Bil’s rating (out of 5): B.
Alternate Title: You Better Watch Out
USA, 1980. Edward R. Pressman Productions. Screenplay by Lewis Jackson. Cinematography by Ricardo Aronovich. Produced by Pete Kameron, Burt Kleiner. Music by Don Christensen, Joel Harris, Julia Heyward. Production Design by Lorenzo Mans. Costume Design by Deirdre N. Williams. Film Editing by Linda Leeds, Corky O’Hara.
As a child, Harry saw mommy kissing Santa Claus (and then some); by the time he reaches adulthood, he’s a burned out, miserable and lonely worker at a toy factory whose solitude begins to tear at his already brittle state of mind. Believing himself to be the next incarnation of Santa, he begins dressing in the costume, grows the beard and keeps tabs on which kids in the neighbourhood are naughty or nice in a giant ledger book (in which he displays very impressive penmanship). When life’s humiliations provoke a nervous breakdown, Harry goes from psychologically obsessed to criminally insane, opening fire on innocent bystanders in an effort to save Christmas from the undeserving. This hilariously bad underground curiosity, which John Waters has described as his favourite Christmas movie, has deservedly earned a cult following for its exploitative plot (basically Halloween and The Shining reconfigured for the festive season), cinematography that looks like an old industrial demonstration film and wacky performances. Brandon Maggart makes for a bland protagonist, his performance lacks all the charisma that his character does, and the dull plot takes far too long to get the grindhouse murder mayhem into gear, but everything terrible about this movie only contributes to its being something that, unlike Santa Claus himself, has to be seen to believed.