Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Vault Master's Top Ten Cult Christmas Oddities: #7 - Christmas Evil (1980)

Christmas Evil (1980)
85 minutes / Color / Rated R
a.k.a. You Better Watch Out, Terror in Toyland

The Plot: Christmas Evil starts out innocently enough as two young boys and their mother watch Santa pop down the chimney with a sack of toys and go about his usual yearly tasks of eating cookies, filling stockings, and placing presents under the tree. After Santa, alerted by one of the giggling children, hops back up the chimney, mom puts the boys to bed, then goes back downstairs while young Philip and Harry argue over the existence of Santa. (Harry believes that they have just witnessed an honest-to-goodness Santa visitation while the more rational Philip thinks it was their dad.)

To set the record straight, Harry decides to have another peek downstairs and accidentally bears witness to some cos-play action! Santa (most likely Harry's dad) is back and preparing to give mom her present if you know what I mean. ("I saw Mommy get felt up by, San-ta Claus!" and "Then, I saw Mom-my tick-le San-ta Claus! Underneath his pubic hair so white!") Understandably confused and disturbed that mom is having a one night stand with a right jolly old elf, Harry runs furiously up the stairs, smashes a snowglobe, and then cuts himself with a jagged piece of glass. Hmm... I wonder if he's going to turn into a psychotic killer in a Santa outfit? Nah! What are the odds of that happening?!

Thirty-three years later, Harry is a real odd duck. He wears Santa pajamas (complete with cap) to bed, listens to Christmas music every day, and not surprisingly, he works on an assembly line at a toy factory. Even stranger.... he keeps his own personal log of naughty and nice children that live in his neighborhood. How does he know if they've been good or not? Oh, he just goes up on the roof of his apartment building with a pair of binoculars and SPIES ON ALL THE CHILDREN! As the film progresses, Harry begins to lose what little grip he has on reality, and on Christmas Eve, he dons an extremely impressive homemade Santa costume (complete with glued-on beard!), loads up his van (which has a sleigh painted on the sides) with toys he stole from his employers, and heads out to spread Christmas cheer.

He breaks into a few homes and then makes a grand entrance at a children's hospital with a van load of gifts. After delivering his generously stolen donation, Harry pulls up and waits outside of a church, anticipating the eventual exit of his employer. You see, Harry isn't too happy with how certain things are being run at the toy factory, and he is ready to PUNISH! his NAUGHTY! boss. Luckily for said executive, a smart-assed (and possibly drunk) gent begins commenting on Santa Harry's outfit and ride. He pushes Harry's buttons and gets the bayonet of a toy soldier to the eye, followed up by a hatchet wound to the skull.

Harry claims two more victims then leaps into his "sleigh" and drives off into the night. Harry next ends up at a Christmas party, where he's eagerly dragged inside by two drunken men. Harry Claus is hesitant at first and seems ready to start killing people again, but after he realizes that everyone there is good-natured and excited to see him, Harry sticks around, hands out gifts, and has a fantastically fun time! (It is really hard to believe he just murdered three people in cold blood.) After dancing around in circles and making merry, Harry announces that he must go, but before he does, he issues a warning to all the children present:

"But now, I want you to remember to stay good boys and girls. Respect your mothers and fathers and do what they tell you. Obey your teachers and learn a whole lot. Now if you do this, I'll make sure you get good presents from me, every year. Haha. But if you're bad boys and girls, your name goes in the bad boys and girls book, and I'll bring you something..... horrible." [awkward silence followed by hearty Santa laughter!]

Harry's Santa charade continues into the night (the crazy bastard even tries to go down a chimney at one point), while the police begin their investigation and show "Santa line-ups" to witnesses of the night's triple homicide. Things eventually come to a head when Harry attempts to give some presents to a group of children. Harry gives them all gifts, while the children's parents look on in horror. One of the adults decides to act brave and approaches Harry with a switchblade in hand, intent on snuffing "the Killer Claus" before he can hurt the children.

In a surprise move, the guy is disarmed by his little daughter, who picks up the knife and gives it to Harry. Backed into a corner and not nearly crazy enough to harm the kids or use them as human shields, Harry makes a run for it and is soon chased after by a torch-wielding mob! (No, I'm not kidding.) He escapes in his van and goes to his brother Philip's house. Phil freaks out and strangles poor confused Harry, then drags his brother's limp (but not lifeless) body out to the van. Harry quickly comes to his senses, peels out of Phil's driveway and races off, only to be cut off by that pesky torch-wielding mob. (Hahahaha. I still can't get over that!)

Harry swerves off the road to avoid hitting anyone and drives off a cliff to his demise...? Wait, what?! Instead of falling to the ground and bursting into flames, Harry's van begins to fly up into the night sky! That is totally surreal and well.... really unexpected. [Vault Master glances at his drink] Did someone spike my tea or did I really see that?

Christmas Evil isn't exactly a horror film per se, but rather a study of a man's emotional and mental breakdown. It's a slow paced movie and it takes forever to get to the good stuff, but there's something oddly endearing about Christmas Evil that keeps me watching every time. Perhaps it’s the bizarre innocence of Harry, who is hell bent on A.) being Santa and B.) getting others to believe in Santa. I guess in a way, he wants to become Santa Claus so that people will believe in him and it is sort of heartbreaking at the film's climax when he fails his ridiculous mission and then gets strangled by his estranged brother.

And speaking of the climax, what a crazy way to end a film! Things remained relatively believable until Harry is chased by a mob of men and women carrying torches. (What, no pitchforks?) After that, its almost as if we are getting pulled into Harry's twisted world where there's a fine line between reality and fantasy. While this kind of negates the horror film aspects of Christmas Evil it definitely gives this movie more depth and makes for an interesting viewing experience. I guess in a way, this film is like a thinking man's "Silent Night, Deadly Night."

Just a side note here: The version I've watched is the short, eight-five minute cut. If you pick this movie up on DVD, get the longer director's cut that is put out by Synapse. They treat their cult films with great respect, and you get to see fifteen additional lovingly-restored minutes of weirdness that is missing from other DVD releases of the film.

Not sure you want to own this flick? Well swing on by Bmovies.com and watch Christmas Evil absolutely free! Just CLICK HERE!

Why it made the list: Because a dude eventually goes insane after seeing his mom getting down and dirty with "Santa" when he was a child. For some reason this causes him to lose his mind at age forty or so, leading to a laundry list of crimes. He steals toys from his workplace by the friggin' truckload, delivers them to good boys and girls, murders three people in cold blood, gets strangled by his brother, then "flies" away from a lynch mob in his magical Christmas sleigh van. Holy sh*t, this is a weird movie! I'm beginning to wonder if it shouldn't be higher up on this list....

Weirdness Factor: WELL ABOVE AVERAGE. Yeah, forget LOW, MEDIUM, and HIGH, because this movie is in a category all its own. Surprisingly, there are in fact far stranger things to come!

I'm definitely not going to be able to finish this top ten list before Christmas arrives (in TWO DAYS! ACK!), but I'll keep on plugging away until I reach my number one pick for the Oddest Cult Christmas film of all time! Next up on the list is a little indie film from '96 that gives an all new meaning to the word "frostbite!"

Monday, December 21, 2009

BMovies.com is BACK!

After shutting down due to skyrocketing prices for the massive bandwidth needed to keep such an awesome site online, I'm happy to say that BMovies.com is back on the web! This site streams hundreds of cult flicks to your computer for FREE with no membership required, and the webmaster has just uploaded a slew of cool holiday-themed flicks for your viewing pleasure, including "Christmas Evil," "Don't Open Till Christmas," and "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians." Make sure to pay BMovies.com a visit and support it in any way you can!

Vault Master's Top Ten Cult Christmas Oddities: #8 - Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
85 minutes / Color / Unrated
a.k.a. Slayride

The Plot: On one fateful Christmas Eve, after being terrified by his thought-to-be-vegetative grandpa (as seen here), a young child named Billy Chapman witnesses the murder of his parents at the hands of a homicidal maniac in a Santa outfit. With apparently no immediate family to take care of him and his baby brother, Billy and his sibling are both shoved into an orphanage that is run by a domineering nun known as Mother Superior. Poor Billy is made an example of more often than not by the oppressive nun, and snaps when she forces him to sit on a Santa's lap one Christmas. Billy shoryukens the confused Santa impersonator then (most likely) gets the beating of a lifetime.

The film jumps ahead ten years, and Billy is now eighteen and has just gotten his first job at the toystore of a gent named Ira Sims. Ira isn't too keen on hiring Billy at first, but the troubled teen proves to be a good worker and earns the honor of being cast as Ira's Santa Claus. Billy quietly threatens squirming children, walks around in a strange daze, then eventually snaps when he witnesses an attempted rape in the stockroom of the toystore. Billy, decked out in Santa garb goes on a small killing spree, violently ending the lives of all of his coworkers before venturing out on Christmas Eve to "PUNISH!" the "NAUGHTY!"

He murders a whorish Linnea Quigley... what's that? Too redundant you say? Oh ok, uh... he murders Linnea Quigley (zing!) and her scrawny boyfriend, beheads a sleigh-riding teenager, and gives a trigger-happy the axe. Sadly, Billy's reign of terror is ended while he tries to exact revenge on the abusive Mother Superior of his orphanage. Just as he's about to "axe her" what she wants for Christmas (my apology for the awful pun), the authorities arrive in time to gun him down... in front of a group of orphans. Worse yet, Billy's little brother Ricky witnesses this, and it causes him to snap, resulting in one of the best/worst sequels in film history! ("GARBAGE DAY!")

Silent Night, Deadly Night is one of the most overlooked and definitely one of the most poorly received film in the slasher sub-genre. Upon its release in 1984, the film was quickly taken out of theaters and shelved by Tri-Star Pictures after a huge public outcry. Parents were pissed off that Santa was being presented as an axe-wielding psycho, and film critics, including the mighty Siskel & Ebert rallied against the film as well. While I can definitely see why everyone made such a big deal (I guess we were a far more innocent and decent society back in the mid-80s?), it is sad to see a film get cast into obscurity because it contained questionable subject matter.

Ballsy advertising aside, this film should not have been pulled from theaters. Tri-Star should have just stuck it out and enjoyed the amount of free press their gutsy holiday-horror flick would have garnered. (As the saying goes, "There' s no such thing as bad press!") But this just goes to show you how different things were twenty-five years ago. Had Silent Night, Deadly Night been released in recent years, it probably would have raked in some cash, if only because curious moviegoers would want to see what all the fuss was about.

Sadly, Silent Night, Deadly Night is still a chore to track down as the Anchor Bay DVD releases have gone out of print. The final three films in the series were recently released, but the original and its ridiculous sequel remain a sacred trophy to cult movie fans. While they aren't impossible to find, both films are (usually) drastically overpriced. Hopefully they'll come back into print in the near future so newer generations of b-movie lovers can enjoy them.

Why it made the list: Because a mentally disturbed young man dressed in a Santa outfit goes on a Christmas Eve killing spree. Unlike most slasher films, there's a reason for Billy's mental defect (guy in Santa suit raped and killed mom and shot dad in the head; old nun abused him during his formative years) and you almost feel bad for the guy, even when he begins to kill indiscriminately. Plus we get two rather deranged scenes that stand out from the rest: The scene where a seemingly comatose grandpa terrifies a very young Billy ("If you see Santa tonight boy you better run! Hee Hee!") and a scene where Billy prepares to murder a little girl until she innocently convinces him that she was "good all year." And that "Santa's Watching" song that plays in the film's intro and during the end credits is just plain strange!

Weirdness Factor: MEDIUM. For some unknown reason, though it was preceded by several other Christmas horror films like Black Christmas (1974) and Christmas Evil (1980), Silent Night, Deadly Night is the only one to suffer the wrath of the general public. The film is odd enough on its own merit, but the fact that parents, film critics, and journalists joined forces to nearly erase this film's existence gives it an extra boost of weirdness!

The next film on the countdown shares some plot similarities with Silent Night, Deadly Night but goes one step further in the peculiarity department. Prepare for another dose of holiday weirdness very soon, with yet another killer Santa film taking the number seven spot on my continued top ten list of Cult Christmas Oddities!

Oh and in case you are not paying attention to your calendars.... FOUR MORE DAYS 'TIL CHRISTMAS!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Vault Master's Top Ten Cult Christmas Oddities: #9 - Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
81 minutes / Color / Not Rated a.k.a. Santa Claus Defeats the Aliens

The Plot: It is nearly Christmas-time on Earth and Santa is busy cracking the whip on those diligent elves as they make toys for every boy and girl in the world. But little does Jolly Old Saint Nick know that his operation is being closely watched by alien beings, who intend on capturing Father Christmas in order to bring merriment and joy to the children of Mars. The Martians (i.e. men in goofy green costumes with radio-antennae helmets and green facepaint) led by Kimar, invade the North Pole and kidnap Santa by employing their "advanced" arsenal of weaponry, including a robot named Torg (a relative of Gort's perhaps?) and freeze rays.

Not wanting to see any harm come to his elves, Santa gives himself up and heads back to Mars, along with two stowaways named Billy and Betty. On Mars, Santa is put to work making toys for the green-skinned children, but his job is amazingly boring as he only has to hit a button on a machine in order to instantly create toys. However, all is not well on Mars, for an evil soldier named Voldar thinks that Santa will make his people weak and foolish like the Earthlings, so he sets out on a quest to rid Mars of Kris Kringle.

Voldar sabotages Santa's toy machine then kidnaps that right jolly old elf.... who is actually Dropo, the film's odious comic relief character, in Santa drag. How these guys can't figure out that they have the wrong guy is beyond me, but no one ever said that these alien beings were intelligent. In the end, Voldar's anti-Santa coup is thwarted by Billy, Betty, Bomar, and Girmar (Pia Zadora!). That's right, four children with an arsenal of toys, stops an evil Martian warlord who is armed with a raygun.

With (the obviously humiliated) Voldar captured, Santa completes his mission on Mars, then heads home with his two Earth-brat sidekicks, to bring Christmas to all the good boys and girls. God, this movie is so f*cking stupid..... Amazingly, this awful piece of kid-oriented cinema has built up a large cult following over the years, thanks to its appearance on Mystery Science Theater 3000, where Joel and the bots give this movie a good riffing. Truthfully, I don't think half of us would be too familiar with this film had it not appeared on MST3K and I think I could live with that.

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is one of the most misleadingly titled films of all time as Santa doesn't declare war on the people of Mars or conquer them in any way. Yeah his good nature and constant Ho-Ho-Ho-ing wins over the majority of his green-skinned captors, but that doesn't really count in my book. The plot is idiotic, the acting atrocious, and the effects and makeup are laughable, but that's partially why this movie has become a staple of many b-movie fans' required Christmas viewing.

As for me though, I'll just stick with that good ole MST3K episode featuring Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and have myself a Patrick Swayze Christmas this year!

Watch Santa Claus Conquers the Martians for free online at YouTube. Just CLICK HERE and enjoy this public domain holiday masterpiece! Also be on the look out for a fresh new riff on this film from the Cinematic Titanic crew, which is made up of all the old stars of the Joel-era of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Why it made the list: Because moronic Martians go through the trouble of invading Earth, just to kidnap an eccentric fat old man who makes toys for children. Why they couldn't just make their own toys and create their own Santa is beyond me, but like I said, these aliens are f*cking stupid! Also, we get a man-in-polar-bear-suit that attacks two kids, a giant cardboard robot, nuclear curtains powered by colored lighbulbs, and a Santa Claus that may be suffering from the effects of Alzheimer's.

Weirdness Factor: LOW. There's more than enough weirdness present to include this film on the list, but the sheer idiocy of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians pales in comparison to the next eight films on the countdown.

Next up is a little Christmas classic from 1984 that was pulled out of theaters two weeks after opening, due to a major public outcry by concerned (i.e. enraged) parents. To learn more about my choice for number eight on this top ten list, check out my recent podcast at the B-Movie Film Vault!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Vault Master's Top Ten Cult Christmas Oddities: #10 - Santa vs. the Snowman (2002)

Greetings b-movie fans! Christmas is nearly upon us, and I felt that a new Top Ten List on the site would be a great way to celebrate the holidays! This time around I'm focusing my attention on ten cult films that have a Christmas theme and are weird as Hell! Prepare yourself for ten films featuring miniature monsters, killer Santas, homicidal snowmen, alien invaders, and Wookiees! Happy HELL-idays from The B-Movie Film Vault!
Santa vs. the Snowman 3D (2002)
32 minutes / Color / Not Rated
a.k.a. Julemanden og snemanden

The Plot: A mute snowman accidentally blunders onto Santa's private property and is given a less-than friendly welcome by Kris Kringle's security elves. After escaping from Santa's Workshop, the Snowman decides that he wants to be Santa Claus and plans to take over Father Christmas' operation by force. What follows is an hilarious spoof of the Planet Hoth battle from The Empire Strikes Back (which I absolutely f*cking refuse to call "Episode V!") with snowball-spitting snowmen battling elves that are armed with hot cocoa guns and ride on rocket-powered reindeer!

Though Santa's troops have technological superiority against the icy intruders, they are eventually defeated by the overwhelming number of snowman footsoldiers. Although the Snowman wins the battle, he ultimately loses the war after he realizes that Christmas is better left to Santa. (He learns his lesson after a little girl breaks her "ice dolly" after trying to kiss it and getting her lips stuck to the gift.) In the end, Santa deputizes his former foe as his helper, and together they spread Christmas cheer to all of the good boys and girls.

Created by the always weird Steve Oedekerk (the man behind such "classics" as Kung Pow: Enter the Fist, Bat Thumb, Thumb Wars, et al.), this is a fun little CGI epic. The storyline is pretty weak, even for a half-hour animated short, but luckily the animation is well done (it must have looked amazing when played in 3D at I-MAX theaters) and you can't help but love the nods toward (arguably) the best of the films in the Star Wars saga.

For some reason, a lot of my friends seem to despise this holiday oddity, but even the biggest naysayers grudgingly admit to enjoying the recreated Planet Hoth battle between Santa's and the Snowman's forces. This struggle is the highlight of the film and features some truly hilarious homages to the classic sci-fi epic from 1980, and saves this animated short from being just another forgettable Christmas special.

Why it made the list: Because a snowman that can't talk builds an army and attacks Santa Claus Imperial Snowtrooper-style! This could have been a goofy and generic battle between two holiday icons (the unnamed Snowman is obviously substituting for Frosty the Snowman) but Santa vs. the Snowman takes things up a notch. What starts out as a mere snowball fight quickly turns into a massive battle that ends with a duel between a giant ice monster and a giant fire-breathing nutcracker that is piloted by Santa Claus! Need I say more?

Weirdness Factor: LOW. Since this is a family-friendly short film that is mainly aimed at children (don't worry, there's a few jokes tossed in for us adults), this really isn't too weird, but there's enough of Steve Oedekerk's oddness in this to earn Santa vs. the Snowman the number ten spot on my list.

The next film in the countdown should be familiar to you, especially if you are a fan of MST3K. That leaves two possibilities, so check back very soon to see if your guess is correct. And just in case you're not keeping track: EIGHT DAYS LEFT UNTIL CHRISTMAS!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Podcast at the Vault!

A new podcast has been uploaded at the Vault for your listening pleasure. This holiday program features an audio review for Silent Night, Deadly Night, the much-maligned horror classic from 1984, complete with audio clips and music from the film! Click here to listen to the B-Movie Film Vault's Christmas Podcast '09!

Stay tuned for some new reviews and a holiday-themed Top Ten List!

Monday, December 7, 2009

New Capsule Review: The Wild Man of the Navidad (2008)!

A mysterious creature terrorizes a rural Texan community in The Wild Man of the Navidad . This bastard child of The Legend of Boggy Creek and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is based on the (supposedly) true events as chronicled by a man named Dale S. Rogers, and was not nearly as entertaining as I had been led to believe by fellow online reviewers.

More new content is on the way including more reviews, a new podcast, and (hopefully) a holiday-themed top-ten list, so check back soon b-movie fans!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Rifftrax Live Christmas Extravaganza!!!

Bill Corbett, Mike Nelson, and Kevin Murphy are putting on an all new Rifftrax Live on Wednesday, December 16th (with a rebroadcast on Thursday, December 17th)! The trio will be riffing on various Christmas shorts, digital goodies will be given away, and Weird Al Yankovic will be making a guest appearance. I went to the previous Rifftrax Live and it was amazing, and I've already made plans to see this latest screening. (Hopefully tickets don't sell out before my next payday....)

CLICK HERE to see if this show is playing at a theater near you, and to buy tickets! (Thankfully it is playing near me, at the Cinemark multiplex at the base of "Sno Mountain" in Moosic, PA!