Written and Directed by: David Steiman
Starring: Douglas Smith, Emilie de Ravin, Robert Culp, and Bill Goldberg
Reviewed by: Brett G.
ďWe're trapped in closet on Christmas with Santa trying to murder us. How fucked up is that?Ē
Much to the dismay of angry mothers everywhere, horror has been in the business of re-appropriating the holidaysí most recognizable and cheery icon to suit the genreís horrific needs. The image of various killer Santa Clauses slashing across screens in the 80s incited the wrath of parent groups, but that hasnít stopped film-makers from revisiting the idea a time or two in the years since. One recent effort came courtesy of Hollywood director Brett Ratner, who threw some money at his buddy David Steiman, who set out to craft one of the most ridiculous holiday movies of all time with Santaís Slay.
What if Santa Claus really isnít the cheerful, over-sized elf that Clement Clarke Moore and Coca-Cola would have us believe he is? Instead, imagine he was actually the son of Satan who lost a bet to one of Godís angels. As a result of the bet, the demon seed had to give up his yearly day of death and destruction and instead deliver Christmas presents for a thousand years. Now, itís 2005, and the thousand-year sentence is over, and heís expectedly pissed off and looking to ďspread a little Yuletide fear!Ē Itís up to sixteen year old Nicholas, his eccentric grandfather, and one of Nicholasís female co-workers to stop Santa from dismembering everything in his sight.
My history with Santaís Slay goes back to our 12 Slays of Christmas celebration in 2008, which inspired me to seek out more holiday bloodletting than anyone ever should. When I came across the image of Bill Goldberg decked out in killer Santa gear, something told me it had the potential to be one of the most awesomely bad movies of all time. Any fears that this wouldnít be the case were soon set aside after a rousing opening sequence that featured Santa carving up a somewhat star-studded cast (James Caan, Fran Drescher, Chris Kattan). After blasting his way down the chimney and proclaiming, ďyes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,Ē Goldberg proceeds to rip through the cast in a humorous and bloody sequence that lets you know this one isnít a lump of coal; instead, itís quite possibly nuttier than any fruticake youíve ever encountered.
Admittedly, the film doesnít quite keep up the relentless pace the entire time, but itís mostly one hell of a slay ride, full of cheesy dialogue, colorful characters, and plenty of laughs. Itís obviously silly as hell, but itís hard not to crack a smile at a movie that features a killer Santa Claus laying waste to a strip club (thatís full of ďho, ho, hosĒ) and firing explosive gifts from his sleigh. The ridiculous tone permeates the entire film, which features a stocking-full of black humor and satire. Though it features its fair share of clunkers and juvenile humor, thereís some clever wit to be found at times in this instantly-quotable effort, which might be more unbelievable than Santa himself.
Similarly unbelievable is the effectiveness of the colorful cast; though our hero Nicholas is your standard horror teen, heís surrounded by the likes of veteran actor Robert Culp, who brings a charming quality to the grandfather. Emilie de Ravin has gone on to bigger and better things (like being Lost on a pretty famous television island) since this, and this might be the one movie she hopes is never brought up as her career blossoms, but sheís got a naturally sweet charisma that makes her character adorable. Of course, thereís also Goldberg himself, who really doesnít have to do much besides spout ridiculous, pun-filled dialogue and kill people (which isnít too far removed from his wrestling stint). Itís obviously stunt-casting, but something about it works; itís not quite enough to redeem Goldberg for ending Bret ďThe HitmanĒ Hartís career in the ring, but at least heíll always have this as a legacy too.
This is not to mention the other random town crazies, which include a group of bazooka-wielding redneck hunters and old ladies that would sooner tell you to ďgo fuck yourselfĒ than wish you a Merry Christmas. Hell, Tommy Lister even shows up as a gas-station attendant and seemingly reprises his role as Deebo from Friday. Much of the cast ends up on Santaís naughty list and are dispatched in typical slasher fashion; this one keeps the spirit of the season and features various holiday touchstones as implements of death: candy canes, wreaths, egg nog, turkey legs, a menorah (just to keep things kosher), and even Santaís reindeer. Accompanying the Yuletide bloodletting is a collection of rocking holiday tunes and a Rankin and Bass-inspired stop-motion animation sequence. About the only thing thatís missing from the brisk 78 minute run-time is a catchy musical number.
Two years ago, the last thing I expected from this one was a willingness to revisit it. Iíve done so not once, but twice, since then, so I guess Santa's Slay has become a holiday tradition already. Somehow, Christmas is now incomplete without the likes of Rudolph, Frosty, and Bill Goldberg as Santa. Iím just as incredulous as you are at this point, but itís quite a hoot. To check out this slice of Christmas cheese, track down the Lions Gate DVD, which features a nice anamorphic transfer and a 5.1 soundtrack that manages to be quite thunderous at times. Special features include an audio commentary with Steiman and producer Matthew Lednetti, a few behind-the-scenes features, deleted scenes, a blooper reel, and trailers. It makes for a nice stocking stuffer, and donít be surprised if you make multiple trips down Santa Claus Lane. Buy it!
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