Don't Open Till Christmas (1984)

Don't Open Till Christmas (1984)

The Gift of Terror That Just Won’t Wait

A psychopath is targeting men dressed as Santa and killing them all in violent fashion in the run-up to Christmas. Inspector Harris of Scotland Yard is given the task of tracking the killer down. But with so many people dressing as Santa for the festive season, how many more people will be killed before the murderer is caught?


Don’t Open ‘Til Christmas is a nasty, sleazy and mean-spirited little holiday flick along the same veins as Silent Night, Deadly Night – only this time Santa is the victim, not the killer. Unlike the off-beat charm that infamous slasher had, this has very little and is a real mess of a film. It’s almost as if the story was based around the single idea that someone goes around murdering people dressed as Santa. In fact that’s almost the entire film in a nutshell. There’s about ten people killed off throughout the running time (mostly people in Santa outfits) yet no main characters for the audience to latch onto.

It’s not surprising though, given the production history of the film. Made in 1983, it wasn’t released until 1985 with plenty of censor cuts – and they’ve done a butcher’s job of it too. Original director and star, Edmund Purdom, was fired only to be replaced by the film’s writer, who was then in turn fired and replaced with the film’s editor, Ray Selfe. So obviously with another two guys adding their input into the film and cutting bits that previous directors had inserted, Don’t Open ‘Til Christmas becomes an incoherent mess. Events and characters are mentioned in the film which haven’t been shown yet (there is Doctor Bridle credited as one of the characters and he’s mentioned but never shown on screen) and various plot threads which seemingly lead to somewhere, end up in a brick wall.

Considering the relative quickness of how the detectives solve who the killer is, one can only assume that this is the greatest police force in the world. So much so that the detective actually follows instructions on an unmarked parcel sent to him by (presumably), the murderer which simply states “Don’t open ’til Christmas.” What idiot would follow that? Oh yeah, the detective here. Apart from the detective, there are no other continual characters. There’s no one to identify with. There’s no one to elicit sympathy from the viewer. Not one character lasts throughout the film for us to root for. I guess that’s the result of the numerous directors, all coming in and butchering the film, editing it left, right and centre to suit their own vision before the next guy came in. The eventual ending and subsequent plot twist finale just reeks of desperation and pointlessness. Did we just sit through the film for that?

The scenes of various people dressed as Santa being sliced, diced, strangled and stabbed don’t gel with the rest of the film. Every now and then another kill is thrown in for no apparent reason than just to up the body count. Arguably these moments are the best bits of the film as the various ways of dispatch are quite brutal, especially for liberal Britain no less. One Santa even gets his manhood lopped off when he’s at the urinal. One of the victims has to be the candidate for the most unfortunate character ever to grace the screen as he gets chased by some obnoxious punks, falls off his bike, climbs over a wall, gets attacked by a guard dog, runs into the London Dungeon of wax exhibits, gets numerous weapons thrown at him which all miss, narrowly avoids a guillotine before finally being stabbed in the stomach. The scene lasts for about ten minutes and does a fair job of creating some tension but the chain of events leading to his eventual demise is ridiculous and like something out of a slapstick comedy movie.

No mention will be given to any of the cast since I find it hard to believe that any of them found any work after this. One final mention must be given to the soundtrack. It’s quite eerie – one of those 80s synthesised slasher scores (you know the type, whenever we follow the killer’s POV this seedy porn music plays) and it’s mixed with some traditional Christmas music to create something effectively anti-festive.


Don’t Open ‘Til Christmas is a confusing mess of a film and it’s actually pretty boring when the killings aren’t happening. But there is just something about the film which demands at least one watch. It’s a grotty little flick, full of bad taste and loads of anti-Christmas sentiment but it’s got its own sordid charm about it.


Post a comment