DECEMBER 24, 2009
After it was enthusiastically suggested by Augustbenassi and many others, I guess it's sort of not too much of a surprise that I didn't love Santa's Slay. I was expecting a gleefully terrible/awesome epic like Silent Night Deadly Night 2, but it was more like one of that film's fan films on Youtube in comparison. And it had a certain (and admirable) gonzo charm, and I was never bored, but like Ghost Ship, it's also a movie that never quite lives up to its first five minutes, which is never a good thing.
In that opener, we get everything one should want in a Christmas horror movie. The family is quite dysfunctional (mom Fran Drescher hits on son-in-law Chris Kattan, dad James Caan swears a lot and talks about possibly fucking the turkey) and are probably on the verge of killing each other themselves before Santa (Bill Goldberg, and yes he is playing the actual Santa, not a stand-in like Fred Claus or a guy in a costume) bursts through the fireplace and murders them all using silverware and food items. You haven't lived until you've seen James Caan get a turkey shoved down his throat.
But after that it's a fast-paced but largely forced account of Santa's attempt to fully return to his original evil ways. He is thwarted by our Christmas-hating hero, his spunky would-be girlfriend, and his grandpa (Robert Culp! Dude must have a thing for Christmas horror movies), and it all comes down to a curling match (great, this movie may have inspired Stan Helsing's equally idiotic karoake finale). Whenever he is killing folks at random (the "fight" with Saul Rubinek is a particular delight) the movie is fine, but these "plot" scenes aren't quite as amusing as they probably sounded on paper, which kept me from liking the film more.
I was also a bit puzzled why the entire movie took place during the daylight. Writer David Steinem (who also directed thanks to a favor from producer/boss Brett Ratner - Steinem was his assistant) works in a "no one would have cared" plot point that since Christmas "begins and ends" on the North Pole, Santa only has until 5 pm on Christmas Day to wreak havoc and complete his quest or else he would have to return to giving gifts. So that means the bulk of the film occurs in the hours leading up to that point, i.e. broad daylight. And they keep track of the time via a world clock that was inexplicably given to the kid as a gift. Again - why go to this trouble? Can't they just remember how many hours the North Pole is ahead of their timezone? Or reset their watches? You know when you are trying to solve a fairly simple problem and instead of starting over you just over-complicate matters? That was seemingly the approach to this script.
I also didn't get why the R rating was so tame. There's not a lot of blood, and even requisite gags like the town pastor being a diddler are as toothless as can be. I mean, if you're going to make a movie in which the actual Santa Claus is depicted as a murderer, and in a film that is going DTV to boot, why hold back? But we get TWO foul-mouthed old ladies, so I guess it evens out.
The disc is pretty packed, though most of it is worthless filler. Most egregious are the "deleted scenes", which are more like deleted LINES, as few last more than 10 seconds (including a bit of filler so that they can be placed in context of the film), which means it takes longer to select the clip (there's no play all - thanks a lot, DVD designers), let it load, and then load back the menu, than it does to actually watch the scene. And since the movie is only 75 minutes long with credits, I'm baffled why this stuff (which totals maybe 3 combined minutes) wasn't just left in the film, as it's no better or worse than anything they left in. Also in this collection is a deleted ending that is also given its own placement on the features sub-menu. Again, not sure why it was cut; it merely provides some "where are they now?" captions (with a truly groan-worthy Lost joke for Emilie de Ravin's character) and a few outtakes. Then there's a piece about Steinem and how he got to see his dream of becoming a filmmaker come to life, which might have been a bit more charming had it not been so obvious that Brett Ratner used his clout to help out his buddy (even Ratner says "This guy has never shot a frame of film before!" - way to endear yourself to the thousands of hard-working filmmakers whose films never get further than their mom's living room). There's also a look at the production design and effects, nothing much to report on there. A commentary is also included, but after listening to them gush on the extras, I think I am safe in skipping it.
You may have noticed that the film was from my own collection. That is due to the fact that I had queued it to watch for Christmas, but hadn't returned a disc in time for it to be sent. But while I was at a Blockbuster that is closing down (I was hoping to score some cheap 360 games, but no dice - all that was left were Guitar Hero spinoffs and old sports games), I saw that Santa's Slay was available for the princely sum of $3.99. And I wish it was the type of movie that I would want to bring out every year as part of my holiday tradition, but other than that opening scene and a few isolated moments, there's nothing I'd want to watch again. Anyone want it? It's the gift that theoretically keeps on giving.
What say you?