Christmas Evil

by Dionisio “Don” Traverso Jr

Puerto Ricans celebrate Xmas till the Feast of the Three Kings in January, and in the case of my family, a few days past. In honor of that, here’s a review of another Xmas movie. From 1980, here’s Christmas Evil, AKA You Better Watch Out.

The movie starts with two boys and their mother surreptitiously watching from the stairs of their house as Santa climbs down their chimney, leaves presents, and consumes the cookies and milk left for him. Later, older brother Harry is told by younger brother Phil that Santa Claus isn’t real, that it was their dad in the suit they had witnessed earlier. Harry doesn’t believe him and rushes back to the stairs, where he sees Dad, still in Santa suit, feeling up Mom’s leg by the Christmas tree. Distraught, he runs to the attic, smashes a snow globe, and deeply cuts his hand.

Jump 33 years, and Harry is now a low-level manager at a toy company. His co-workers listen to his rants about improving the quality of the toys with mocking contempt and frequently take advantage of him, with one asking him to cover his shift so he can be with his family. Harry sees him later drinking in a bar with friends, boasting about tricking Harry into working for him.

At home, Harry sleeps in Santa pajamas and furnishes his apartment with Christmas decorations. Worse, he imagines himself to be the next Santa, and spies on neighborhood kids, keeping tabs in two ledgers of who is naughty and who is nice.

After cancelling Thanksgiving dinner with his brother Phil (Jeffrey DeMunn of The Walking Dead!), who’s intolerant of Harry’s increasingly odd behavior, and discovering at the company Christmas party that the bosses are participating in a toy donation scam, Harry goes off the deep end and, after stealing toys from his company’s factory and filling some bags with dirt, dresses up as Santa Claus and rides off in his van, which is painted with a picture of a sleigh on its sides. What follows are scenes of Christmas cheer, bloodshed, and murder.

This movie is totally bugfuck. Brandon Maggart is great as the unhinged Harry, keeping his performance just restrained enough not to devolve into camp. The story, as crazy as it is, has plenty of unexpected twists. One minute Harry’s bringing toys to joyful children, the next he’s killing churchgoers who bully him for dressing as Santa. The tonal shifts keep you as off kilter as this film is, infused with an almost Lynchian surreality. The ending will either blow your mind, make you laugh, or both.

Four out of five cheese curds. You better watch out for this one.

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