Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Evil Santas

December is upon us, and it just wouldn't feel like the holidays without writing a Christmas list. This year I'm focusing on the bearded obese man that so many of us worshiped growing up in the hopes of acquiring merchandise. While most Santas that we see at the mall or in Coca-Cola commercials are joyous and giving, this list will be about some malevolent incarnations of Kris Kringle.

It seems weird to take an iconic figure of peace and goodwill and turn him into a deadly villain, but it's happened more times than you'd think. I guess there's just something naturally entertaining about turning a character into the polar (*snicker*) opposite of what you'd expect.  If you're wondering why Jack Skellington's turn as Sandy Claws from Nightmare Before Christmas didn't make the list, it's because even though he was a terrible Santa Claus and nearly ruined Christmas entirely, he had good intentions from the beginning and wasn't out to hurt anybody. Without further ado, here are five depictions of Santa Claus as a totally evil bastard.

5. Bad Santa (2003)
To kick off the list we have Billy Bob Thornton playing a con man who works at different malls as their Santa Claus to eventually rob them. It took me awhile to get around to watching this movie despite the almost cult following it has as being one of the funniest holiday movies. I enjoyed it and had some good laughs, but mostly I found Billy Bob's character frustratingly terrible. Maybe that's the point, but let's get to what matters here:

HOW EVIL IS HE? Well, he's more of an asshole than evil, but I feel he has so many despicable qualities that they result in a truly horrible Santa Claus. Let's see ... he's an alcoholic, he's a criminal, he's profane, he's sleazy, he's disgusting, he hurts people, takes advantage of people, and does all of these things in front of children. He even beats up some kids at one point.

Plus, just appearance wise, how shitty is he as Santa? With his baggy, stained Santa suit hanging off his sickly frame, disheveled fake beard over his scraggly real beard, and piss-soaked pants. How he ever pulled off any crime with this ruse is beyond me. He is the definition of failure and just an awful human being.

4. Futurama's Robot Santa
Originally I wanted this list to only cover evil Santas from movies, but this recurring character from "Futurama" was deserving enough to make the cut. Robot Santa was built by The Friendly Robot Company to evaluate how nice or naughty people were to sort presents accordingly. Sadly, a programming error resulted in his standards being set too high, and now everyone is deemed naughty in his eyes. So on Christmas Eve, Robot Santa flies to earth and punishes the naughty with Christmas-themed murder.

HOW EVIL IS HE? Pretty damn evil. Robot Santa lives at the North Pole on Neptune in his Death Fortress. He's known for chopping off people's heads and stuffing their neck holes with toys. Don't know about you, but that sounds messed up to me.

3. Silent Night Deadly Night (1984)
For the price of one movie you get two evil Santa's. The film starts with a young boy, Billy, witnessing his parents being murdered by a crazed criminal in a Santa suit. Billy then grows up in an orphanage under the strict watch of nuns. Then as a teenager he gets a job as a stock boy in a toy shop, is forced to play the part of Santa for the Christmas season and ... well ... snaps.

HOW EVIL IS HE? As evil as an axe murderer who goes on a killing spree on Christmas Eve. Well, he also kills people with bow and arrows, x-mas lights, antlers, and other stuff, but mostly he wanders around with an axe. Billy is a psychologically scarred individual who has a mental breakdown over his traumatic memories of Santa Claus and ends up taking on the role of a vengeful Santa out to punish those who are "naughty".

Something I find interesting about Silent Night is how upset it made people: TV ads for the movie were pulled off the air for the depiction of Santa as a killer, Siskel and Ebert had a particular hatred for the film, and angry parents picketed outside theatres until it was pulled after only two weeks. The film remained stored away for another year before it got released on video. It could have been a bigger success since it opened the same week as Nightmare on Elm Street and was out-grossing Freddy until protests ruined all the fun. This film was a pioneer of the Evil Santa genre, and I suppose the concept of a killer St. Nick was just too evil for the public to handle at the time.

2. Santa's Slay (2005)
This movie tells the tale of the devil's son who lost a bet to an angel and was forced to become Santa Claus for 1000 years. And now, having fulfilled his commitment to the wager, Santa goes back to his evil ways and goes on a killing rampage through a small town.

When I first approached this movie, I was bracing myself for a very painful viewing experience. I mean, we're talking about Goldberg, the wrestler, playing Santa Claus in a horror film. But I'll be damned if I wasn't completely entertained. Yes, the acting is bad. Yes, the sets and props are visibly cheap. Yes, the premise is stupid as hell. However, you show me Santa Claus kicking a dog into a ceiling fan or running an old woman off the road with his bison-pulled sleigh, and I'll show you a guy who's having some holiday fun.

HOW EVIL IS HE? Well, besides doing the stuff I just mentioned, Santa racks up a considerable body count with some creative kills while spouting corny one-liners. He obliterates a family of six in about two minutes and later wreaks havoc at a strip bar.

As ridiculous as it is, I can't recommend this movie enough. It embraces the stupidity of it all, and manages to be funny and entertaining. With a running time of about an hour and fifteen minutes, you can't afford NOT to watch this with friends and laugh your balls off.

1. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)
Okay, so we've seen Santa so far as an alcoholic douchebag, a deadly robot from space, a schizophrenic serial killer, and the son of the devil. Where do we go from here?


Deep under the mountain of Korvatunturi an archaeological dig unearths the hidden tomb of Santa Claus - a supernatural being that would kidnap and punish bad children. The movie, set in a remote community near the mountain, follows the story of one family and their neighbours as they discover the truth behind the myth of Santa Claus.

HOW EVIL IS HE?  Like many of the other entries in the list, Santa's goal is punishing the naughty instead of rewarding good children. We don't really know how he's "punishing" children, and we don't really understand what he is, but that just adds to the unsettling quality of a silent, frail old man with an ominous look about him. Something between a mythological creature and demon, this Santa is easily the most sinister and frightening I've come across.

The film itself is a mix of comedy, horror, and fantasy, but it captures some moments of intense suspense and dread. Sometimes it's laughably ridiculous, sometimes it's deadly serious, and I really enjoyed the careful film-making employed to balance the two extremes. I can't go into much detail here without spoiling some of the surprises the film has to offer, but I'll say that it creates an exceptional evil Santa using a "less is more" approach and it's worth your time to check out.

Merry Christmas! I hope you've been good this year. Or else!


Sam said...

The illustrations of Santa in the books that the boy reads at the beginning of Rare Exports are wonderfully menacing.

Shane said...

Very true. I would describe the whole movie as "wonderfully menacing" too.

cole d'arc said...

good choice all around. although i consciously avoided Santa's Slay.
i think i'd hear do Rare Exports but i'm not sure. could be confusing it with something else. you didn't really reveal what this Santa does so now I'm kind of curious to see it.
however, if i made this list i would have to include Zim in his series finale where he assumes the role of Santa for The Most Horrible Christmas Ever. Bow down before his jolly boots of DOOM!

Shane said...

Cole, you should check out Santa's Slay. It's more fun than it has any right being. Get drunk and go for it.

I'd like to see what you think of Rare Exports. Once you watch it you'll understand why I was vague in my review.

I haven't watched nearly enough Zim, but that episodes sounds like fun to me. Also, will there be a Christmas list on the horizon from ye?

cole d'arc said...

judging by my spelling, i think i must have been drunk when i wrote that last post.

no, i really have no interest in writing a Christmas list. you and Ryan are a lot better at it than i could ever be.

Ryan said...

I saw Rare Exports at HMV the other day, and I was so confused. The retro-styled cover had me believing it was some old time Christmas movie I'd somehow never heard of.

As for Santa's Slay, I have seen most of it. It's... wow. The fact that I've seen Bill Goldberg in two movies (Universal Solder: The Return) is almost as mystifying as the fact that I've seen him slaughter the innocent wholesale as Santa Claus.

Excellent list, sir!