12 SLAYS OF CHRISTMAS – 12TH SLAY – TERROR TV – Tales from the Crypt – And All Through the House

tales_5Well everyone here it is, the 12th Slay of Christmas, just in time for Christmas Eve. I hope you all have had a festive and scary holiday season and that at least some of you checked out the holiday horrors we have mentioned. Believe me, I saved the best for last. Tonight I am talking about the first season episode of “Tales from the Crypt” And All Through The House, directed by Robert Zemeckis of “Back to the Future” fame. This is an episode so “Christmasy” but also dripping with horror.

The plot of this all-time classic episode concerns a greedy wife who just murdered her husband on Christmas Eve for the life insurance money.  As she is disposing of the body an escaped lunatic in a Santa outfit carrying an Axe comes her way and decides to put her on his naughty list.

Director Robert Zemeckis does a lot right with this episode. The direction is sharp throughout and the Christmas atmosphere is front and center, so much so that Nat King Cole’s classic tune “The Christmas Song” plays in the beginning. Throw in some ghoulish and dark humor along with fast paced, edge of your seat horror and you have a fun and ghoulish yuletide horror story. Also, actor Larry Drake gives a creepy and nightmare inducing performance as the Killer Santa. Out of all the Killer Santa’s out there none is more scary then Larry Drake’s.

And All Through the House is 30 minutes of pure, I mean pure Christmas horror, that I urge everyone, whether they love horror or not, to watch at least once during the Christmas season It’s a perfect example goes of the very best “Tales From the Crypt” has to offer.

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12 SLAYS OF CHRISTMAS – 11TH SLAY – UNDERRATED GEMS – Black Christmas (2006)

black_christmas_ver3_xlgSince I just reviewed the original “Black Christmas” I might as well review the underrated and under-appreciated remake from seven years ago. YES!  you heard me right, it is a very under-appreciated horror movie. Almost all horror fans shit on this remake because they were expecting the exact same film as the original and not something different. If horror fans would just watch this film and not compare it to the original then they would surely have a blast watching it, I know I sure as hell do every Christmas season.

The plot is essentially the same as the original: killer makes strange, scary phone calls and stalks sorority girls on Christmas Eve. This time though there are more girls, much more of a body count film, they’re practically snowed in and there are two killers at hand. Also, in the original you never really know the identity of the killer whereas here you already know and are even given a wonderfully fucked up and gory backstory to both killers.

Now one complaint most horror fans make about this remake is the dialogue and I will admit some of the dialogue scenes are pretty dumb. However there are a lot of good things that come with this film. It’s a fun, gory Christmas slayride with nasty, gory death scenes (eye mutilations that would make Fulci proud), Christmas colored lighting throughout (practically Argento like) plus Christmas atmosphere down your throat from beginning, and it’s entertaining. Where the original is a slow burning, bloodless creepfest, the “Black Christmas Remake” is an ‘80s Italian style Christmas slasher gorefest that unfortunately came out 20 years too late. if this film came out with a different title and came out in 1986 most horror fans would make this essential viewing for the season! But sadly most horror fans continue to undeservedly shit on this wonderfully fun film.

If you saw this film years back, compared it to the original, and ended up hating it, I strongly urge you to rewatch the film. Enjoy it as a stand alone Christmas Splatter-fest. Hopefully you’ll forgive it, make it a Christmas season horror essential and thank me for it

-James J. Coker

12 SLAYS OF CHRISTMAS – 10TH SLAY – HIDDEN HORROR – Black Christmas (1974)

black_christmas_poster_03Most in the horror community are well aware of this film, its influence on the slasher genre and how it is a classic and, in my opinion, the scariest Christmas horror film ever made. However outside of the horror community it’s quite an “unknown” thus making it a “Hidden Horror” on a technicality. With that said though, those that don’t know of this film are really missing out on such a scary one!

“Black Christmas” concerns a sorority house on Christmas break, where the sorority girls are being put on edge from constant strange, anonymous and disturbing phone calls. One of the girls goes “missing” so they soon contact the police, which don’t express much concern. Meanwhile our protagonist Jess is planning to get an abortion but boyfriend Peter is very much against it. The police finally begin to get concerned when a 13-year-old girl is found dead in the park. They set up a wiretap to the sorority house but will they be in time to prevent a sorority girl attrition problem?

Now I know you might be thinking the plot sounds like that of many slasher films but you have to remember that this film came out in 1974, four years before John Carpenter’s “Halloween” started the slasher boom. Really this film can be seen more as a prototype of what was going to come. Like the original “Halloween” it does not focus on blood (there’s very little in the film) and carnage but rather creeping you the hell out and boy does it succeed. Not only do the phone calls our killer makes get more and more strange and disturbing, but there are several scenes that will send shivers down your spine and plenty of tense, edge of your seat murders. There is also an ending that will leave goosebumps trailing down your arms and you will never be able to hear an old style telephone ring the same way again, especially during the closing credits.

If you want a Christmas horror film that will most likely scare the fuck out of you or at least creep you the hell out, then seek out the original “Black Christmas.” Watch it alone with all the lights off…well…except for the glow of the Christmas tree for added atmosphere.

Fun fact: Bob Clark, the director of “Black Christmas” would go on to direct the Christmas classic “A Christmas Story.”

-James J. Coker

12 SLAYS OF CHRISTMAS – 9TH SLAY – HIDDEN HORROR – Rare Exports

rare_exports_official_poster_enWhen people think of Christmas movies they almost always think of American ones, and that’s even true when it comes to Christmas horror movies. Foreign Christmas movies don’t seem to be on most people’s minds. There is however a Christmas horror movie from Finland that sadly flew under the radar upon release in 2010. That movie is none other than “Rare Exports” and it is a wonderfully fun, intriguing and dark Christmas movie with the feel of a Amblin Movie.

On Christmas Eve in Finland the real Santa Claus is unearthed in an archaeological dig. Soon after children start disappearing, which leads a boy and his father to capture Santa. With the help of fellow hunters they look to sell him back to the corporation that sponsored the dig. And then there are Santa’s elves, who are determined to free their leader.

The plot is nutty yet entirely intriguing, and believe me the film will have you hooked right from the get go. Not only is the story strong but it is also a fun, dark horror film that doesn’t rely on violence and sex. Actually it’s very much a coming of age tale and has a sense of adventure very similar to the Amblin films of the 80’s. If you have kids this is a great one to watch with them, just make sure they no longer believe in Santa before you show it to them.

If you want to discover a foreign Christmas Movie that will blow you away than seek out “Rare Export,” the movie Roger Ebert called “an original, daring, carefully crafted film.

-James J. Coker

12 SLAYS OF CHRISTMAS – 8TH SLAY – HIDDEN HORROR – SILENT NIGHT

silent_night_xlgThis festive “Killer Santa” film isn’t really a “Hidden Horror” as it seems to be well-known in the horror community. However with mainstream audiences it flew completely under the radar, thus technically making it a “Hidden Horror.” Okay, with that out of the way let’s discuss this incredibly fun and very sinister Christmas slasher film.

“Silent Night” is a VERY, VERY loose remake of the, in my opinion, overrated 1984 “Killer Santa” film “Silent Night, Deadly Night.” At first it seems like a run-of-the mill slasher film: killer comes into a small midwestern town dressed as Santa, killing off random people in gory ways with the police tracking him down. One of the cops on the case is policewoman Aubrey, played by the wonderful Jamie King. Aubrey goes through a variety of emotions and doubts herself constantly due to a previous tragedy. The killings are of course happening on Christmas Eve and to make matters worse for our police, there just happens to be the annual Santa parade with many dressed as old Saint Nick.

Now what’s great about “Silent Night” is …Damn there’s so much great stuff that I don’t know where to start…

For all the gore hungry fans you will be happy to know that “Silent Night” does not skip on the gory killings, in fact you’ll get quite a multitude of them. Electrocutions via Christmas lights, impalements, chopped limbs, stabbings, burnings via flamethrower, heads chopped in half via an axe and a glorious death scene involving a tree shredder. Oh, fans of gory slasher cinema will have a delight with this Yuletide slayathon. Not only are the death scenes fantastic there are many memorable characters.  I mentioned Jaime King’s Aubrey character as our emotionally troubled hero, but there is also genre icon Malcolm McDowell playing a sheriff just aching to be the “hero” of the town, and finally Donal Logue from “Grounded for Life” playing an aggressively honest Santa who goes on a wonderful rant about Christmas and how it can be fucked up for people and make them go crazy. In fact there are several different dialogue scenes in the film where characters go off about how Christmas has a dark side. In total this film gives you amazing death scenes, good characters, a festive atmosphere from director Steven C. Miller, and a very dark message about Christmas.

Please, I urge all of you reading this, if there is one “Killer Santa” you want to watch, make it “Silent Night,” This FUCKER ROCKS!!!!

-James J. Coker

12 SLAYS OF CHRISTMAS – 7TH SLAY – HIDDEN HORROR – Christmas Evil

Christmas-evil-image-458x569As horror fans we all know there are a number of “Killer Santa” movies to watch every Christmas season. “Silent Night, Deadly Night” seems to be the go-to film, however I would like to point out there is another “Killer Santa” film from the 1980s that is quite memorable as well. That movie is “Christmas Evil,” a “Killer Santa” film that takes a more psychological character driven approach to the sub genre.

The movie is about a toy-maker who, after a traumatic incident as a child, is obsessed with Christmas and playing Santa Claus. Throughout the rest of his life he tries to make the Christmas spirit a reality. He becomes obsessed with the behavior of children and the quality of the toys he makes. When he is met with hypocrisy and cynicism, he snaps and believes he really is Santa. He brings toys to the good children but he has a special surprise is in store for the naughty parents.

If viewed as a slasher film “Christmas Evil” can be considered weak as Santa only kills just a few naughty parents. However the film truly excels as a psychological character study. It dives into the obsession of our main character and it wonderfully builds up to his eventual breaking point. You will be shocked at how obsessed this man is, especially when he is seen watching children through binoculars, writing down which ones are naughty and which ones are nice. Near the end it suddenly turns into a classic Universal style horror film with an angry mob holding pitchforks and torches (I shit you not) chasing down our crazed santa. The ending is beyond unexpected, all I will say regarding it is you will be screaming “what the fuck” when it happens.

Put away the tired old “Silent Night, Deadly Night” and watch what cult filmmaker John Waters describes as “the greatest Christmas movie ever made.”

-James J. Coker

12 SLAYS OF CHRISTMAS – 6TH SLAY – HIDDEN HORROR – Santa’s Slay

santa's slay santa claus infernal 2005 - poster - 014 (1)When it comes to the “Killer Santa” sub genre of Christmas horror movies most of them have a very serious tone. That is not the case with “Santa’s Slay,” a big budget horror comedy produced by “Rush Hour” director Brett Ratner and staring former professional wrestler Bill Goldberg as the titular killer Santa Claus.

This film has a rather interesting take on St. Nick, Santa is actually the devil’s son. He lost a wager with an angel in a curling game, the scene is a wonderful homage to the Rankin/Bass animated specials, and was forced to spend 1000 years playing Santa and delivering gifts. Now, the 1000 years has passed and good old Santa isn’t so joyful anymore. He makes up for lost time by going on a murderous rampage.

What makes this horror comedy work is that that it doesn’t take itself seriously at all. It’s a rather entertaining, fast paced, campy, and is overall a “stupid fun” film. To give you an idea of the “stupid fun” this movie provides just watch the first scene. Santa murders a bickering rich family played by none other then James Caan, Fran Drescher and SNL’s Chris Kattan. Yes you read that right, we get to see Santa murder Chris Kattan. That gives you a inkling of the silly lunacy of this film.

So if you want some laughs with your “Killer Santa” film this Holiday season and don’t want anything serious, pop in Santa’s Slay, drink some egg nog and enjoy the ride.

-James J. Coker