‘If you’re bad boys and girls, your name goes in the
‘Bad Boys and Girls Book’, and I’ll bring you something…horrible.’
John Waters has called Christmas Evil, ‘The greatest Christmas movie ever made,’ but even John waters gets it wrong sometimes. Christmas Evil has the greatest ending of any Christmas movie ever made, but getting there is a real struggle.
Another one of those totally inexplicable Nasties, Christmas Evil is a slow-moving drama about one man’s mental deterioration. In that respect, it’s similar to films like Maniac and Don’t Go in the House, but without the frequent horror scenes of those films. All three feature an adult male who experienced some kind of childhood trauma, in this case young Harry seeing his father dressed as Santa squeezing his mother’s thigh.
Harry has grown up obsessed with Santa and the festive season, and the film does give good Christmas atmosphere, a constant parade of yuletide songs and imagery. What a shame it refuses to do anything interesting with it! Near the start there’s a good scene of Harry spying on the neighbourhood kids through binoculars to see if they’re ‘good’ or ‘bad’, drawing attention to how creepy the idea of Santa actually is, some magical paedophile who spends all year watching children. The idea is never really followed up. Instead it’s mostly scenes of Harry rocking back and forward, looking through windows, humming Christmas songs and breaking into factories. Maggart is really good in the role, but he needs more to do.
There are some funny touches in here, like a police lineup of Santas, but so much of the film just feels like navel-gazing. Even as a character study there’s not much here; Harry wants to be Santa – Harry becomes Santa. End of.
I can’t even fathom why Christmas Evil is on the Nasties. The only reason I can think of is that it was mistaken for highly controversial Santa slasher Silent Night, Deadly Night. There are two very minor gore shots and no nudity – hell, I don’t even think there was any swearing!
The thing is, it’s almost worth watching for the very last shot of the entire movie, which I absolutely will not spoil for you. If only the rest of the film had some of the imagination, fun and magic of this moment. As it is, I have no choice but to put writer/director Lewis Jackson on my naughty list.