CULT CORNER: ‘Christmas Evil’ is an obscure ’80s movie you better watch out for
Santa on a killing spree is the stuff of nightmares for children, but for adults, a film based on this idea has all the makings for a fun night together with friends. While some may find it in bad taste, those who love a good “bad” film will find “Christmas Evil” endlessly entertaining.
“Christmas Evil” was originally released in 1980 under the title “You Better Watch Out” in a limited run in theaters, but it has become a huge cult classic amongst horror fans in recent years.
The film follows Harry Stadling who, on Christmas Eve in 1947, spies his mother fooling around with Santa. Unbeknownst to him, it is actually his father in disguise. Heartbroken, he rushes up to the attic and cuts his hand with a shard of glass from a shattered snow globe to deal with his feelings.
Fast-forward to 1980, an adult Harry now works at the Jolly Dreams toy factory in a position he did not want, and he is often ridiculed by his coworkers for his love of toys. At home, he has taken it upon himself to become the next true Santa. He sleeps in costume, and his apartment is covered with Christmas toys and decorations. From the roof of his building, he uses binoculars to spy on neighborhood children to see if they have been “bad or good” and tracks the children in his book.
Harry soon starts to become aware of how he is viewed at work, and this causes him to eventually have a nervous breakdown, making him to believe that he is now the real Santa Claus. He sets out to reward the good people in town and punish the bad.
This is far from a violent or scary film and is actually a fairly innocent movie despite the seemingly taboo subject matter. Harry’s mental breakdown leading him to become Santa Claus is done more in a manner of hero worship than trying to follow standard slasher protocol. There is very little gore here, and the ending will certainly leave an impression upon you during the holiday season.
Is it worth seeing? “Christmas Evil” nearly disappeared if not for the love that cult director John Waters had for this film. His mentioning of it in books and talks brought this film to the attention of many cult film lovers and caused it to have a renaissance of sorts in later years. This eventually led to the film being printed again on DVD.
In 2014, Vinegar Syndrome released a beautiful version on Blu-ray with a great set of extras. It is far from a perfect film, but it’s extremely enjoyable and perfect viewing for the holiday season, especially if you’re sick of the same old Christmas movies year after year!