DECEMBER 21, 2007
I should have known from the start... You Better Watch Out! (aka Christmas Evil) is a movie that was recommended to me by someone who didn’t like the end of The Mist, and given to me by someone as an apology for losing my “treasured” Halloween: Resurrection DVD. What kind of pedigree is that for a movie? It’s a wonder I managed to even make it until the end.
The problem with the film is that it doesn’t go far enough in any direction to be worth a damn. It’s not scary or creepy, like your Black Christmases. It’s not overly mean-spirited, like Silent Night, Deadly Night. And it’s not particularly funny, like Black Xmas (or really, any of the other films mentioned). It’s just sort of there. There are attempts to go in these directions, but they are very half-assed, and it’s only in the film’s final 20 minutes that it shows any signs of life (and even then the film is hit or miss). In fact, according to the director, it’s supposed to just be a sort of off-kilter character study (hence the slow pace) about a guy’s mental deterioration, but even as that it doesn’t work, because all of the other elements, light as they are, distract away from this idea. It’s 4 different types of movies in one, and none really deliver.
Like The Burning, nothing much happens for the first hour, and then we get 4 kills at once. But UNLIKE The Burning, the sequence isn’t particularly good, nor does it offer any inventive gore or makeup work. It only sticks out because it’s pretty much the first time in the film that something has fucking happened.
There are a couple of future stars here though. Most famous is Patricia Richardson as the mother of a kid who’s deemed naughty for having poor hygiene and looking at a spank mag (but NOT actually pleasuring himself – which any other writer/director of a Killer Santa movie would surely have done). But also, Raymond J. Barry (who appears in The Ref, a much better “anti-Christmas” movie) shows up as a cop, and Darabont regular Jeffrey DeMunn plays the killer’s brother. So there’s something.
Also this guy. He’s a newscaster, but he looks like a sleazy pimp. And he comes across as sinister. As hilarious as this is, it’s yet another one of the film’s problems – the killer Santa Claus is never as frightening as the creepy Guido that’s merely discussing his crimes. And since almost nothing in the movie is particularly funny either (if anything, it’s sort of sad, since the guy is clearly a bit disturbed and lonely), it succeeds at neither horror or comedy.
But it has its fans, and the DVD (a director’s cut) has a nice collection of extras, including an entertaining commentary by John Waters (I wish he was solo, the director keeps interjecting things that aren’t funny), making it an easy recommend if you like the film (and props for making the deleted scenes anamorphic, something even big budget studio movies don’t often bother to provide). In fact, the most entertainment I got out of the disc was the collection of comment cards from a test audience. Most are negative, unsurprisingly, and many females indicate they want to meet Harry. Whores.
Incidentally, when I bought the original budget pack (Chilling Classics), the description of the set that I read online had this film included, but it was replaced (with what I’m not certain, I figured it out once but have since forgotten), likely due to the rights being bought by another company (in this case, Synapse). So if you have that pressing of the Chilling Classics, you got a good deal: this movie is worth just about 40 cents, and not much more.
What say you?