It's Christmas Eve 1947 and Harry and his brother Phillip are busy hanging out on the staircase of the family home, filled with childlike joy at the sight of Santa cavorting in the family room, distributing presents and bringing the jolly. It's not until little Harry – enticed by Mom's sexed-up giggles – bounds down the steps to see Santa caressing some stocking-clad legs. Congrats Mom and Dad, er, Santa. You've officially screwed up your kid.
Fast-forward to 1980 and Harry (Brandon Maggart, father of pop singer Fiona Apple!) is now a Christmas-loving creep who works in a toy factory and keeps a detailed ledger about the naughty and nice kids in his seedy neighborhood. (One poor bastard gets written up in the big book of naughty for picking his nose, impure thoughts and negative body hygiene.)
It all comes crashing down one night when middle manager Harry is subjected to filling in on the soul-sucking toy assembly line at Jolly Dream. Thoughts of what Mommy was really doing with Santa that night, coupled with the realization that his co-worker played him for a fool, send Harry over the edge into full-fled psycho mode.
It's not long before Phillip (portrayed by character actor Jeffrey De Munn) puts together the pieces and figures out that his "emotional cripple" of a brother is the one rampaging through the city.
Pre-dating my beloved SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT by four years I can see why proponents argue that it gets the short end of the stick in the Xmasploitation sweepstakes. It has the killer Santa, some hysterical dialogue (one kid wishes for "a lifetime subscription to PENTHOUSE magazine!" while Santa/Harry tells some poor slob "I'll bring you something... horrible") and a ludicrous ending straight out of GREASE.
But as far as the film itself goes, CHRISTMAS EVIL – originally released as YOU BETTER WATCH OUT – feels much more gritty and grimy than SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT ever could. Filmed on location in northern New Jersey and Reading, PA it has a rundown, urban decay sheen to it that makes it feel like it could have been directed by Scorsese. Instead, it was directed by one-and-done helmer Lewis Jackson who delivers a movie that's just as effed up as it sounds. – Dan Taylor
CHRISTMAS EVIL is available from Amazon.