Santa’s Slay (2005)

Santa's Slay (2005)

He’s making a list… pray you’re not on it.

When Santa shows up in a small town killing people at Christmas time, it becomes apparent that he isn’t the same person. It turns out that Santa is actually a demon who lost a bet with an angel a thousand years ago and was forced to become the giver of toys and goodwill for the next thousand years. But now the bet is off and Santa is back to his demonic ways.

 

The sight of a killer Santa Claus is enough to send parents into mad protests against the brutalisation of one of children’s most loved characters. Look at the furore that Silent Night, Deadly Night caused when it came out in America in the 80s. Anger and rage on that scale is somewhat a thing of the past but still the notion of Santa Claus going around chopping people to bits with an axe has yet to become widely accepted as ‘correct’ procedure for a horror film. So then I remember seeing a teaser photo of former wrestler Bill Golberg dressed up in a Santa outfit and wondered just how low brow the eventual film would turn out. Wrestlers haven’t had a great deal of success in films over the years (with the exception of The Rock who has made a nice little career for himself so far) and to be honest, neither has Santa himself (I’m looking at the horror genre here). So joining the two together is a potent mix for B-movie magic.

But it would come as little surprise to note that Santa’s Slay isn’t a very good film. It’s not downright terrible but I can sense such a wasted idea hanging around here and sigh when I think of what could have been. The idea of turning Santa into a killer isn’t new but at least society nowadays is a little more inclined to sit back and take it with a pinch of salt. And to be honest that’s all anyone seems to be doing here – sitting back and taking everything with a pinch of salt. Right from the opening scene you know this is going to be a) a complete hoot and b) complete camp. In the opening sequence alone, Santa bursts into the living room of a family on Christmas Eve and proceeds to slay the lot of them, including guest stars James Caan, Fran Drescher and Chris Kattan. It’s a pity that this opening is the highlight of the film and Santa’s Slay never really comes close to capturing this light hearted, goofy but immensely entertaining opening.

As seems to be the tradition for goofy killers nowadays, the Santa character is turned into something of a walking punch line. He spouts off a few corny one-liners before dispatching his victims which become his trademark throughout the film. Fear not because plenty of traditional Christmas sayings are twisted around including my favourite “spreading a little Christmas fear.” Traditional Christmas theme music is given a slightly action-orientated twist. And there are other variations of the usual sentimental nonsense. Turning the usual festive themes on their head is the sort of thing that the old holiday-themed 80s slashers used to do so it’s nice to see this brought back. Candy canes, egg nog and turkey legs are all used to devastating effect!

However you just know that writer-director David Steiman just hasn’t got a clue how to deal with the idea he has and the film becomes a collection of comic horror set pieces based around Goldberg’s Santa smashing people into a pulp. Rather, the comedy is weak and more groan-inducing than outright funny, darker in tone for ill-advised chuckles than played for belly laughs. There’s not a whole amount of plot or cohesion going on as Santa seemingly shows up where he likes just to kill a few people and utter some more cheesy dialogue. He even visits a strip club on Christmas Eve to give us the obligatory “hoes, hoes, hoes” line. There is an attempt to create some sort of overall plot involving a couple of teenagers, their elderly grandfather and a whole load of nonsense about angels and demons and stuff. But once Santa starts slaying, this plot is put on the back burner to the carnage. The bizarre ending seems to sum the entire film up as a big joke, though looking back it actually gets funnier.

Bill Goldberg is very imposing as Santa and is certainly a big plus point for the film – he has fun in the role, does what is required of him and takes a couple of pokes at himself in the process. He makes a menacing and physically imposing bad guy but his character is so poorly written that it’s a wonder he ever bothered to open his mouth as the character might have worked better as a silent hulking monster. There are also a whole host of other faces in there, including one Emilie de Ravin who went on to greater fame in Lost. I bet this is one she’d wish to erase from her memory.

 

I really wanted to like Santa’s Slay and part of me is smiling whilst I think back to some of the more memorable parts of it. However the idea is just wasted so badly and the film ends up a tedious and seemingly endless collection of random killings and chases, tacked together with as much festive cheese as you can shake a stick at.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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