If Weird Al Yankovic’s song The Night Santa Went Crazy was ever adapted as a movie, it’d look a bit like Santa’s Slay; a fun and unapologetically bad taste Yuletide-themed romp. Movies this silly and goofy don’t often work, but Santa’s Slay works beautifully because it knows precisely what kind of film it is and doesn’t take itself seriously. From top to bottom, this campy concoction is awesome. It has everything: a badass Santa, a smoking hot blonde (Lost‘s Emilie de Ravin), strippers, bare boobs, Fran Drescher being brutally murdered, a James Caan cameo, and even a grandpa being run over by a killer reindeer.
Santa’s Slay is the story of Santa Claus (Goldberg), but this incarnation of the character is not the jolly fat guy we’ve all come to know and adore. As it turns out, Santa is the son of Satan, and he was forced into spreading cheer and goodwill for 1000 years after losing a bet with one of God’s angels. The story takes place as the 1000 years comes to an end, when Saint Nick is free to murder and mutilate as much as he wants. On December 25th, he arrives in the small town of Hell (yes, Hell) to wreak havoc. The task of stopping the homicidal Kris Kringle falls to Nicolas (Smith), his would-be girlfriend Mary (Ravin), and his eccentric grandfather (Culp).
Sick of clichéd dysfunctional family Christmas films like Surviving Christmas and Christmas with the Kranks? Writer-director David Steiman clearly is, and he instantly lets us know of this fact by completely skewering them. In the first scene of Santa’s Slay, a dysfunctional family – played by recognisable actors James Caan, Rebecca Gayheart, Chris Kattan and Fran Drescher – are gathered around for a Christmas meal, giving us the impression that we might be in for another dysfunctional family Christmas film. But then Bill Goldberg’s Santa Claus promptly comes down the chimney and viciously murders them all in overzealous, funny ways, signalling that this is another type of Christmas movie. Heck, Steiman even pokes fun at holiday specials like Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer by illustrating Santa’s history with a claymation sequence.
Despite the flick’s obscure origins, Brett Ratner served as a producer on Santa’s Slay. See, writer-director Steiman was Ratner’s personal assistant for several movies, so this flick was a chance for Steiman to try his hand at actual filmmaking. Right off the bat, Steiman has done a marvellous job. The tone of Santa’s Slay is agreeably campy and light-hearted, and the filmmaking itself is astonishingly strong for such a production. The murders are ridiculously funny – at one stage someone is stabbed by a menorah for crying out loud, and in another scene an old lady is run off the road by Santa’s sled. This stuff is glorious. There are plenty of amusing one-liners as well, on top of humorous lunacy in general. But the film isn’t perfect – the score is too cheap and chintzy, and one gets the sense that Steiman could have gone further with a more generous budget. Nevertheless, Santa’s Slay is a damn fun movie, which is all that matters in the long run.
The notion of wrestlers becoming actors doesn’t often work (see Hulk Hogan in Santa with Muscles…), but the casting of Bill Goldberg as Santa Claus here was a stroke of genius. Goldberg absolutely relished the chance to play this role, delivering a suitably tongue-in-cheek performance as the normally cheerful Father Christmas. He’s surprisingly good with one-liners, too. (It’s also worth noting that Goldberg’s outfit is the most impressive retro-Santa costume ever seen in a movie.) Meanwhile, the late great Robert Culp (instantly recognisable as the voice of Wallace Breen from Half-Life 2) looks to be having the time of his life as Nicolas’ grandfather. But in the role of Nicolas, Douglas Smith is the weakest link of the cast – he’s underwhelming and pretty wooden. At the other end of the spectrum, though, Australian actress Emilie de Ravin is great as Mary; she’s gorgeous and she “got” the movie’s tone.
At its core, Santa’s Slay is a genuinely clever take on Santa and the Christmas myth, on top of just being a good fun movie. Ridiculously cheesy, briskly-paced and full of off-kilter humour, this is great offbeat Christmastime viewing. Plus, it doesn’t outstay its welcome; it’s mercifully brisk at a hair under 75 minutes. If cheerful Christmas movies are not your thing, this is the type of flick you should watch on Christmas Eve with beers and pizza, back-to-back with Bad Santa.