TRIGGER WARNING: This film contains 2 sequences of self-harm. If you're thinking about injuring yourself, please click our resources tab for help.
What if “seeing mommy kissing Santa Claus” completely wrecked you psychologically – transforming you into some sort of strange Christmas vigilante? Christmas Evil explores that very idea.
In a strange, dreamy flashback – strikingly similar in style to those seen in 1983’s Sleepaway Camp – a young Harry Stadling sees his mother getting a little too frisky with a man dressed as St. Nick. Thirty three years later, Harry has transformed himself into his very own version of Santa Clause – a strange coping mechanism. He works at at a rundown toy factory, has covered his home in holiday-themed decor, and spies on the neighborhood children to find out who exactly is naughty and who is nice, keeping track of them with his very organized lists.
The obsession grows farther and farther out of control, with Harry fashioning a Santa suit of his very own and painting his van to look like a sleigh. He proceeds to break into various homes in the neighborhood, leaving gifts for “the good” and slaughtering “the bad” in gruesome fashion. However, this isn’t your traditional slasher. Instead of obscene amounts of gore, it focuses on the emotional trauma and breakdowns experienced by our bizarre anti-hero.
Considering the shoestring $750,000 budget, it’s surprising just how great Christmas Evil looks. The cinematography by Ricardo Aronovich is fantastic, and the direction by Lewis Jackson is equally impressive. In many ways Christmas Evil feels like a leftover from the sleazy era of 70's independent horror cinema. One could easily imagine that Harry Stadling and Maniac’s Frank Zito exist in the same universe. This certainly isn’t a negative criticism. The gritty, dirty aesthetic lends heavily to the film’s memorable atmosphere.However, nothing holds this movie together more than Brandon Maggart’s frantic performance as Harry Stadling. He is incredibly watchable and gives 110% in every single scene.
For horror fans, there’s a whole lot to love about this cinematic gem. It is plenty suspenseful and features some fantastic genre imagery. Movie fans in general will enjoy seeing a handful of actors in their early careers. Familiar faces include Jeffrey DeMunn (The Walking Dead), Patricia Richardson (Home Improvement), Mark Margolis (Breaking Bad) and Raymond Barry (Flight of the Living Dead – okay, not his most known work, but I’m not going to miss the opportunity to plug that movie).
All in all, Christmas Evil is a weird, wonderful, holiday gift for film geeks everywhere. One that only gets better with repeat viewings.
Christmas Evil is now available to stream on Shudder. And more importantly, if you or someone you know is struggling with suicide, addiction, self-harm or depression - please free feel to reach out. Use any our resources, call the suicide lifeline (1-800-273-8255) or text 741-741.
Credits: Christmas Evil is property of Pan American Pictures. We do not own nor claim any rights.