Christmas Evil, directed by Lewis Jackson and released in 1980, felt misleading, but that is not a bad thing. I was fully expecting a cheesy Christmas slasher in the same vein as Silent Night, Deadly Night, but instead, it is more reminiscent of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. It’s not anywhere near as good as Scorsese’s neo-noir classic, but it made for a unique watch and separated it from the cliche holiday slasher that I was anticipating. Brandon Maggart stars as Harry Stadling, who witnessed the lie that is Santa Claus at an early age after he saw his father, who was dressed as Santa Claus to fool the kids, being intimate with his mother. This yuletide fuckery screwed with young Harry, and years later, he lives alone, works in a toy factory, keeps a good and bad list of local children, and dresses as Santa. He is belittled at work and picked on by his co-workers even though he has recently received a promotion.
Typically, I would expect a movie such as this to dive into the gore and violence immediately; however, this movie pulls back and paints a picture of a mentally disturbed man who is plagued by loneliness. Even his brother, played by The Walking Dead’s Jeffery DeMunn, doesn’t seem to care for Harry. He is more frustrated by his brother than anything. The movie makes you feel sympathy for Harry before he explodes into chaotic violence. It makes sense that this doesn’t feature all the slasher tropes since it came out in 1980, not long after the slasher genre took hold of horror, but I wasn’t expecting a character study that dived deep into the psyche of a lonely and insane man.
I don’t know if I buy the whole concept of seeing Mommy kissing Santa Daddy breaking Harry to the point of derangement, but Brandon Maggart does an excellent job portraying a broken man. The scene when Harry glues the beard on his face and starts weeping, both tears of joy and sadness, is magnificently performed, and moments like these make me wonder why I haven’t seen Brandon Maggart in more movies. The ending of the film is also spectacular and weird, which I immensely enjoyed.
Christmas Evil is an interesting Christmas horror film that ended up being more in-depth than I was expecting. If you go into this movie expecting a Christmas slasher, you may end up disappointed. Instead, this is a character study on loneliness that owes more to a film like Taxi Driver than it does the slasher movie cliches of Halloween.