Christmas Evil is a Christmas horror film released in 1980 by Pan American Pictures. Some of its stars include Brandon Maggart as Harry Stadling, Jeffrey DeMunn as Philip Stadling, Dianne Hull as Jackie Stadling, Andy Fenwick as Dennis Stadling, and Brian Neville as Marc Stadling. It is produced by Pete Kameron and Burt Kleiner. The director is Lewis Jackson.
The movie opens in 1947 New Jersey at the Stadling house. Young Harry accidentally catches Santa (his father) groping his mother. He runs upstairs to the attic where he cuts his hand on a piece of broken glass from a Christmas globe. Thirty-three years later, he has a job he hates at the Jolly Dreams toy factory. He desires to be the next Santa Claus. Harry spies on neighbor kids to see if they’re being naughty or nice. Then he writes the names of the good children in one book and the bad children in another. After he cancels Thanksgiving dinner with his brother Phil and his family, he designs a Santa suit for himself. Some time later after he attends the company Christmas party, he realizes that people think he is a dope and don’t really respect him. So Harry decides to fulfill his fantasy and become the next Santa. He makes some toy soldiers and steals some company toys. The new Santa then brings them to the children’s hospital. Next, he fills a bag of dirt and leaves it outside the home of a naughty neighbor boy. Harry waits outside a church and, when mass ends and the congregation comes out, three people taunt him. As a punishment for being naughty, “Santa” kills them in front of the exiting parishioners. Then he goes to his brother Phil’s home where he destroys the defective Jolly Dreams toys and replaces them with the toy soldiers he made. Finally, he breaks into his coworker Frank’s home, delivers the toys, kills Frank for taking advantage of him, and escapes in his van. The whole area is warned not to approach anyone dressed as Santa.
Having seen Christmas Evil and another Christmas slasher flick Silent Night, Deadly Night I believe I can see why the former film was able to escape the Christmas controversy that frequently plagues horror movies released on or near Christmas Day. Because of Christmas being such a strongly felt holiday, any violence associated with it is met with much hostility. Christmas Evil was able to avoid this probably because of its portrayal of Santa mainly being a well-intentioned individual who mostly rewards the good people rather than punishing the bad. On the other hand, Silent Night, Deadly Night has more intense and violent scenes involving “Santa” punishing people for being naughty. This film puts more emphasis on Santa punishing the bad rather than rewarding the good. To sum up, Christmas Evil is, in some senses, not as violent as its counterpart Silent Night, Deadly Night. This fact is, most likely, why the former movie was able to avoid much controversy while the latter was not.
Despite its relative success and many deeming it one of the best horror Christmas films ever made, the storyline is somewhat incoherent. I may have missed something but I’m not exactly clear on how Harry was “traumatized” and, later, driven crazy. He saw his mother being groped by who he thought was Santa Claus. Then, he runs upstairs and cuts himself in the hand. Don’t you think he would have brought it up with his mother the next morning? I would believe that he would have some questions to ask her. I’m assuming that keeping something like that inside for so long is what drove him over the edge.
To wrap, Christmas Evil is a fine horror movie for the holidays if you’re into watching Santa kill people.