Little Billy watched as his parents were killed by a mad man in a Santa suit one Christmas Eve, as it happens, this immediately followed a traumatic incident in which his supposedly comatose grandfather warned him that Santa not only gives gifts to the good children, but also viciously punished the naughty. What are the odds?
The tragic night, as you might expect, leaves Billy with an irrational fear of Santa Claus. This is presented in a completely unsubtle way by the filmmakers, who treat us to a number of scenes in which Billy cowers in the corner asking Santa not to punish him. Billy grows up, and the nuns from the orphanage get him a job in a toy store (One of the fun things you can do while watching the film is pick out all the ’80s era toys in the toy store. Did you know there was a Krull board game?). All is going well until Christmas rolls around and the man they hired to play Santa calls in sick, leaving Billy to take on the role. Upon donning the beard, Billy becomes the monster he has feared all his life.
It’s always risky (and almost always leads to failure) to give motivation to the ‘monster’ in a horror film. Even when it works, all it does is make the villain more relatable, and who wants that in a horror movie? But in SN, DN, Billy’s psychosis is kept simple enough that it doesn’t get in the way. It isn’t so much an illness that we need to pity him for as it is an obsession; something that makes him erratic and unpredictable, which are good qualities in a slasher.
The film features a cameo from ’80s scream queen Linnea Quigley (Night of the Demons, Savage Streets), who contributes one of her requisite nude scenes. It’s one of the better sequences in the movie; Billy Claus chases her around the house (while she’s wearing only Daisy Duke shorts), and then kills her with the creative use of a reindeer.
The print used for the DVD is cobbled together from two versions, one of which looks significantly better than the other. However, the five-or-so of low-quality film interspersed throughout the movie are from the ‘uncut’ version, and contain most of its gorier scenes, so on balance, it better that it’s included. I’m not sure if the gore was cut for rating reasons, or because the effects were cheep and largely unconvincing, but either way, they’re back again.
The movie kind of limps to an end on Christmas morning. I’d rather see a big, escalating kill scene in the dark of night to give Billy a proper send off; not the hungover-next-morning collapse he ends up with.
But all in all, it’s a fun movie with a lot of good elements (anything with Quigley is worth seeing). It’s a worthy addition to anyone’s holiday film library.