Santa's Slay,
directed by David Steiman
(Lions Gate, 2005)

I don't know what it is about Christmas and horror, but it's amazing how the two fit together so well. I've enjoyed many a gruesome Christmas-based horror movie in my time, and Santa's Slay definitely makes my list of favorites.

No doubt we've all noticed at some point that Santa is spelled with the same letters as Satan. That can't be a coincidence, can it? What do we really know about this Santa guy? We know the man works one frickin' day a year -- that can't be on the level. He almost has to run his whole elf-based enterprise as some kind of sweatshop in order to turn out so many toys every year. Nobody in his right mind would live in such an extreme environment as the North Pole unless he has something to hide. During those months without sunlight, the man has to watch every step he makes to avoid stepping in reindeer patties or little elves, and you know he has to get tired of 364 days straight of Mrs. Claus. Oh, he says it's all for the good little boys and girls all over the world, but what if that isn't true? What if Santa actually hates little kids? Can you imagine how much rage such a man would have built up inside after all these years?

In this dark twist on the Santa legend, old St. Nick is actually the son of Satan who lost a bet to an angel. As the loser, he was compelled to spend 1,000 years spreading joy to the hearts of boys and girls all over the world. He hated every minute of it, but now those years have passed and Santa is finally free to unleash his true evil nature.

Eschewing the traditional eight reindeer for a single evil "helldeer," he guides his sleigh to Hell Township and starts laying the smacketh down all over town. This ain't your traditional fat old Santa; this dude is as big and bad as they come. This is a man who took the world of professional wrestling by storm in the late 1990s, a man I watched lay out Hulk Hogan with his patented jackhammer finishing move to win the WCW Heavyweight Championship in what has to be my greatest wrestling memory of all time. If you had told me back then that Bill Goldberg would one day play Santa Claus in a movie, I would have questioned your mental capacity.

As it turns out, though, the filmmakers couldn't have chosen a better actor for this part. While there is definitely a lot of comedy to enjoy alongside all of the killing in Santa's Slay, Goldberg never goes too far over the top, even when he's dishing out ironic Christmas cliches to his victims (and, of course, he's a natural at throwing people around like ragdolls).

The film gets off to a rousing start, as Santa takes out an entire star-studded, highly dysfunctional family. I can see taking out the likes of Fran Drescher and Chris Kattan -- but Rebecca Gayheart? Come on, man! You know this guy's pure evil right from the start. And this little mass slaughter is only the beginning, as Santa basically goes through town killing people in all sorts of ways. It's amazing how many Christmas decorations can be used as implements of death. The only hope of putting an end to his rampage (which, oddly enough given all of the dead bodies stacking up, no one else in town seems to notice) seems to lie with teenaged Nicolas Yuleson (Douglas Smith), his exceedingly cute friend Mary (Emilie de Ravin) and his crazy old grandpa (Robert Culp). It turns out that there's a lot about Grandpa that Nicolas could never have imagined.

With its great mix of murderous mayhem and comedy, Santa's Slay makes for a wickedly entertaining little movie. Some of the sleigh-flying scenes feature some of the worst special effects I've seen in a long time, but those brief moments really take nothing away from all of the things the movie does quite well. The entire cast is great, the funny lines in the script are actually funny and the pacing is spot on.

It does have a rather short runtime of 78 minutes, but it's also the kind of "tell your friends" movie you'll want to watch more than once.

review by
Daniel Jolley

11 December 2010

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