Saul RubinekKiller SantaRebecca GayheartEmilie de Ravin
Santa's Slay
Medium: film
Year: 2005
Writer/director: David Steiman
Keywords: Christmas, Killer Santa, Antichrist, horror, slasher
Country: Canada, USA
Actor: Bill Goldberg, Douglas Smith, Emilie de Ravin, Robert Culp, Dave Thomas, Saul Rubinek, Rebecca Gayheart, Chris Kattan, Fran Drescher, Alicia Loren, Annie Sorell, Donna Zuk
Format: 78 minutes
Website category: Horror modern
Review date: 23 December 2011
That was brilliant! It's a Killer Santa film, by the way.
The idea behind this one is that Santa is the son of Satan, i.e. the Antichrist. He was born on Christmas, like the real Jesus Christ, but he used to celebrate his birthday by killing people. The one who eventually put a stop to this was an angel who came to Earth in the year 1005 to have a bet with him. If Santa lost, he'd have to spend a thousand years being nice to people and giving out presents.
He lost, but guess what? The bet's just run out! Oh, and Santa's being played by ex-wrestler Bill Goldberg, which means he's huge and knows lots of wrestling moves.
What's great about the film, I think, is that it understands how to use its formula. It's the usual nonsense, of course. A killer goes around slaughtering people while delivering bad puns and we're supposed to find this funny... but fortunately we do. David Steiman has a knack for this kind of thing. Most importantly, Santa is awesome. His first entrance is through a wall, by kicking it down so hard that it explodes. Every single one of his kills is unique and entertaining, with some being downright imaginative. This is a dude who could crush your car with his bare hands and knows how to look good in a fight scene. However at the same time, there's the entertainment factor of him actually being the real deal. He's not just some random loser dressed in a Santa suit. It's him. It's Father Christmas. He's got the beard, the coat, the sack and the sleigh, albeit pulled by what looks like an ox. He calls it his helldeer.
His costume has a Norse theme, by the way. The original bet took place in Scandinavia, you see, which appears to be his native culture. His red hat is a leather helmet, for instance.
That's only half the battle, though. Every killer needs victims and this film has a wonderful selection. Almost everyone who dies was asking for it, although this principle is more reliable in the first half. It's a joy to watch bitchy overprivileged scum getting brutally murdered. They're even vile when saying grace. "Thank you for not making us poor, or Samoan." There's a real spark to the characterisation throughout the film, with dialogue that snaps off the screen and creates a fine array of prime arseholes. Even the swearing is funny! This is harder than it looks. Swearing these days has lost its impact, in effect becoming punctuation, but this film has some of the most entertaining obscenities I've ever heard. (The hero and heroine say "a-hole" and "effing", though.)
However the film's good at portraying sympathetic characters too. I loved the people showing gratitude for appalling presents, for instance.
Our heroes are Douglas Smith and Emilie de Ravin, both of whom have a crazy father or grandfather. Ravin's is a bit of a plot device, but Smith's is wonderful. He's Robert Culp and he's an inventor who creates nutcrackers that can kill you and pesters Smith to practise his Norse language skills. He's a bit like Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future, but more grandfatherly and lovable. He gives terrible Christmas presents that will eventually turn out to be useful, except for the snowglobe.
This film isn't perfect, but it's so fun and energetic that you don't care about its flaws. The acting isn't top-drawer, for instance, with Smith having a dodgy line reading or two. I also wasn't impressed with that policeman. The plot also has a few questionable points (e.g. the door that gets un-demolished, or grandad's questionable timing about when to get married) although in the end it holds together better than it looks early on.
It's full of jokes, only some of which are Christmas puns. The official Santa Tracker website is linked to the Global Operations Network for Aerospace Defence. (Look at the acronym.) Some of the kills are hilarious. You've got to love the exploding Christmas present bombs, while I howled at the sleazy priest leading his congregation in mourning for the dancers at his strip club. "Dixie Rect, Tess Tickler..." Oh, and the thousand-year-old flashback of the original Angel-Santa bet is done as stop-motion animation, which is lovely too.
The ending's sequel-hunting. "He's still out there; I think my saga's just beginning." Sadly, those sequels never happened.
This is, despite appearances, a clever film. The territory it's staking out is shamelessly lowbrow, but it knows exactly what it's doing with it. It gets the dumb stuff right (violence, one-liners), but it's also witty and knows how to create vivid, entertaining characters. While I'm talking about the dumb stuff, incidentally, the film has no nudity except in the strip club... but when we're in there, wow. If you're going to have tits, have lots of them. This is a fine principle, although on the downside almost all of them look plastic. Oh, and I'm not entirely sure about the gun nuts towards the end, but I liked the film so much that I'll go along with that too.
In short, a ton of fun. A colossus Antichrist Santa kills people who were (mostly) asking for it, which is funny. It even gave its lead actor a wife, with Goldberg marrying one of the film's stunt doubles, Wanda Ferraton. (They now have a son.) Strongly recommended for anyone who thinks there's even a chance that they might enjoy this kind of silliness.