There are horror films for almost every holiday—Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Halloween (of course)—even Independence Day (William Lustig's Uncle Sam). With Christmas just around the corner, it got me thinking about Yuletide-themed movies, and I came to the conclusion that most of them are pretty lame. Here's a select list...
1. Don't Open Till Christmas (1984). Actor Edmund Purdom also took the directorial reins for this sleazy English slasher. Yeah, I know you're saying "Edmund Purdom...who?" Well, he was in the original 1953 Titanic, some sword and sandal epics and sleaze like Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks and Pieces, so he knew his way around exploitation. Here he plays a police inspector on the hunt for a masked killer preying on men dressed as Santa Claus. You just know it's going to turn out that he was traumatized by someone dressed as Saint Nick as a young boy.
Man, is it cheap. Some of the sets are so small it looks like the actors are crouching to fit into the frame. And despite its '80s vintage, it has a distinctly sleazy '70s vibe, especially in its depiction of the Piccadilly Circus/nightclub milieu. Even cult vixen Caroline (Maniac) Munro, no stranger to sleaze herself, shows up to chirp a Eurotrash disco song.
And instead of being horrified by the murders, the obviously underdirected extras react with expressions of nausea or vague disappointment. It's probably the best of the bad Christmas horror films, because it delivers the gore with a thick slice of cheese.
Father Christmases are offed in a variety of amusing ways—burning, bludgeoning—even exsanguination via castration. Of course none of it is convincing, but that only adds to the fun. You have to wonder what Purdom was thinking as he was performing double duty here. "At last! An opportunity to stretch my talent" or "God, I need the money"? And the VHS sleeve (pictured here) is classic. How could you resist renting it with packaging like this?
2. The "And All Through the House" segment from Tales from the Crypt (1972). Joan Collins! Chloe Franks (Whoever Slew Auntie Roo, The House That Dripped Blood)! Sicko Santa! The first adaptation of the classic 1950s comic book series is by far the best. I remember seeing it at the State Theater in South Bend, Indiana, on a double bill with another Amicus anthology, From Beyond the Grave. I didn't dig Grave so much (insert groan here) but Tales was great. It's amazing that it got a PG rating back in the day, because it's quite tense and bloody (even though the blood is pink).