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Blogvent Day 17 – Santa’s Slay (2005,Canada)

17/12/2011

Director: David Steiman       Starring: Bill Goldberg, Douglas Smith, Emilie De Ravin, Robert Culp, Dave Thomas, Saul Rubinek

Day seventeen. Serious festive film fatigue is starting to set in. Time for another killer Santa Claus I think. This time around it’s a 2005, low budget comedy horror which (sort of like the infinitely superior Rare Exports) portrays Santa as a softened reinvention of a far more sinister character.

In this instance Santa is actually the anti-christ, devoted to a day of Slaying once a year, a tradition that prompted the creation of Christmas in order to invoke God’s protection against the evil tyranny of Santa Claus. A lost bet in the eleventh century sees Santa sworn to a thousand years of kindness and generosity, cursed to spread good instead of evil for a millenium but as the residents of the tiny Hell Township are about to find out, Santa’s debt is about to expire and he’s got a lot of ground to make up. It’s up to teenagers Nicolas (Smith) and Mary (de Ravin) to figure out how to stop the psychopathic Santa.

It’s played entirely for laughs, thankfully, as otherwise this would be a one hundred percent woeful effort and utterly unworthy of anyone’s time. As it is, it’s pretty much scraping the bottom of the barrel anyway with it’s cheapo made for TV look and not especially funny writing. How the hell they managed to convince James Caan to put in an appearance (an uncredited, pre credits cameo) completely escapes me and is a Christmas miracle of epic proportions. Surely he didn’t need the money? Based on the quality of the production there wasn’t that much money to go round to begin with.

It’s not completely without it’s charms. While some of the special effects might leave a lot to be desired, there’s certainly a decent variety of causes of death to keep a minimal amount of interest in the proceedings, even if his rampage is of the most abitrary nature. I suppose that’s where my real issue lies with this film. Unlike Christmas Evil or Silent Night Deadly Night the supernatural killer Santa in this film (played by WCW/WWE star Bill Goldberg) is evil for evil’s sake and seems to exist purely as an excuse to arrange a series of death scenes in a loose jumble with Santa at the core. As it happens, evil Santa is pretty well concieved from a costume design point of view and certainly looks the part of an evil demon hellbent on destruction but performance wise it’s all a bit dire and dreadful.

There is a saving grace here in the form of Robert Culp as Nicolas’ Grandfather, a man who is pretty well clued in to the whole Santa legend and is an eccentric inventor to boot. His is pretty much the only decent performance in the film (Saul Rubinek isn’t too bad but he’s severely underused) and he does pretty well with the rotten script. The rest of the cast though are pretty amateurish and fail to really bring anything out of the poor dialogue and virtually non existant story. I suppose they’re enthusiastic enough though, which has to count for something.

There’s quite a nice animated sequence when Nicolas is being told the legend of Santa by his grandfather with the bet between Santa and the archangel deployed by God to thwart his evil plans played out in quite nice stop motion animation that is brimming with charm and very competently put together. Perhaps it would have been more sensible to make the film an animated feature rather than live action, certainly based on this evidence it would have proved a far more interesting prospect.

I suppose it would be fair enough to consider this a Christmas curiousity, an interesting diversion among the usual festive offerings but really, unless you happen to be interested in killer Santas as a sub genre, it probably isn’t worth your time. Even if it doesn’t take up an awful lot of it.

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