Sunday, 7 December 2014

Holiday Horror: Don't Open Till Christmas (1984)

Don't Open Till Christmas (1984)
Director: Edmund Purdom
Starring: Edmund Purdom, Alan Lake, and Belinda Mayne
Running Time: 86 min

  So here's the switch up, instead of people dressed as Santa hacking naughty people to pieces, a naughty killer is hacking people dressed as Santa Claus to pieces.  See, I'm all about versatility and apparently so is actor Edmund Purdom (Pieces, Frankenstein's Castle Freaks) who not only is starring in this film but has taken a crack at directing this film.  He's been in so many horror movies, he must know what he's doing, right?

  A killer approaches a car with a couple making out in it, the man in the car gets out and tries to get rid of this Nosey Ned but gets knifed in the gut for his trouble and then his lady friend is stabbed as well.  Neither of them are wearing Santa related gear, so how this relates to the Santa killer, no idea?
  Anyway after the opening credits, we're at a Christmas party and Kate Briosky is helping are wealthy father get his Santa gear on for the party.  Kate's boyfriend, Cliff tells them that he's going to announce that Santa has arrived and heads over to the stage.  Kate's father dressed as Santa goes on stage and thanks his company for coming and tells them that they're are going to receive lots of gifts for Christmas.  Then he is killed by a spear in the back of the head by a man in a melted face mask.  The killer easily escapes because everyone is in shock over the murder and Cliff is having a tantrum at the bar about not being able to catch the killer.
  The next day at the New Scotland Yard, Inspector Ian Harris rolls into work late and talks with Detective Sergeant Powell about this rash of Santa killings and how he's getting a lot of flack from above for not having them solved immediately.  After a quick chat, they head over to Kate and Cliff's apartment to see if they have any clues that could solve this mystery.  Unfortunately, they don't but Harris and Powell have taken an interest in Cliff and decide to keep an eye on him.
  Probably for a good reason because Cliff seems like a weird cat, who plays flute on the street corner for a living and has his girlfriend, Kate, the daughter of the deceased wealthy industrialist collect the change that people toss at them with his/her beret.  The day after her father's death, they're back at it on the street because Cliff thinks she should get over it and they need money(?).  After a hard afternoon of flute playing,  Cliff tries to get Kate in for some sexy time with Cliff's old friend, who is a photographer and some model girl.  However, Kate won't be a part of that, not even for money and she leaves.  So, Cliff stays to have sex and afterwords gets caught in a chase with the police for some inane reason.  During this chase the model gets lost in the dark alleyways wearing nothing but a Santa cloak and ends up dying at the hands of the Santa Killer.  Such a shame.
  Meanwhile, the killer also continues to kill off regular people  dressed as Santa Claus in a number of creative ways and Inspector Harris gets a mysterious present that says "Don't Open Till Christmas".  Also a shady reporter named Gerry is trying to help Detective Powell on the case by telling him that he should keep an eye on Harris, who seems to be acting strange and has shifted eyes.  Will the police ever catch this maniac and make it safe for Santa's everywhere or will this yuletide nightmare never end and the Kris Kringles will have to live in fear forever.

  This is a terrific example of a director finding out that making a horror movie is harder than it looks and that is probably why this is Edmund Purdom only has this one directing credit. The story is all over the place and nothing ties together properly.  It's a whole bunch of ideas thrown together without any real thought or reason for it.  It's like they had a bunch of cool ideas and then tried to shoehorn them all in without considering how it would affect the story.  
  The killing is fine and I'll come back to that later, but it's the characters and the development of them that is way off.  Why is Kate, the daughter of a wealthy industrialist, and her boyfriend still trying to get by in this shitty apartment and playing flute on the street?  Why is Cliff trying to get Kate to take nude pictures so they can drum up some cash?  Where is the development of this relationship between Kate and Harris, so that she says something like "you are the only one I can trust"?  These kinds of questions are never mentioned or answered throughout the film and the relationship behind Kate and Harris is non-existent for most of the story. 
  Also what drives me bananas is about a third of the way through the film we are introduced to a second female lead character.  She pops up after witnessing a murder and by the end of the film she as turned from an nothing secondary character to one of the leads of the film for no reason and the Kate Harris storyline drifts away.  We know nothing about her and isn't given any real scenes to make us care about her but she is needed for the exciting ending of the film, so she is thrust upon us whether we like it or not.
  Even the ending is shitty and dumb.  The way they end the killer's storyline is impossible, Kate's storyline ends by a very lazy writer's hand and Harris's sub plot comes to an end in the most bizarre and unexpected circumstances, with no reason at all.  This is hack writing probably at it's best and this film should be used in writing classes as a what not to do when writing scripts.

  The killings in this film are it's only saving grace.  There are some very brutal Santa and non Santa slayings that are somewhat imaginative and a wonderful escape from the dull and confusing storyline.  Santa gets hit with an ax, shot in the mouth with a flare gun and even gets his penis cut off at one point!  I know Mrs. Claus won't like that.  Anyway, these scenes are the best thing about this film and would be the only reason I would recommend watching it.

  This is not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination but it is a very violent one.  The storyline is shitty and the film doesn't really pay off at the end because of so many reasons, including the character focus switches three quarters of the way through the film.  So unless you dig bad movies or your whole purpose is to see Kris Kringle die in as many horrible deaths as possible, which is pretty fun, then this movie should never be opened, ever.


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