Don't Open 'Til Christmas (1984)

NOVEMBER 3, 2009


It would be really nice if caffeine actually worked as intended on me. Despite two coffees and some soda on the night of Cinefamily’s Holiday Slasher triple feature (of which I was a co-host), I managed to doze a bit during My Bloody Valentine, miss just about every single “kill” in April Fool’s Day, and sleep soundly through more or less the ENTIRETY of Don’t Open Til Christmas (including the opening scene), only occasionally re-awakening for a period of no more than 30 seconds before going back to sleep (the fact that “New” Scotland Yard was involved is about the only thing about the film that I retained during these handful of waking moments). So I queued it up on Netflix and watched something else for the day.

Well, it seems I didn’t miss much. The novelty of guys dressed as Santa being knocked off every 10 minutes or so wears thin after a while, and the police investigation stuff is total dullsville. Since the film was the followup to Pieces from producers Stephen Minasian and Dick Randall (and star Edmund Purdom, who also directed this one, though I understand he was replaced, and his replacement was replaced was well - so who knows at this point), I expected some of that total batshit inanity, but other than the occasional line of dialogue, this one is played fairly straight during the non-murder scenes. No Kung Fu professors or stink-eye giving handymen here.

And even by slasher standards, it’s incredibly low on logic. I can chalk some of the blame up to the post production troubles (such as when a character is released from being a suspect, despite the fact that we never saw him being brought in for questioning in the first place), but the killer seemingly has GPS on all of London’s Santas, as a couple of them are killed despite going into unexpected areas. For example, one is chased by some punk kids and decides to hide inside a torture museum of some sort - and the killer is already in there. And why do these morons keep dressing up as Santa in the first place? You’d think after the first 3 or 4 that they’d all start to catch on to the killer’s MO, but nope, another half dozen are killed.

Also one broad is strangled and then found covered in blood. Neat trick, that.

Luckily the kills are delightfully nasty, particularly a castration (during urination no less!) and a hilarious, Town That Dreaded Sundown-esque bit early on when a Santa blows a party favor while the killer impales his head from behind. Purdom and Co. also offer equal opportunity killings - of the film’s dozen or so kills, only about half of them are Santas. And kudos for the killer’s motive flashback sequence at the very end, as it depicts a variation on the version of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” that I sing instead of the real one (sample lyric: “Then I, saw Daddy, hitting Saaaaanta Claus, be-cause he was fucking Mommy’s mooooouth...”). And the film as a whole is sort of an inverse Silent Night, Deadly Night (I would argue that this film would be more traumatizing to kids, because some of the Santas are never shown as their everyday selves, unlike Billy in SNDN, so they might think the actual Santa is the one getting brutally murdered on-screen).

And this is creepy.

The DVD is horrendous though. It seems to be taken from a VHS (full-frame of course), and there’s a buzzing sound coming out of the right side of the sound mix for the entire film. And the only extra is a “Still Gallery” which are just completely random screenshots (including some nude ones) from the same shitty transfer. Why they would even bother, I have no idea, but, uh, thanks? Given the post production trouble and (likely) wealth of excised material that was the result of said tinkering, I would think that this could lend itself nicely to a special edition, though I doubt that will ever happen (Purdom and Randall are both dead, for starters, and Minasian has seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth). It’s apparently difficult to even locate a print of the film - the Cinefamily’s screening was off a VHS tape! Likely the same one used to make this shitty DVD.

What say you?

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  1. Glad to see a review of this. One of my local theaters [The Brattle] is showing this next month and I hadn't quite decided on whether or not to catch it.

  2. People dressed as Santa? Pssht. Not scary. Unless it's that Tales From the Crypt episode/movie!

  3. The Brattle is showing this? Neat.

    BTW, you're in LA. You want to stay awake, start shooting coke!

  4. A lot of things are confusing or not clearly spelled out in this movie, but I interpreted the killer's flashback a bit differently. It was his father, dressed as Santa, who was upstairs doing one of the female party guests. When his mother took him upstairs to bed, they walked in on the couple. Dad flipped out, knocked the mother down the stairs and she fell and broke her neck. So, the killer is basically trying to kill his father over and over to avenge the slaying of his mother. He even says at one point that he lost a parent in a terrible way, when he's posing as a newspaper reporter and asks the main girl how she's coping after her dad had been killed (he was the party favor Santa).


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