Santa's Slay (2005) Review by RevTerry

While we portray Santa as a jolly fat man who endorses carefree capitalism, felt clothing and a very loose code of ethics, it's no secret that his origins aren't as nice or marketable. Somewhere between the telephone game and religious censorship some of Saint Nick's darker qualities were removed for the general population. Like many things of its nature the process of marketing Christmas would mean a removal of teeth and sanding of edges. In older legends it wasn't only presents getting delivered by the fat guy on Christmas Eve night, the bad kids got deity style beatdowns as well. In some Santa would take a more omniscience role, and to avoid getting his hands dirty, he brought his hairy grotesque homie Krampus along to do his heavy work. While Santa handed out gifts to the polite kiddos, the demon esqu Krampus ran around fucking up the other kids day. Lucky for me, where our asshole cultural forefathers liked to keep it PG and vanilla as fuck, the horror genre likes to focus on the good stuff in magnification. The topic of Santa's dark side, Krampus and other archaic Yuletide misery, unsurprisingly has come up once or twice in the genre. Most mentioned as of late the properly titled and funded Krampus (2015). Michael Dougherty’s Krampus does a pretty good job of making a comedic and dark but family-centered holiday film. It wasn't the first film to attempt that task and as an entertainingly less effective example, we have Santa's Slay (2006).
The film opens to a privileged but dysfunctional family during a Christmas get together. The intro acts something like an extended cameo as the family of bickering wasps is made up of various faces from the 90s and early 2000s ranging from James Caan to that guy who was only good on SNL in the 90s. At some point, while the somewhat era-topical crew uses passive aggression to slowly chip away at each other, their home is sealed by Santa Claus. Each one is then dispatched off in cartoon-like ways to part of the Home Alone soundtrack mistimed in the background. Then Santa jumps in his doom sleigh on the freeway and you figure the movie is going to be just a huge dude dressed as Santa fucking people up to bad music cues. Which would be cool, but instead, after what feels like fifteen minutes, we meet a Nicolas Yuleson (Douglas Smith, and yep, Yuleson and it’s not even just a nod either, its a plot point), at his place of work, a deli. His family, i.e. his nutty grandpa, does not celebrate the Christmas holiday, and the kid is obviously a little alienated by it. When he comes home from a day of meat slicing and humbug, he finds his grandpa has built a bunker to protect himself from Santa's wrath, which he seems to have some foresight on. Nicholas thinks he has flipped his nut for good and confronts him about the family's traditional lack of seasonal cheer. Grandpa then decides it's time to let his grandson in on the true origins of Christmas, which involve Satan, curling, and a pun on the word “slay”( which was pretty good timing, because all the while Santa is out fucking people up). Well, kind of because he seems to just Jason-Phase™ to the best places for cartoon kill setups and close calls with the kid. With his new found knowledge and God on his side, Nick, his grandpa, and a rushed romantic interest must take down Saint Nick while every contemporary Christmas song the producers could get the rights to clashes with the editing behind them.
It feels like a disgruntled straight to video or a family film on a workplace rampage. Its holiday special feel is strengthened with its b-list or tv cameos and cookie cutter edits. I have never seen the third Santa Claus movie with Tim Allen and Martin Short but from what is burned in my brain tissue from the seconds of previews I was subjected to at some point in the 2000s I have a feeling like they share a common bloodline. I mean that in the best possible way. It is as if Santas Slay could be the happy toxic byproduct of whatever dark arts or sciences that create smiling soulless cash grabs like The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006). I had to spend most of the first viewing wondering how a movie that was obviously only a very thin premise, based on a joke, has so much money backing it before I was able to settle into the corny mess of awkward seasonal fun. Like Jack Frost (1997) the simple and “soft” touch of the writing helps parody a sect of holiday films. Whether or not the effect is entirely on purpose, the logicless fantasy, family bonding feels and uniform presentation feels like a good replacement for what I imagine normal people are forced to watch during this time of the year. The kills are ok despite the handling of direction and there must be a body count of 20 at least, which is fun. The story is mostly stolen from other films besides the film's twist which is more a needed explanation than a surprise. It's fun, mean-spirited, but whimsical holiday garbage masquerading as a witty dark comedy. If I owned ABC Family (or whatever the fuck they call it now) this is the kind of trash I would play.
A running joke starting with the family of familiar faces at the beginning is that the majority of the cast is made up of Jewish celebrities. This was completely lost on me for several years but is a fun easter egg, I guess the punchline being that none of them, of course, celebrate Christmas. It works also with the mains characters plight of watching others enjoy the holiday without being allowed to do so himself. I make no claims to actually knowing if this is a common feeling for people of that faith, but if it is let me be the first to tell you, it's an act. It's all bullshit, all the happy and presents and shit, a front. A facade lined with poverty and family throwdowns. So don't feel too left out, that is, if you do feel left out. Again I have no idea if that's how that works and won't pretend to. 
Professional wrestler Bill Goldberg is the bloodthirsty Santa Clause. He does well in what amounts to him just being what I assume is his wrestling persona in a red suit on a murderous trek equipped with bad Santa jokes. It's kind of a one trick pony but it's entertaining and he looks like he has fun doing it. I have said it before but even though I do not watch any professional wrestling it seems that it's stars do well in trash flicks for the most part. The main kid (Douglas Smith) is not great and borderline grinding but perfect if what we were looking for was the annoying star of a tv special, so it works. Grandpa (TV legend Robert Culp) never quite gets passed seeming creepy and nuts even when it's all explained. That could be the cold editing that plagues the entire film or by design. The cast is filled with low-level cameos including Rebecca Gayheart, Fran Drescher and Saul Rubinek (where the fuck is he now?).
So while it's not too shelf entertainment by any regard I will gladly take Goldberg’s shitty kill lines over the neutered version of the myth that stands today. It's hard to take a demi-god seriously when his worst threat is a lump of coal and no one knows an actual kid to get one. I guarantee the most piece of shit kid on your block got something on Christmas. He probably got something better than you did. He probably got what he fucking wanted. There are better Christmas flicks out there, but I'm pretty sure you could also find a more terrible one on cable if you tried during the last half of December.
| 2005
Director: David Steiman
Writer: David Steiman

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