The Film: Santa’s Slay (1978)
The Principles: David Steiman (director), Bill Goldberg, Robert Culp, Douglas Smith, Emilie De Ravin, Dave Thomas, Chris Kattan, Rebecca Gayheart, James Caan
The Premise: Bill Goldberg asks Santa for a horror franchise, and this is what he gets. A fun anti-programming film that comes dangerously close to being called Satan Claus.
Is It Good: Definitely not. But it is entertaining. Essentially speaking, this could easily be seen as a demo reel for a special effects artist, at least at the start of the film.
The premise is another one of Santa being a bad guy in disguise. Conceptually it is a cousin of the Netherland film Sint, but that relationship ends after the origins of maniacical Santa. Goldberg’s Santa is the son of the devil who loses a curling (can you tell this was made in Canada) challenge to a mortal angel, whose trophy comes in the form of having Santa give gifts of merriment to children for 1000 years. In the spirit of all great fairy tales, this film occurs on the first Christmas after the penance time, and Santa is out to make people pay.
The good stuff comes at the beginning, and it continues to get dull just like most kids get bored after opening the bulk of their gifts Christmas morning. In the first five minutes, some girl gets ninja starred in the back with a tree topper, Fran Drescher turns scream queen as her hair is melted off, James Caan gets nailed to the dinner table and Chris Kattan sadly attempts to use kung fu on Satan’s son. Any movie that kills Chris Kattan by flinging his flailing body across a room is worth something.
If the cameos at the beginning aren’t worthy enough, the Robert Culp plays a required Christopher Lloyd imitator. That’s right, Robert Culp who over acted as Federal Agent Bill Maxwell on The Greatest American Hero. He is older and looks much more frail, but everything else has stayed the same. His quirky voice and offbeat delivery can still be considered bad, but in actuality it still maintains a quirky grandfather like quality.
Is It Worth A Look: Acting quality aside, Santa’s Slay is very short, under 80 minutes of holiday horror fun. Compared to the original Silent Night, Deadly Night it comes off as a masterpeice. Douglas aside, the acting is lightyears beyond the 80s camp film while still maintaining some of the flat out dis-robing of one of the biggest modern day characters. It never quite goes the route of Rare Exports, as this Santa is more Michael Myers than mindless zombie.
The director never commits to a thematic style within the film. It starts bloody and exploitive, but soon descends into an almost teenage/Joe Dante style film. Somewhere along the way the majority of the story switches to occuring the in middle of the day. So few horror films attempt to frighten viewers without a dark background, and though it doesn’t spend much time in daylight, I enjoyed that it did go there. With such a short run time it still sometimes drags due to the acting by Douglas, but even so it is one of the better and more humorous holiday horror films.
The preacher in the film is no stranger to Canadian based films. Dave Thomas was one of the original members of SCTV as well as playing Doug Mckenzie in Strange Brew. He is originally from Canada.
Cinematic Soulmates: Rare Exports, Sint, Silent Night Deadly Night, Silent Night