Thursday, December 15, 2011

Don't Open Till Christmas (25 Days of Shitmas, Day #15)

Christmas themed scare flicks usually follow the same model; crazy guy dresses like Santa Claus, crazy Santa Claus kills teens. It is a simple yet effective way to subvert a holiday that every level headed adult becomes sick of weeks before the season actually ends. “Don’t Open till Christmas” takes this tried and true concept and turns it on it's tired head. Instead of a film about a killer Santa, this 1980s British production tells the story of a killer, who kills Santas! That simple marijuana fueled tweak is just what this repetitive genre needed. Add a sub-Agatha Christie 'whodunit' and a grim London setting and you have the forgotten slasher masterpiece on the docket today, “Don’t Open till Christmas”.

The film opens with a Christmas themed costume party. The creepy guests and leering camera suggest this gathering may be an orgy, but there are children present so that probably isn’t the case. An obnoxiously drunk Santa Claus prances around onstage and after a few gyrations falls down dead. It appears a spear was thrown from backstage and hit Old Saint Nick in the head, the spear tip exiting through his mouth. A near riot erupts as the guests scamper for the door. This is the first major murder of “Don’t Open till Christmas”. Whenever the story drags, which is often, the film cuts to a person dressed like the jolly old fat man, drunk and alone. The Santa stand-in staggers down a labyrinthine alley and is confronted by a masked assailant who murders the person with butcher-like skills. These stabbings, shootings, chokings and set-on-fire-ings happen throughout the film with Swiss precision. 10 minutes do not pass without a Santa kill.

The lead of the film is Kate, the daughter of the first victim. She goes through the entire film grieving over her father’s death. After reviewing my notes I could not come up with one good action or motivation Kate has in the entire movie. Although, she is the center of the story, Kate really doesn’t do much.

As the bodies begin to stack New Scotland Yard appoints a chief inspector to the case and goes on the hunt for the Santa slayer. The inspector is stalked by a creepy journalist named Giles, who may or may not be insinuating the inspector is the killer. This cop also receives a mysterious Christmas present with the words “Don’t open till Christmas” scribbled on the wrapping paper. A plot point that the filmmakers desperately try to ignore throughout the film so, they can bring it back for the twist ending. My immediate thought upon hearing those words? "That’ll come back around”, not to mention, “We have a title!”

Most of the characters in “Don’t Open till Christmas” are introduced just to be filleted. The rest fall under a gaze of suspicion at some point, obvious red herrings that permeate murder mysteries like this to boost their overall running time. Brutal murder after brutal murder (it really starts getting fun!) fills the rest of the movie, each with the same set up, but ending with a personalized demise.

Allow me to list some of the more painful ways the cloaked killer dispatches these Christmas phonies. We have:
Death by spear *through the mouth
Death by shooting *through the mouth!
Death by spiked glove.
Death by open flame grill.
Death by electrified car.

These are only a few of the deaths in the film. All total there are 16 murders in “Don’t Open till Christmas”. Now that is a body count even Jason Voorhees can get down with!

[CAUTION, SPOILAGE AHEAD] The story ends with one of the Killer’s victims escaping and throwing the Christmas hating slasher over a balcony, but thankfully not before a HUGE revelation. The chief inspector is the Killer’s brother and the final moments before the Killer’s death propels us into a flashback. Our psycho, now a little child on Christmas morning gets a new knife as a present. Carrying his gift upstairs the kid witnesses his father, dressed like Kris Kringle, screwing a chick in his bedroom. The boy’s mother arrives to catch her adultering husband in mid-thrust. Trying to run, Santa-dad pushes his wife down the flight of stairs killing her. Quickly, the boy stabs his father with his shinny new toy and walks away as the old man bleeds to death. This is why he hates Santa Claus. Good enough for me. [END OF SPOILAGE]

“Don’t Open till Christmas” is less of a movie and more of a serial killer's ‘best of’ reel. Yes, the deaths are not as wildly elaborate or detailed as other slasher films, but their sheer amount and consistency never allows the film to fall into malaise. Every single Supposed-Santa in this picture is stupid and asking to be killed. The front page of every newspapers has a story of Santa Claus' killer stalking London’s alleyways. So, if you are an inebriated douche bag that decides to dress like Santa and then get wasted AND THEN walk home alone, your death is my entertainment for the evening. “Don’t Open till Christmas” barely breaks the gingerbread cookie mold of Christmas horror films, but it does just enough to hold the audience's attention as the Killer moves from cutting, to stabbing, to electrocuting…to bashing, to mutilating, to...

The End


  1. BTW "Don't Open till Christmas" was provided by the VHS Preservation Society.
    God bless those guys for searching the dumpsters on cinema history and pulling out this half eaten glazed donut to help feed the masses.

  2. Great Review Dude, and yes God Bless VHSPS. So many of the movies that got review or will in the next week are all their doings :)