DVD Review: Christmas Evil (1980)

Christmas Evil DVD CoverDistributor: Arrow Video

BBFC Classification: 15

Director: Lewis Jackson

Starring: Brandon Maggart, Jeffrey DeMunn, Dianne Hull, Andy Fenwick, Brian Neville

The Christmas holidays are upon us already and those dark winter evenings are closing in, so now is a good time to get out all of those seasonal films you always like to put on at this time of year and get into the festive spirit. But if It’s a Wonderful Life or Elf aren’t quite dangerous enough for you then you could always give Christmas Evil (a.k.a. You Better Watch Out) a viewing, although preferably not just after the Queen’s speech when the whole family are settling down to watch a film.

Back in 1947, young Harry Stadling sees his mother and father having a little ‘special time’ whilst his father is dressed as Santa. Fast forward to present day and Harry (Brandon Maggart) is all grown up, works a dead-end job in a toy factory and has what you might call a ‘issues’ about Christmas, because when at home Harry dresses in a Santa outfit and spies upon the neighbourhood children to see if they’ve been naughty or nice.

As life goes on for Harry he realises that people seem to be walking all over him and he sinks deeper into his other personality until it all gets too much and he finally snaps, taking to the streets to judge who’s been good and who’s been bad…

Or at least that’s what the build-up leads you to believe, as this is really less of a slasher film and more of a psychological drama that details a man’s descent into madness. It also feels very much like a lot of the slasher films that were around at the time in tone but if you go into this expecting something like Silent Night, Deadly Night or even Black Christmas then you may end up being disappointed.

But it isn’t all serious character studies as a film like this couldn’t really get away with taking itself too seriously. Brandon Maggart does a pretty good job of convincing you that he’s losing his mind and is suitably creepy when needed but also adds a little twisted humour here and there, like in the scene where he gets dragged into a Christmas party and starts dancing with the kids. Another performance of note is The Walking Dead’s Jeffrey DeMunn, who turns up as Harry’s younger brother Philip and works out what’s going on.

Overall, Christmas Evil is a good, if slightly strange, film that looks more expensive than it probably was and contains some solid performances, but if you’re in the mood for something fast-paced and splattery with a seasonal feel then there are other films to service that need because this is very slow-paced and lacking in gore. Well, lacking when compared to, say, Friday the 13th as there are a couple of cool death scenes that are pretty well done but they don’t come every few minutes like in those films. It’s probably safe to say that Christmas Evil is an acquired taste but as competition in the Christmas horror film genre isn’t overly strong then you could say that it probably stands up as one of the best. As usual, Arrow Video have thrown in plenty of extras, including audio commentaries with director Lewis Jackson and celebrity fan John Waters, interviews with Lewis Jackson and Brandon Maggart, deleted scenes, collector’s booklet and other such goodies plus the usual reversible sleeve, so you do get a nicely stuffed package for your cash, albeit one to watch just once a year.

Christmas Evil

Special Features: Audio commentary with director Lewis Jackson, audio commentary with Lewis Jackson and filmmaker John Waters, interviews with Lewis Jackson and star Brandon Maggart, deleted scenes, original story-board sequences, rare audition tapes, collector’s booklet featuring writing on the film by critic and author Kim Newman, John Waters and a new introduction by Lewis Jackson, illustrated with rare stills and images from the personal files of Lewis Jackson, reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys.

UK Release Date: 12th November 2012

Arrow Films – Website

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