Friday, 25 December 2015

The Muppet Christmas Carol
Dir: Brian Henson
1992
*****
Although the Muppets had been sold to Disney in late 1989, the company, the characters and the magic could so easily have died on that tragic day, 16th May 1990. Thankfully, Jim Henson surrounded himself in like-minded souls who knew what he would have wanted and knew how to continue his legacy. Brian Henson and the Muppet team worked their fingers to the bone and produced one of the best Muppet films made and one of Christmas' best love movies. It's the Muppets' first unoriginal film outing, a trend they over did somewhat, but it's easily the best, not just of their own but also of Charles Dickens' classic, A Christmas Carol. Muppet films are full of human cameos but never had they had a human lead before. I wasn't sure if it would work and what it would mean for the Muppets at the time but it worked well, no Muppet would have suited the part and let’s face it, Michael Caine is awesome, no matter what he does (he's even good in Jaws: The Revenge). The Muppet Christmas Carol will of course appeal to Muppet fans but each Muppet chosen to represent each character is so well chosen and every scene in the novel is brilliantly and tastefully brought to life. Some of the most memorable parts of the book are actually more memorable now, thanks to the Muppets. The set pieces are stunning and the songs are brilliant. My only gripe is that there isn't enough Fozzie but apart from that, I love it. Doesn't everyone? God bless the Muppets, every single one of them.
Scrooged
Dir: Richard Donner
1988
*****
Bill Murray's deadpan style is one of the reason why I, and everybody else, loves him. I don't think this/his style has suited a role better than the one he performs in Richard Donner's Scrooged. Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol had been done before and has been done to death since but this version is easily the best modern adaptation and the funniest of the comedies. It works on so many levels, the updated version of events didn't need exaggeration in order to work and the tradition vs commercialization theme that often runs through Christmas films is also masterfully explored. It's funny, tragic and terrifying in all the right places. The timing is perfect, the effects outstanding and, like I've already mentioned (but it's worth mentioning again) it is really very funny. The three ghosts are portrayed brilliantly, better than they ever had been before with some great performances and many pleasing cameos. Scrooged greatest achievement might just be in its successful mix of humour. It's not often that you can mix one-liners, deadpan, sarcasm, slap-stick, satire and black comedy together successfully, but Scrooged makes it look easy. It's hard to believe that Richard Donner and Bill Murray had a tough time working with each other, will all three brothers and many of his friends making an appearance, it seems Murray generally got his way though. There are very few Christmas films that I would consider essential annual viewing but Scrooged is one of them. Hell, I could watch it in the middle of summer.
Miracle on 34th Street
Dir: George Seaton
1947
*****
It's a Wonderful Life is often regarded as the greatest Christmas film of all time but it isn't. Not in my humble opinion anyway, because for me the original 1947 Miracle on 34th Street just beats it to the finish line. The great Edmund Gwenn (who won an Oscar for his performance) is the perfect Santa and the young Natalie Wood was perfectly cast. Maureen O'Hara and John Payne are both very good too in what are essentially supporting main roles. O'Hara had recently moved back to Ireland and declared she wouldn't be returning to America but immediately changed her mind on reading Seaton's brilliant script. It's not stupid or schmaltzy either, unlike many Christmas films and including It's a Wonderful Life (the way is rather casually deals with suicide has always bothered me). It takes a great swipe at the commercialization of Christmas and delivers a message that everyone can understand and learn from, unlike the 1994 remake that completely misses the point. Forget the remake ever happened and enjoy. George Seaton's festive classic is not just my favourite Christmas film of all time but is one of my overall favourite films of all time too.

Miracle on 34th Street
Dir: Les Mayfield
1994
*
One of the worst and most pointless remakes ever made. The original 1947 Miracle on 34th Street is perfect in every way. It didn't need to be updated, it was in fact ahead of its time in many respects. In Les Mayfield's 1994 remake, he decided to show the viewer all those things that they decided, quite wisely, not to show in the 1947 version, as it seems the art of suggestion and the wonder of imagination have become obsolete in the fifty years since. They then threw in some cheap slap-stick, rushed out an awful script, added one of the worst endings to a film in the history of cinema and made loads of money doing it because that's what seems to work these days because it seems people are too ignorant/lazy to watch old films because they're in Black and White and require a couple of brain cells to be working. Mara Wilson wasn't the brilliant little actress everyone thought she was in my opinion, all she ever did was open her mouth wide and have large eyes. As much as I love him and love the idea of him being Santa, the great Richard Attenborough wasn't that great either. He doesn't come close to being as lovable, and more importantly believable, as Edmund Gwenn. Memories can be rose-tinted, a re-watch might make you agree with me but I would argue that it would be a better use of your time to watch the original instead if you haven't already.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Silent Night
Dir: Steven C. Miller
2012
***
Steven C. Miller's Silent Night is a very loose remake of Charles Sellier's controversial 1984 seasonal horror Silent Night, Deadly Night. The film doesn't start with an origin story, it just gets on with the killing by a man in a Santa suit. There are nods to certain killings seen in the original film (the infamous impaling on a stuffed Moose head) but on the whole this is a far more brutal and gory affair. Give the people what they want. Not only is our Santa devilishly evil, but the local law enforcement is headed by none other than cult favourite Malcolm McDowell, who is rather brilliant in the role. Silent Night is also influenced by the real life 2008 Covina massacre, although it's not too distasteful a likeness and to be honest the true crime has more similarities with 1980's Christmas Evil, so it's art imitating life, imitating art, in many respects. I'm pretty sure this is the first time has gone nuts with a flame-thrower though and that is to the film's credit. It's a basic slasher with a Christmas theme, nothing too clever but fans of the genre will lap it up and it certainly makes a change from watching It's a Wonderful Life or Die Hard as an alternative.
Silent Night, Deadly Night
Dir: Charles E. Sellier, Jr.
1984
****
I would argue that the original Silent Night, Deadly Night is a great Christmas horror but as far as Evil Santas go it is probably one of the weaker. This is because our killer Santa isn't really Santa, many of them aren't, but often knowing who they are takes away a certain amount of the magic. Silent Night, Deadly Night is however, a great 80's Slasher. Little Billy is understandably disturbed by witnessing the brutal rape and murder of his mother and father as a child, even more so it seems due to the fact the killer was dressed as Santa and the incident took place on Christmas eve. Hollywood psychology stipulates that incidents like this always lead to unavoidable and inevitable copycat scenarios and so adult Billy was always going to turn into a crazed Santa killer when put in stressful situations or when he sees the colour red. None of this is convincing but it really doesn't matter. It's all about the inventive ways Billy can slay his victims while dressed as jolly St. Nick. Hanging by Christmas lights, impaling by antler, axe attack on wheel-chaired Nun....Silent Night, Deadly Night really does have everything the horror fan could wish for, except maybe a decent ending for our anti-hero. Still, it's lots of fun and one of the season's finest.
Jack Frost
Dir: Troy Miller
1998
*
1998's Jack Frost is one of Hollywood's greatest enigmas. A truly puzzling feat in film making and creative writing, and when I say puzzling I mean really quite awful. A young boy loses his father in a tragic car accident, a terrible thing to happen to anyone, young or old. To help the young boy with his grief, his father decides to come back to life one year later, choosing the boy's newly assembled Snowman as the most suitable vessel. A ridiculous notion, if it weren't for a magic harmonica. Cue snowman father and son having fun and getting into hijinks in the snow. No prizes for guess what happens in the end. You'd have to be on some pretty potent drugs to enjoy and think this was a good story. All three of Frank Zappa's children have cameo roles. The million dollar question isn't really 'Who the hell wrote this?' but 'who the hell green-lit and funded this?' Someone spent time and money on this film! Michael Keaton did this instead of Batman ForeverBatman Forever is a masterpiece in comparison.

Meet the Santas
Dir: Harvey Frost
2005
*
Serial bad-Christmas film maker Harvey Frost returned in 2005 with the sequel to one of his worst. 2004's Single Santa seeks Mrs Claus is a dreadful film, why anyone thought it deserved a sequel is anyone's guess. The first film was about Santa's son and heir to the title, Nick (played by Steve Guttenberg) needed to find a wife in order to become Santa, which raises a few dubious questions on what marriage actually represents to the Hallmark channel. He finds his Mrs Santa, job done. In the sequel, we find out that they've all been far too busy to get married, their heavy schedule all being down to the fact that Nick is working alone, without a Mrs Santa to help him out. This is a stupid scenario. The film is basically a poorly written copy of Meet the Fockers which came out the year before. In-laws meet In-law, everything is Christmas themed, stereotypes follow clichĂ©, follow headache. I swear, if I ever hear Steve Guttenberg blast ho-ho-ho one more time I will scream.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Dir: Bill Melendez
1965
*****
Very few Christmas films are essential viewing but for me, it just isn't Christmas until I've watched A Charlie Brown Christmas. As a child (and as a big child) I was nuts about the Peanuts, I had everything from Snoopy pyjamas to a Woodstock calculator (that still works). Much like the way a good war film is an anti-war film, a good Christmas film is an anti-commercial Christmas film. Here is where the film trips up somewhat. The story sees young Charlie Brown become depressed during Christmas, an emotion many can relate to at the time of the year, so he puts on the school's Christmas play in order to rediscover the spirit of Christmas. Commercialization and secularism are touched upon and although the theme leans towards tradition, peace and the season of goodwill, it does get biblical and the Gospel according to Luke is read aloud. It's funny really because even as a child I saw the Peanuts as this crazy beatnik alternative cartoon that actually touched on real issues. However, it's Christmas, the birth of Christ is really what it's all about so you can't fault them for that and besides, and this is where it trips up, the whole film was commissioned and sponsored by Coca-Cola. Hypocrisy is the real spirit of Christmas, followed closely by nostalgia and watching brilliant cartoons in your pyjamas. Merry Christmas Charlie Brown!

It's a Wonderful Life
Dir: Frank Capra
1946
*****
One of the greatest films ever made in my opinion. James Stewart and Frank Capra make for one brilliant collaboration. Many have tried to achieve the magic of It's a wonderful life, many have totally ripped it off but none have matched its brilliance. Film makers of the future take note, character development is key, although it is also fair to say that The Greatest Gift, the short story written by Philip Van Doren Stern in 1939 is not unlike Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol in many respects. It's a bit of a mystery as to why it did so badly upon release, I do wonder whether it had anything to do with its content or if people still preferred variety acts during the festive season. It's widely regarded now as one of the greatest films of all time, for many different reasons, but for me its biggest success is in challenging the very real taboo subject of severe depression many people feel during the holidays. It's a touching film that can be taken seriously but it is also somewhat melodramatic in places if I'm being totally honest but that's Hollywood circa 1946. It's a big family piece, suicide is a tricky subject to get right on film, very few have since but somehow Capra gets the balance right, it's big and Hollywoodesque but it's never overcooked. This is thanks to Capra's wonderful direction and of course thanks to great James Stewart. One of the few genuinely uplifting Christmas films (or any film for that matter) ever made. It's also responsible of one of the greatest last lines in a motion picture; "Attaboy Clarence".
Gremlins
Dir: Joe Dante
1984
*****
Joe Dante's greatest ever achievement has to be.....The HowlingGremlins, however, is the best film he's ever made and what he will be remembered for. It's a dark alternative Christmas movie with elements of horror, adventure and comedy. It's pure Joe Dante. Joe Dante is of course the chief successor, in my opinion, to the cartoonish B-movie horrors of the 1950s. A small all-American town terrorized by tiny little monsters is the stuff of cult brilliance, it's a 50's idea given an 80's twist. It's not all family friendly viewing however, it scared me as a child and thanks to graphic violence (Gremlin in the microwave) and depictions of horror (old lady thrown out of window) it was the film that made the motion picture association of America (MPAA) alter its rating system. Exactly the thing that appeals to kids, and it really did, so job well done. Dante's style can be explained by the people he gave cameo performances to; Steven Spielberg - creator of the Blockbuster, Jim McKrell - the classic game-show host, William Schallert - Cult TV star, Chuck Jones - Looney Tunes legend and Kenneth Tobey - 50's sci-fi regular. It's this combination of genres that make Gremlins so appealing, many have stated that Dante cashed in on the popular trend of comedy-horror at the time but I would argue that he was a pioneer of the idea and took it to the mainstream (Ghosterbusters being the other film to do so, both films being released in the same week). It can also be said though that Gremlins was the first winter/Christmas blockbuster. Many aspects of the film's script have entered every day vocabulary and even if you haven't seen the film, you'll know some of the details. My mum has never seen it but has often said I should never be watered or fed after midnight. I sure sign of a modern classic. I love the characters, love the puppetry, the humour and the overall magic the film has. My kind of Christmas movie.

Bad Santa
Dir: Terry Zwigoff
2003
****
When you break down all Christmas movies, they are all essentially copies of two or three original classics. Even the Christmas horror films are mostly all the same. Bad Santa is no different really as it's an obvious copy of Dan Aykroyd's 'Santa gone bad' scene in 1983's Trading Places and Miracle on 34th Street. Indeed, The Washington Times described Bad Santa as "The Evil twin of Miracle on 34th Street", like that was a bad thing? We'd had the Good Santa, the Wannabe Santa, the Mistaken for Santa, the Evil Santa, the Real Santa, the Substitute Santa, Memory-loss Santa and even a Robot Santa, so it was about time we had an alcoholic sex addict Santa really. So a Bad Santa, black comedy, written by Terry Zwigoff and the Coen Brothers...what's not to like? It is the welcome relief and much needed antidote to the cheerful, sickly and samey Christmas Christmas films released before and since. Jack Nicholson and Bill Murray were both approached to play Bad Santa but both had other commitments, lucky for Billy Bob Thornton but to be fair this is one of his greatest performances. He only just missed out on the Golden Globe for his performance, Murray eventually winning for his performance in that other commitment. Out of the three actors I think Billy Bob was the right choice. The film is quality viewing for the more cynical film goer but it still has that classic Christmas message so really, this film has something for everyone. Apparently things weren't so clear-cut behind the scenes and the Weinsteins are said to have clashed with Zwigoff (as did the Coens) and they filmed additional sequences behind his back and tampered with the final edit. I hate it when producers get involved with the creative process in this way but this time I guess they were right, as the final film is almost perfect the way it is.
Elf
Dir: Jon Favreau
2003
***
I dislike Will Ferrell immensely. I pretty much hate him in nearly every film he's ever been in for the exception of two; Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Elf. It's not that I don't even not hate in this either, I actually like him and think he's on top form. However, that's not to say he isn't just that little bit annoying in places. It's bizarre though, a film in which I like Will Ferrell also sees two dependable actors that I like; James Caan and Mary Steenburgen, display fairly poor performances. You win some, you lose some. I still don't like Zooey Deschanel, although she is at her least hateful in this festive treat. It's all rather funny. The North Pole scenes are arguably the best of the whole film. I particularly liked the scenes whereby Ferrell is larger than everyone else. This is great in the initial introduction when it becomes clear, to everyone but Elf, that he is not an Elf but is also embellished upon and used wisely later on in the film, rather than shamelessly taken advantage of. It's not a repetitive joke. I also loved the mix of live action and stop-motion animation and genuinely struggle to think of any other film where the method has worked as well. The story isn't as strong in the second half but the brilliant Peter Dinklage more than makes up for it. A Will Ferrell/Christmas film I can watch more than once? Who would have thought?

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Santa Claus: The Movie
Dir: Jeannot Szwarc
1985
*****
1985's Santa Claus: The Movie is that magical film from my childhood that Christmas wouldn't be the same without. I have such fond memories of watching this as a child, the fantastical origins of Mr and Mrs Claus, their first journey to the North Pole and the hazy dreamlike discovery of their destiny had me transfixed and full of warm feelings throughout and every year without fail. It was the perfect visualisation of Christmas for me. Then add the brilliant second half where the lovable Elf Patch (played by the lovable Dudley Moore) gets tricked into leaving the North Pole by a particularly dastardly John Lithgow. Cue lots of Elves in the city jokes, stunning shots of Santa's slay across the New York skyline and tradition vs. commercialisation. It explains how Santa's reindeer fly, how he is able to ascend people's chimneys and gives every child the fantasy of riding with Santa on Christmas eve. I loved it. At least until last year that is, when I watched it again and found to my surprise that the tragic truth is that it's quite an awful film and nowhere near as good as I remembered it. It looks cheap, is overcooked and has quite a cringe-worthy script. I always remembered the introduction to be as good as my other favourite film Superman, also made by father and son team Alexander and IIya Salkind. However, I can't forget those warm memories of my youth and it really isn't all that bad, so I find it impossible to give the film anything other than five stars. The child inside me has spoken and I shan't be persuaded otherwise. To be fair, David Huddleston is easily the second best Santa of all time.
Defending Santa
Dir: Brian Skiba
2013
**
Hallmark's Defending Santa finds Dean Cain (who seems to be trapped in some sort of bad Christmas movie hell) find Santa and assist him in proving he is who he says he is and doing so before Christmas Eve. For his services, Santa helps him find new love and a new Mother for his daughter, following the death of his wife. Wait. I've written this before haven't I? Yes, I have. That's because this is essentially the same film as 2011's The Case for Christmas. Hallmark have reached a new low. Not only have they run out of classic seasonal films to copy, they've started to remake their own, even the ones that are only two years old. There are some slight changes to the story but essentially it's the same. However, I liked this version a little bit more so. It's certainly a lot less serious and Dean Cain is given a far more likable role. I like Dean Cain a lot (I once met him and had a very interesting conversation with him about mythology). I feel he is worth more than this but without him it would be twice as bad.
The Case for Christmas
Dir: Timothy Bond
2011
*
Hallmark's The Case for Christmas finds Dean Cain (who seems to be trapped in some sort of bad Christmas movie hell) find Santa and assist him in proving he is who he says he is and doing so before Christmas Eve. For his services, Santa helps him find new love and a new Mother for his daughter, following the death of his wife. Even better than that, he also gets him a classic Ford Galaxie. A fair trade indeed. What is a little less fair is the fact that once again, Hallmark have ripped off a classic Christmas film. It seems that whenever Santa visits and it's not Christmas Eve he either finds himself in hospital or in court. The charges against him are also rather questionable; ruining Christmas by not bring the presents that children ask for. Actually, in this day and age he probably could get sued for such a crime. The multi-billionaire that is suing Santa actually has an ulterior motive, he hates everything about Christmas and wants to reinvent it, although his new notion of Christmas is exactly the same the existing one. I hated everything about the film. My favourite line: "Until you realise logic, reason and science don't define everything in this world, you'll be living half a life". That sounds like a Hallmark slogan if ever I heard one.
Merry ChristmasMrLawrence
Dir: Nagisa Oshima
1983
*****
Nagisa Oshima's World War II Prison of War drama Merry ChristmasMrLawrence is a true masterpiece and one of the greatest war films of all time. Based on the experiences of Sir Laurens van der Post as a POW, as recorded in his works The Seed and the Sower and The Night of the New Moon, it follows the actions of four men in a Japanese concentration camp. David Bowie (in his best ever performance in my opinion) plays Kiwi Major Jack Celliers who befriends fellow prisoner Lieutenant Colonel John Lawrence, played by the brilliant John Conti. They are overseen by a young Captain Yonoi (Ryuichi Sakamoto) and the brutal Sergeant Hara (the outstanding Takeshi 'Beat' Kitano in one of his first roles). Each man has their own inner conflict, each man has a different approach to the war and their personal situation and how they interact with each other. I struggle to think of another film that shows the contrasting mind-set of each side of the war so effectively and the roles that people play in unimaginable situations. The performances from the four leading men are faultless and all four performances are so often criminally overlooked. The chemistry between each actor is electric which makes for quite an emotional viewing experience. The story is the perfect War fable in that it is very much an anti-war message. It's tragic that people sometimes only really find out what makes them who they are and what makes us human during times of conflict and this is perfectly explored by Nagisa Oshima. Most great films have that one stand out scene that you'll never forget, but nearly every scene in Merry ChristmasMrLawrence is a stand out scene. Ryuichi Sakamoto performance is stunning but he didn't only star, he also wrote the film's score. The Merry ChristmasMrLawrence theme song is regarded as one of the best ever recorded. Every aspect of the film is faultless, a true modern classic.
White Christmas
Dir: Michael Curtiz
1954
***
Michael Curtiz's classic Christmas musical is a seasonal must in many a household and has been for some time. Not in mine though. My biggest gripe about 1954's White Christmas is that it has very little to do with Christmas at all. The whole production seems to have been thrown together as a loose accompaniment to the title song. The fact is, White Christmas as sung by Bing Crosby first appeared in 1942's Holiday Inn. Crosby didn't think much of the song and neither did anybody else, even though writer Irving Berlin was rather fond of it. The song steadily grew in popularity to the point where the studios knew that if attached to a new project, would be even more of a success. White Christmas starts off during the Second World War, somewhere in the battlefields, Christmas Eve 1944. Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye are putting on a show for the boys and for their beloved commanding officer who is being relieved of command, much to the surprise and bewilderment of the men. Later we see the two men become a success back home after the war is ended that sees them both as Broadway performers and big time producers. They then meet a sister act (Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen) and are tricked into performing with them, although they don't mind so much once they find out. The couples pair up and the film remains in 'will they, won't they' territory until the end, even though we all know that they inevitably 'will'. Hollywood being Hollywood, no couple can confirm their togetherness until first having a dispute, generally due to a misunderstanding or a throw away lie told towards the beginning of the film. The boys (ha) follow the girls to Vermont, where they find their old commanding officer has a big old empty ski lodge. Seeing as its empty (due to a lack of snow, snow snow) they decide to move their entire dance production there at a huge financial loss because girls and army. Everything else is just one big practice of various different routines that really have nothing to do with the story or indeed Christmas. It isn't until the final minutes of the film do we actually see the White Christmas and hear the song and by that point you will have worked out whether this film is for you or not. I like Danny Kaye, so I was happy. The dance scenes are impressive but I'm afraid I wasn't fond of the songs. However, I would argue that the film’s success lies on the fact that there is genuinely something for everyone to enjoy.
Scrooge
Dir: Ronald Neame
1970
****
If you were to ask me what my favourite classical adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol that didn't include Muppets was, I'd have to say Ronald Neame's 1970 version, starring Albert Finney in the title role. This is the first version I remember and this is the version I watched before Bill Murray's Scrooged and the Muppets' (arguably the definitive version) were made. Murray and Kermit stole its thunder for me somewhat and it was suddenly no longer essential annual viewing but I do like to revisit it every other year of so at Christmas. The set pieces are phenomenal, from the snowy main street to the bountiful banquet halls, every scene comes alive and is exactly as I imagined it when reading the classic novel. When a film starts with an illustrated title sequence by the late great Ronald Searle you generally know you are in for a treat. It works rather well as a musical too, most hardcore Dickens fan agree, with many a great sing-song to be had. I thought they got each of the ghosts just right too, with the Ghost of Christmas future being the most terrifying thing I'd ever seen as a child. This version of the Ghost of Christmas is by far my favourite of all the adaptions made. A Christmas classic that I remember making me feel warm and terrified in equal measure and if there are two things anyone could ever ask for during the festive season, it's warmth and terror.
Call Me Claus
Dir: Peter Werner
2001
**
2001's Call Me Claus is a cross between Miracle on 34th Street and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with a little bit of Ernest Saves Christmas thrown in, although not as good as any of those films. The film starts in the late 60's, a little girl asks Santa to bring her father home from the Vietnam War. Santa doesn't promise anything but his rather mouthy head Elf does. The little girl's father does indeed come home, that very night in fact, but unfortunately he's in a body-bag. Little Lucy blames Santa and hates Christmas as a result. Santa is riddled with guilt and isn't quite himself until he runs into Lucy thirty-five years or so later. Santa (played rather well by Nigel Hawthorne in what would be his last ever role) seeks out Lucy (Whoopi Goldberg) as his replacement as his two-hundred year stint as St Nick is nearly over. He has chosen Lucy as successor because she made his Santa hat glow. That isn't a euphemism either, you filthy animal. It seems that if Santa hasn't found a replacement by Christmas Eve on his two-hundredth year, the flood that Noah escaped will come back. It begs the question why Santa isn't mentioned in the Bible really but that would taking the whole thing far too seriously. It's just a truly terrible story, written by people without an ounce of creativity. I give it two stars rather than one because of Nigel Hawthorne's performance and because the humour is occasionally adult in its content, which I found refreshing for a cheap made for TV Christmas film.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Christmas Evil (AKA You Better Watch Out, Terror in Toyland)
Dir: Lewis Jackson
1980
****
Santa slashers aren't really supposed to be anything other than fun or gory, Lewis Jackson's Christmas Evil is neither. It isn't even a slasher, although it was marketed as such. It does have a man in a Santa suit on somewhat of a rampage but there is nothing mindless about it. Far from it. Christmas Evil is the festive version of Taxi Driver. Our Santa is Harry Stadling, a disturbed forty something with mental health issues. Harry, like all evil Santas, was traumatised as young child during Christmas when he saw Santa (his father dressed up) getting naughty with his own mother. He blamed his brother at the time and still, as an adult, his brother looks out for him and feels responsible (which leads to an amazing climax). When work gets too much and cracks start to appear, Harry finally looses it, although not in the way you might expect. His mission is to become Santa and to dish out charity, hope and goodwill to all men but woe betide anyone who stands in his way. His mission is based on social and moral responsibility. He's quite the empathetic character, when he's not killing people as they sleep that is. Brandon Maggart's performance should have been regarded as iconic years ago. The direction is brilliant, it's an eerie thriller with an intelligent idea. Certain scenes, such as 'The Christmas party' and the films concluding shot are the stuff of cinematic brilliance. This is a misunderstood and overlooked masterpiece failed by poor marketing.