outside his home as he plays with his children and passionately kisses his beautiful wife, Jackie (Dianne Hull). Harry clearly longs for the life his brother leads and is jealous of him. Both Harry and Travis have created a fantasy world, though Harry’s is far more specific than Travis’s. Both have a savior complex and are self-appointed protectors of children and their innocence, which becomes the motivation for their violent rampages. Both feel they are heroes, or avenging angels, for carrying out their evil acts. There are, of course, major differences between the two films, but both characters above all wish to be seen—by individuals in their lives and by society as a whole.

This becomes particularly apparent as Harry is watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on television. Santa is announced as “the most important star” of the parade and “the most generous man in the world.” We see in Harry’s face that he longs to be “the one that everyone has been waiting for.” His despair at being an ignored, invisible man causes him to fall further into his fantasy. He begins to fashion an elaborate Santa Claus costume, complete with padding and lined with real fur. He paints a red sleigh on the side of his white van and makes toys, including a veritable army of metal soldiers that he casts and paints himself. As a window into the extent of his madness, his garage workshop is filled with a collection of disturbing marionettes holding weapons and dolls pierced with nails.

A major part of Harry’s fantasy is the dark side of Santa Claus, the one that has been swept aside by Coca-Cola ads and smiling mall Santas over the years. He not only seeks to be the generous giver, but perhaps more importantly, the cruel judge who punishes misbehavior. His most reviled target is Moss Garcia (Peter Neuman), a young boy he catches looking at pornographic magazines and says he wants “a lifetime subscription to Penthouse” for Christmas. Late one night, he marks the boy’s house with mud he has smeared on his face. In this scene, Harry discovers that he can terrorize children and get away with it. He is emboldened to carry out his audacious plan. 

On Christmas Eve, Harry takes his fantasies to the ultimate level, beginning by gluing a beard to his face. The glee as he tugs at the beard is the excitement of a dream coming true, of a fantasy becoming reality. He begins to say “it’s me. It’s me,” as tears well up in his eyes.

From this point on, Harry’s acts shift wildly between kindness and cruelty. He breaks into his brother’s home, leaving presents for his sons and a large bag of dirt on Moss Garcia’s front steps. He delivers bags of toys he has stolen from work to a children’s hospital that his company had only donated a small amount to for public image purposes. He then savagely murders three people outside a church in plain view of two executives of the Jolly Dream toy factory. His delusions are solidified by the adoration he receives at a family Christmas party, especially from the children attending. They are then nearly shattered when he gets stuck in a chimney before murdering Frank, a co-worker he feels betrayed him, as he lays beside his wife in their bed.

The next morning, Phil and his family see a news report about the “Santa murders” of the night before. Phil is certain it was Harry. “Why don’t you understand,” he tells Jackie, “I wanted an older brother. Somebody to look up to, to be proud of, to talk to. My brother is an emotional cripple. I’m his keeper. Responsible for everything he does.” Later, Harry calls Phil with enigmatic and disturbing messages. He tells him that “every day you shave you see yourself one day closer to dying,” and “I’m gonna play my tune now. Everybody will dance, you’ll see. You don’t have to worry anymore,” implying that he plans to die and very likely take others with him.

The night of Christmas Day, as Harry walks up an empty street lined with lit plastic Santas, reindeer, and snowmen, a group of children run up to him. Their parents, who have been following at some distance, are horrified when they see him near their kids having heard the frightening news reports from the previous night. The children shield Harry as one of the parents pulls out a knife to attack him. Again, Harry sees himself as the protector of innocence. “These children know things that obviously you don’t understand anymore. They love me.” And that is ultimately what Harry wants more than anything else—to be loved, or even just noticed. 

Harry escapes his attacker but is chased through the alleys by the angry mob of parents carrying torches. It is like something straight out of a classic monster movie. He escapes to his van and drives to Phil’s house where the true nature of his childhood trauma is finally revealed. Just as the brothers did so many years before, Jackie watches the scene unfold from the stairs. Harry tells Phil, “I wanted to give people what they wanted…but they don’t want Santa Claus. I don’t understand. They don’t want me.” He then turns his blame on Phil. “It was you, Phil. The first time it was you that didn’t want Santa Claus. I wanted all my life to prove to you that you were wrong.” This reveals that Harry’s rather Oedipal obsession with Santa Claus did not come entirely from the scene he witnessed between his costumed father and his mother, but from Phil’s words of unbelief. 

In his rage, Phil begins to strangle his brother saying, “you are blaming me for all the horrible things you’ve done because of something I said when I was six years old!” Harry passes out and, in a panic, Phil drags him to the driver’s seat of his van. Harry comes to and punches Phil in the face before driving off. This leads to one of the most enigmatic endings I have ever seen as Harry’s van seems to take off in flight toward the full moon. If it was all from Harry’s point of view, it could be written off as a trick of his very damaged mind. But we see it, at least partially, from Phil’s perspective, someone we know to be reliable. Is he suffering a hallucination from his tumble down a hill moments before? Has Harry’s fantasy become so strong that it is affecting others as well? The beauty of the ending is that it leaves the answers up to each viewer. In the end we can choose to believe or not. And ultimately, this choice of belief or unbelief is one we all make at some point in our lives. 

Christmas Evil is not only a commentary on commercialism and consumerism, but on the ever-evolving nature of our traditions and symbols. There is nothing wrong with holding to the nostalgic memories of the past. Traditions are not only important but healthy and can give us great comfort in the most difficult times. Still, clinging to them so tightly that we trap ourselves within a fantasy that may never have been reality can be dangerous. It can deprive us of the joys available to us in the present, even those that may conflict with our nostalgia. In these most unprecedented of times, it is safe to say that the holiday season will simply look different this year. But in reality, that is always the case. Some traditions and customs evolve while others remain familiar and unchanging; it is the nature of life on this planet. What matters is how we react to it. We can choose to embrace despair and curse what we perceive as darkness, as Harry does, or instead attempt to shine a light of hope. 



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/editorials/3645690/better-watch-celebrating-christmas-evil-40/

No comments:

Post a Comment


Support Us!
$2
$3
$5
Powered by
Got any friends who might like this scary horror stuff? GO AHEAD AND SHARE, SHARE!



The Top 10 Streaming Scary Movies of Today (According to Netflix)

Given that Netflix really is the master of their own data, how many times a viewer streams The Ridiculous 6, or what films don't get watched all the way straight through, or how many times someone watches an episode of Bill Nye Saves the World, it was easy for them to come up with the list based on just one percentage: 70 percent.

Got any friends who might like this scary horror stuff? GO AHEAD AND SHARE, SHARE!


Top 5 Original Horror Movies of 2020 (Even During a Pandemic)


3 Frightening Clowns Not from the Underworld or Magical Hell


3 Viral Videos Proving Spiders Are Still Scary as Hell


Stephen King Adores These 22 Horror Films


3 Super Stories on 'Halloween' and Horror That'll Make You Want to Wear the Mask

xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#'