Director – Lewis Jackson
Cast – Brandon Maggart, Jeffrey DeMunn, Dianne Hull, Andy Fenwick, Brian Neville, Joe Jamrog, Wally Moran, Gus Salud, Ellen McElduff, Brian Hartigan, Peter Neuman, Lance Holcomb, Elizabeth Ridge
Release Year – 1980
Reviewed by John of the Dead
There is something about Christmas-oriented horror flicks that just gets my attention every time. In my opinion, Christmas-oriented horror films beat Halloween-oriented horror films anyday, and that is because Halloween and horror go hand-in-hand. So how can Christmas horror films beat Halloween films? Well, simply because Christmas and horror are polar opposites. The “season to give” is the perfect atmosphere for some great horror because it is the last thing you would expect to see, and it works awesomely.
Christmas Evil stars Brandon Maggart as Henry Stadling, a quiet man who psychotically fantasizes over portraying Santa for Christmas due to a troubling event he suffered as a child. As Christmas day nears, Henry begins to slip deeper into psychosis over portraying Santa and delivering presents and joy to all of the good boys and girls, and giving nasty gifts to the bad boys and girls. Christmas day arrives, and as Henry heads out to give his gifts he meets some folks who do not like his take on Christmas, and bloody results ensue.
This flick comes off as a slasher with its marketing and DVD cover, but unlike nearly all Christmas-oriented films…this really is not a devout slasher, but a character-study that eventually manifests into a slasher. Right from the beginning we are thrown into Henry’s very subtle yet very psychotic mindset due to a childhood event he was never able to overcome, and has now completely consumed him. He really does not come off as a psycho on the outside, he just seems to be a quiet lonely man who keeps to himself. However once we get into the film and see his mannerisms and antics when the story ventures away from public and into his small apartment we get a real look into how messed up this guy really is. To make this even cooler, he comes off as a very innocent type of psycho, one who really does not know any better, and does not see the severity of his condition. He watches the neighborhood kids and keeps up a “naughty” and “nice” journal for each child, complete with their good actions, and their bad actions. He meticulously keeps his journals updated, which was creepy as hell. Watching Henry alone was what really had me hooked on this film, and Brandon Maggart’s performance was tremendously spot-on and well done. I was captivated by how real he came off, and his perfectly written character made this guy a killer whom I will never forget.
Much of the storyline plays off of Henry, and I was fine with that. He consumes about 90 percent of the screen time, and rightfully he should. This film is about him, and only him, everything else is supplemental to his character…and I dug it. Thankfully, despite this film being entirely about Henry we really do not get any useless characters. Time and time again we get films that focus entirely on one character and give us many other characters who do nothing for the plot but take up runtime, well that does not happen in this film. Each of the supporting characters had a hand in trying to console Henry into being normal, or added to his psychosis and provided the deaths this film needed, and expertly gave us.
For a low-budget film this flick did a lot with what it had. Director Lewis Jackson did a fine job with this low-lit and grainy film, and honestly it worked perfectly for the mood and atmosphere that this film required. He got an amazing performance from Brandon Maggart as Henry, and his pacing is perfect for a film that focuses so much on one character. Normally I would have found myself bored at times with such a film, but that was never really the case with this film and that comes as a testament of Lewis Jackson’s writing and direction. The kill scenes were cheezy, but nonetheless fun and came with a good amount of gore as well. This flick really is an underrated and under-appreciated gem that still to this day remains under-the-radar.
Overall, this is a great character-study-turned-slasher film that gives us one of horror’s most creepy and psychotic killers. The Christmas theme in this film makes it an even more fun film to watch, and positive direction and story make this one of horror’s most underrated films.