Now we start off our Christmas horror season with one that may confuse our western readers. You see in the mid 2000’s when the horror anthology show “Masters of Horror” was airing the country of Japan decided to have there own version of that show. The show was called “Kazuo Umezu’s Horror Theater” and it feature notable Japanese horror directors each directing a episode based on a manga story by famed Japanese horror manga artist Kazuo Umezu. And this particular episode “the Present” is based on his christmas time horror story about rowdy partying young people being killed off in wonderfully gory ways by you guessed it…Santa Claus!!
The plot for this one is simple. a little girl named Yuko is staying up on christmas eve hoping to see santa but her parents tell her to go to bed and that Santa also punishes bad girls and boys. Cut to a number of years later and now Yuko is a young adult and is meeting some friends for partying at a rather empty hotel on Christmas Eve. So Santa Claus himself is hunting down and killing each one in surprisingly gory ways but is all these really happening or is Yuko’s imagination and childhood fears getting the best of her.
Now at first i was rather skeptical about going into this one because I always have been wearing about watching a Japanese horror film because i get tired of all the ghost shit and seeing how this one was practically Japanese horror trying to do a Christmas slasher film I actually thought they would fail and not make a entertaining tale of Mayhem for slasher and horror fans…BOY WAS I WRONG!!!! “The Present” is one hell of a entertaining and damn gory time for both slasher movie fans and horror movie fans as well. Where to begin…though the characters are rather mundane the Atmosphere director Yudai Yamaguchi brings to this strong echoes that of 80s horror films and even that of the film CREEPSHOW with attention to setting and lighting, particularly a eerie set of colored lighting and many establishing location shots that bring in the atmosphere to the point it feels like a lost Creepshow segment. now along with the 80s creepshow-like atmosphere the kills and gore in this sucker is what really surprised me. We get bodies chopped in half with guts hanging out, amputated arms and legs, stabbings in the head, bodies covered in blood and maggots, fingernails ripped off and even a scene where dear old saint nick rips a girls brains out and feeds it to his reindeer in graphic detail! this santa does not play nice with his victims and even has a cool weapon that is a bladed star attached to a chain that he whips around! this is one killer santa that is both cool and damn mean-spirited!.
Now the ending to it all gets just as gruesome with a character discovering a hole in the back of her head with maggots coming out (Kazuo Umezu stories are always this gruesome) and starts digging into that hole with her hand! but suddenly the whole episode switches back to the very beginning and it leaves the viewer scratching there head. An amigous ending that i really loved.
So if you want something a little different with your killer santa flicks this yuletide season but dont want it to skip on the gore and gruesomeness then seek out little known Japanese christmas horror episode “the Present” of Kazuo Umezu’s Horror Theater. Youll have a fun time with this “Slayride” because it fucking rocks! – James J. Coker