‘You want it all… but you’re no longer a child...’
Historically, Christmas-themed horror films have been few and far between. The traditional big hitters are Black Christmas, Silent Night, Deadly Night and Jack Frost. All of which vary wildly in quality. Recent years have seen a bit of a resurgence in this subgenre with 2022 boasting several Christmas horror films. Christmas Evil, from 1980, is the only other Christmas film in the canon that I hadn’t seen. And it is mental…
After Harry Stadling, a young boy at Christmas time, misinterprets something sexual going on between his father (dressed as Santa Claus) and his mother, a lifelong obsession begins. In later life, Harry (Brandon Maggart) works in a toy factory and dreams of becoming Santa himself. Only Harry’s long-suffering brother Philip (Jeffrey DeMunn) has any time for him. One particular Christmas sees Harry fully take on the role of Santa Claus in the community, only as well as giving out presents, this iteration of St Nick is also an avenging angel.
Writer-Director Lewis Jackson’s third and final feature film surprisingly has a lot to recommend it. He takes risks with the cinematography that ensures that even though the film is uneven in its pacing, it’s never boring. The editing too is strange, and while it doesn’t always work, Jackson gets it right often enough resulting in a film that has its admirers (controversial director John Waters was a big fan). It helps that Maggart fully commits to the role and is suitably creepy whilst also engendering a sense of sympathy, and DeMunn would of course go on to become an accomplished character actor, most notably in the works of Frank Darabont (namely The Green Mile and The Mist).
Christmas Evil is a strange film, there is no doubt about that. But it is also imaginative and unique. A rare Christmas horror treat.