Christmas Evil (AKA You Better Watch Out) (1980): Out now on DVD

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Christmas Evil (AKA You Better Watch Out) (1980): Out now on DVD

(15) Running time: 90 minutes

Director: Lewis Jackson

Writer: Lewis Jackson

Starring: Brandon Maggart, Jeffrey DeMunn, Dianne Hull

Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic

As we get closer to Christmas, Arrow Video have perfectly timed the re-release of their classic 80’s Christmas horror, Christmas Evil. If horror fans are looking to get in the mood for the festivities, but prefer the darker stuff instead of watching the likes of The Snowman again, then Christmas Evil is the perfect film for you. Yes it is insanely stupid, horrifically 80’s and cheesy as hell, but that’s what makes Christmas Evil so much fun. This is the sort of film horror fans can put on when everyone’s gone to bed (don’t wanna upset Granny now do we!), and after a couple of drinks, this film will deliver the slapstick, ludicrous laughs it intended.

Harry Stadling (DeMunn) is a troubled chap, and he has good reason to be. The poor fella was scarred for life as a kid when he witnessed Santa having sex with his Mum. Unknown to little Harry, but it was actually his Dad dressed up in aid of the Christmas spirit, but for little Harry, Santa will forever be the horrible monster who was hurting his Mother. Naturally, as an adult, Harry is a little over obsessed when it comes to Christmas, and decides he must do Santa’s work. He builds up his entire, miserable life around Christmas by spying on local kids through their windows in order to see who is behaving, and who isn’t. He even has a book to record who is deserving of presents! Crazy? You’d better believe it! In his dead end job in a toy factory where his co-workers bully him, and a not exactly happy home life, Christmas is where Harry can make a difference, and make a difference he shall.

First and foremost, this film is all about the bonkers performance by DeMunn: you honestly believe this guy is crazy. From a bizarre dance in a Santa outfit, to the pictures of Santa plastered over his bedroom wall, to the totally insane moment where he sticks his face in mud on order to leave a facial print on a naughty boys garage door. You almost sympathize with this madman, and in a great moment where we see him perfect his Santa laugh while being questioned by security outside a hospital, you cannot help but laugh along with how totally bonkers this film is. Harry is delivered perfectly by DeMunn with all that cheesy 80’s charm which make it very difficult to dislike this film. Watching Harry as he steals toys from his work, or seeing him at work obsessed with getting the toys made right, to seeing him jump around like a child as he delivers presents to sick kids at the local hospital, it is DeMunn’s performance that makes this film. Most other plot devices and characters are simply there as filler and do not really serve much purpose.

This all about Harry, his book of “Good and Bad Boys and Girls” and his eventual becoming of Santa. As he begins his rounds delivering presents, a standout scene see’s him accidentally gatecrash his work party, where he truly believes he is Santa and delivers a rousing speech, and for a brief moment sounds caring and loving as he explains to the kids why they should behave. However, he then warns them that if they do not behave then their name would go in the Bad Boys and Girls book, and instead of a present, they would receive something horrible. The scene is one of those magical moments where you hang on every word, and is proof that Christmas Evil has a lot of good stuff to enjoy.

The violence does come, and while there is not a lot of it, it arrives unexpected and it took me by surprise. Some of it is shocking, and it is a welcome turn to more darker stuff as the films comedy does begin to wear thin. In fact, the films frantic final twenty minutes or so deliver some of the best Christmas themed horror you could imagine, with tongue firmly in cheek. Seeing Harry driving his car but believing he is actually being pulled by Reindeer is hilarious, and a Santa police line-up delivers belly laughs that could cause uncontrollable laughing followed by a possible pants accident. Christmas Evil does deliver on its promise, it is Christmas and at times it can become quite evil as Harry takes out his frustrations on the locals.

If you have never seen this, but are a fan of old school 80’s cheese fests, then you’ll love it. However, if you can’t watch anything  slightly outdated, then Christmas Evil may give you some problems. It hasn’t aged well, and unless you have a deep fascination with the decade or grew up in it, you might struggle with the characters, script and gore effects. Me, I love these 80’s horrors, they are so stupid and silly you just have to laugh along with them. Christmas Evil is far from the best the genre has to offer, but it is a hell of a lot of fun in its more creative moments. Give it a go, go on, its nearly Christmas!

Rating: ★★★★★½☆☆☆☆

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About Matt Wavish 598 Articles
A keen enthusiast and collector of all horror and extreme films. I can be picky as i like quality in my horror. This doesn't necessarily mean it has to be a classic, but as long as it has something to impress me then i'm a fan. I watch films by the rule that if it doesn't bring out some kind of emotive response then it aint worth watching.

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