Christmas is a time of traditions. A time for roast turkey. A time for mince pies. A time for mulled wine. A time for giving, and receiving. For us lot though, its just another chance to go hunting the net for dodgy yuletide horror films. Tonight's appetiser comes from the man who - get this - wrote a book called The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, one Charles E. Sellier Jr. Silent Night, Deadly Night sounds awfully like a film we watched last Christmas (replace the word 'Deadly' with 'Bloody') and lets just say I was praying to the God of crap horror that this would at least be a reasonable transfer, even if the movie itself was shit. Which it turned out NOT to be. The (dare I say it) main course tonight is a little home-grown ditty that Jim acquired so I'll let him take over here...
Eh? Oh right, Don't Open 'Til Christmas. I found this baby by hunting round imdb for another appropriate yuletide treat and, despite nearly every post on there saying it stank, I bought it anyway. Pssh, what do they know?
This evening's selection was brought to you by all at eatmybrains.com in association with the suspiciously gay Santa movement of '84.
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
Plot After his parents are murdered, a young tormented teenager goes on a murderous rampage dressed as Santa.
Zomblee At the beginning of Silent Night, Deadly Night, we are told that this version is a merging of two different versions of the film to give us the complete, uncensored cut. This is most reassuring. But is Silent Night, Deadly Night going to deliver the goods, Nasty Santa style? Well, after ten minutes, we were all pretty much convinced that it was going to do exactly that. And then some.
The story begins on Xmas Eve '71, when 8 year-old Billy is told by his crazy old grandpaw at a "standard issue mental facility" (Jim) that Santa isn't all he appears to be. On the way home, the poor kid then witnesses his parents getting murdered by a nasty Santa. Understandably, this psychologically scars young Billy - BIG time. Imagine being a kid who FEARS Christmas? That's pretty bad. Billy then goes through an unpleasant upbringing in an orphanage at the hands of an evil Mother Superior, eventually ending up working in Ira's Toy Shop where they actually sell the Krull board game. This is when he's asked to play store Santa at Xmas. Can you see where this is going? We all did, and everyone including myself were doing the "Wow...this is actually...really good!" - type comments for about 90 minutes.
The character (and plot) development is above average for what is essentially an 80's slasher film. The music by Perry Botkin is effective enough and Billy's pathos is convincingly depicted ("He's not having a very nice life so far, this Billy." - Rawshark) in what has the potential to be an appalling bad yuletide horror piece.
Fashion wise, the 80's have their wicked way with the cast. When Billy is all grown up into a young man in '84 (when he officially loses the plot), he not only looks certifiably gay, but also takes to wearing some kind of Luke Skywalker costume while he's working in the store. But we didn't let that put us off, oh no. Because SNBN not only boasts a decent story but also offers some death scenes that can only be described as "amazing" (that's what I wrote in my notes anyway), the highlight being a snow-sleighing decapitation which, trust us, you really have to see. There's also a well-sustained creepy ambience throughout, helped by shots of toys, dolls, little Santas - you know the sort of thing, and so does Jim: "I love scary fucking wooden puppets in stuff!"
This one gets better and better; I think I was literally jumping up and down during the last ten minutes when it goes back to the orphanage. SNBN won't change your world, but ask someone to get it in time for next Christmas if you fancy something surprisingly above-average in your stocking.
"Santa Claus is going to bring you a big surprise tonight."
Rawshark Christmas is usually a time for festive cheer, but not so for poor old Billy whose parents were murdered by a store-robbing Santa Claus in 1971 (”31 Bucks… Merry fucking Christmas!”). Cut to three years later and Billy and his brother are at an orphanage where a cold-hearted Mother Superior reigns supreme. There, Billy draws bloody pictures of Christmas carnage and is punished, even more so when he spies a couple having sex in one of the rooms. So, really, who can blame him for punching out the visiting Santa with a walloping left hook when he’s forced to sit on his knee.
By the time we reach 1984 in the film’s chronology, we know that Billy is going to become one of the naughty children. To be fair, he doesn’t actually turn bad until he spies a co-worker raping a girl in the storeroom of the toy shop where he works. Billy Santa then strangles the rapist with Xmas lights, but unfortunately he doesn’t stop there, and soon stabs the poor girl, before taking a hammer to the store owner’s head (”He really got hammered” - Zomblee) and shooting the other woman with a bow and arrow. That’s him off Santa’s present list then, probably for life.
Silent Night, Bloody Night is actually a great little gift of a Christmas movie. For an 80s slasher movie, a lot of time is spent developing Billy’s character as an unfortunate killer, and this pays large dividends on the tone of the film. Even though we don’t approve of Billy’s behaviour, especially when he’s impaling a semi-naked Linnea Quigley on the antlers of a stuffed deer head, we feel for his deluded mission to reward the ‘good’ and punish the ‘naughty’.
Throw in a classic decapitation scene in the snow, and a thrilling climax as Billy approaches the orphanage on a mission to murder the Mother Superior (”Yay – he’s even chopped off the snowman’s head!” - Jim), and you’re left with one of the best Christmas horror films ever made (leaving aside the classic Black Christmas of course). Sit back with some mulled wine and mince pies, and enjoy.
“Can you believe this? It’s Christmas Eve and we have orders to bring in Santa Claus!”
Jim That Mother Superior, she was a bitch wasn't she? She was so mean in fact that one of my colleagues acually said "I hope she dies." Shocking commentary. She doesn't, though, "They let her live because she was cool at the end..." claimed Rawshark. Hmmm.
So Billy's got a thing about Christmas then, what with Santa killing his folks and everything. He's also got a thing about sex being evil, something that Mother Superior drilled in to him over his years at the orphanage. Which means that Billy working in a toy shop where they get him to dress up as Santa while the other horny shop assisstants make out in the back room is just a recipe for disaster, or as Zomblee put it, "Fucking great, I really like this movie." Still, those Jabba the Hutt Star Wars toys on the shelf were pretty cool (Rawshark particularly liked that), as were the Krull boardgames (no shit - you can still get them on ebay too, I've already looked). Me, I mostly liked the working-in-a-toy-shop-stock-room montage with Billy lifting heavy things, although Rawshark prefered the "victim montage" that we're shown a little later. He gets quite busy that Billy guy, and that is one of the best sledge decapitations I have ever seen, even if they do broadcast the move to you way in advance (which makes it even funnier, actually).
But there's more to Silent Night, Deadly Night than just toy shops and brutal murders. I am of course talking about the breasts. "Lots of breasts at Zombie Club recently..." commented Zomblee, as another topless soon to be victim of Billy's rampage ran across the screen. Then Rawshark's new (and rather pretty) French flatmate wandered in. "We're watching breasts." offered Zomblee enthusiastically. Brilliant. Then she politely sat down with us, with her dinner plate on her lap, only to be confronted by another topless actress getting graphically impaled on a pair of antlers. She left soon after, although I can't decide whether it was the impaling or Zomblee's charms that put her off. It was probably the latter.
"There is no Santa Clause!"
Director Charles E. Sellier Jr.
Cast Lilyan Chauvin
Robert Brian Wilson
Runtime 85 mins
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Don't Open 'Til Christmas (1984)
Plot Somebody in London is killing anyone in a Santa suit and it's up to Scotland Yard to stop him before his exploits turn into an annual tradition.
Jim And so to the next film of the night, the much-anticipated Don’t Open 'Til Christmas, which turned out to be just the kind of thing I wanted it to be. Sleazy, low budget, British and essentially a bit crap but with a bit of gore thrown in. It was exactly what I was after. No, really!
Anyway, the story revolves around a mad guy on the loose killing Santas, and two relatives of one of the early victims, Cliff and his girlfriend Kate who’s father was murdered while playing Santa at a fancy dress party. More Santas are killed in nefarious ways and in sleazy places (back alleys, peep shows, that kind of thing) and Cliff, through associations with other characters (like the sleazy porn photographer who likes to dress his models up in kinky Santa baby costumes) becomes a prime suspect because he’s regularly caught in or around the area connected to the crime.
Or something. To tell you the truth the film’s a real hodgepodge. It tries to be an interesting whodunit by padding out characters, like the police chief with the bald head and the journalist who keeps repeating to everyone that his name is Giles, but it doesn’t work as the acting’s atrocious and the pacing even worse. Still, it did really keep us entertained throughout, what with police brass bands in the street (“When does that ever happen?” - Rawshark) and police stations with huge maps on the walls (“I like the big map a lot, I’d love a big map like that.” - Zomblee). And it was great fun shouting out famous landmarks because, as Zomblee said “Covent Garden! I know you know what it is but you have to say it, don’t you?”
Dodgy ending though, but at least it wasn’t as bad as Zomblee thought it was going to be; “Don’t tell me it’s just going to be he hates Christmas! Please…”
“Are you the boy?”
Rawshark No, it wasn’t because the killer hates Christmas, it was even worse than that. In fact, I don’t even think a reason was ever given for the killing spree, or if it was, I missed it. We thought it might have something to do with the Christmas present sent to Inspector Harris with the message ‘Don’t Open ‘Til Christmas’, but even that turned out to be a red herring in a film swarming with crimson fish. And no, I’m not talking about the number of Santa Claus’ murdered along the way.
Zombie Club guest Matt announced at the start of the film that ”It is British though – makes it less likely to be crap” but even that was wrong, as Don’t Open ‘Til Christmas is crap with a capital C. And a capital R and A and P. More cheesy than a French cheese board, DOTC features terrible production design, awful acting, dire dialogue, and an embarrassing appearance from Caroline Munro as a cabaret singer who has no relevance to the plot at all.
Yes, there are some amusing moments, with journalist Giles ever ready to mention his own name (it’s so obviously him) and it was cool to spot London landmarks in a Christmas slasher movie, but unless you’re a fan of awful dialogue (”My father’s just been murdered – I can’t concentrate!”) and excessive sleaze (peep shows, porn shoots etc), you’d probably be better off avoiding this one.
Best line of the night goes to guest Matt though, as stripper Ti-Ti Decontracted (that’s what was on her T-Shirt at least, I can’t remember her real name) manages to pull the killer over the balcony with a piece of tinsel. It would never have happened in real life of course, unless, as Matt stated, ”he was wearing roller skates and someone had spread butter all over the floor!” Don’t open ‘til Christmas? I’d advise never opening it at all.
“His eyes sort of smiled. If I saw those eyes again I’d recognise him. If he was smiling.”
Zomblee "Piccadilly Circus! I've been there!" was Rawshark's contribution to the sightseeing tour of London that is cunningly disguised as a rubbish horror film. See, it wasn't just me. I saw Portobello Road in it as well. As you've already worked out, Don't Open 'Til Christmas was a bit, well, shit. I've got to admit that I've never heard Jim ask "Can you press a button on the remote to find out how much is left?" See?
Don't Open 'Til Christmas does contain a small few touches that worked quite well. Intentional stuff like a killer wearing a really creepy semi-transparent mask (which reminded me of Tatum at the end of Nightmares in a Damaged Brain) springs to mind, and unintentional touches like Giles, who pretty much just goes around saying his name to everyone. At Zombie Club we take notes for these little write-ups and more often than not, there's a character whose name we don't know, so we're all preoccupied with another character calling them by their name. No need to worry tonight. That guy's name was definitely 'Giles'.
So, London, bad fashions, a man who was definitely called Giles, a big gay cockney Santa circus (that was in my notes so there must have been one in there), a lot of Santas in peril, tinsel-assisted strangling and a lot of rubbish stabbing. I was becoming excited about having to get up with a hangover at 3am to fly home for Christmas but was also a bit worried that I'd freaked out Rawshark's new housemate with my breasts comment in the previous (better) film. Time to go home already?
"Well, Inspector, you've got your first clue - the clue i gave you last night - the shrunken head."
Director Edmund Purdom
Cast Edmund Purdom
Runtime 86 mins
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So what is it about Zombie Club these days? How come there's so much breastage in it? Should we change it to Breast Club or what? I mean, topless nudity in slasher movies has always been part of the package, but this is getting plain ridiculous.
Anyway, Christmas. Another year, another yule tide Zombie Club, another hang over. Maybe next year we'll actually watch the Christmas Zombie Club a little earlier and get the write-up in for Christmas as opposed to some time in the new year, but we probably won't, let's face it.
4th Oct 04 With its fine blend of dark humour and shock horror, you will barely be able to avert your gaze from the screen; from the opening sequence on the desolate moors, to the thrilling finale in Piccadilly Circus.