Don’t Open Till X-mas!!!

The Ho-Ho-Holocaust continues! Enjoy a stocking stuffed with two semi-obscure Santa Claus slasher flicks…

TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT (1980)

This one begins “two years ago” inside the exclusive Calvin Finishing School For Girls. A Christmas time sorority hazing prank involving a Santa suit and an axe turns deadly when the pledge being tormented accidentally falls from the second floor (?) of the sorority house and inexplicably dies. We then flash forward two years and meet a gaggle of well off sorority sluts (including the lovely Jennifer Runyon of “Master Ninja II” and “Up The Creek” legend) who are forced for various reasons to stay at the school for the holiday.

The sneaky and sex starved girls plan an X-mas bash with a pack of wealthy stud fucks who arrive via private plane and land at the conveniently located neighboring airstrip. The gals dupe their dimwitted cockblocking house mother into drinking drug laced milk and knock her out for the evening before settling in for a cozy night of romance with the boys. That’s when a masked killer in a Santa suit with an axe to grind decides to crash the party and spread a little holiday fear. The carols turn to corpses and the girls scream ’till dawn.

The late, great David Hess of “Last House On The Left” infamy directed this holiday horror flick in the proud tradition of “Halloween.” This was the first in a series of one movie that David would direct over the years. This is a very dark movie, and I don’t mean in terms of tone. Apparently there wasn’t any budget for lights as most of the movie is set in deep impenetrable blackness. The choppy editing is also sometimes unintentionally hilarious, especially in the opening death scene. I’m not sure how much blame can go to David for this, or if it should be directed towards to the editors, producers, etc. Either way, it’s probably a good thing David stuck to acting and music.

Alex Rebar (aka The Incredible Melting Man!) provided the script for “To All A Good Night.” Rebar’s script certainly owes a debt to Bob Clark’s clas-sick “Black Christmas.” The plot is essentially pretty young girls being stalked and slain inside their dormitory over the holiday break by a murderer. It’s not exactly original stuff, but the wacky double-twist ending was a nice creative touch. The only major flaw of this flick is the fact the kids discover that there’s a killer in their midst about half way through the film, which makes the second half of film feel boring and pointless. The girls spend more too time sitting around doing nothing than they do getting undressed or dismembered.

The most interesting aspect of this flick is easily the fact that the killer dresses up as Santa Claus – sporting both the trademark red suit and a creepy looking Santa mask. At the time this film was made, that had only been done in a horror film once before – and that was way back in 1972 in the “Tales From The Crypt” segment “And All Through The House.” In its defense, this is a considerably more brutal and bloodthirsty effort than “And All Through The House,” or “Halloween” and “Black Christmas” for that matter.

The mad masked slasher Santa cleaves through the student body with a vengeance and racks up an impressive body count. Fans of slow paced, violent slasher flicks should certainly enjoy this one, as it features plenty of stabbings, throat slittings, axe murders, skull bashing, crossbow carnage, and even some splashy propeller blade disembowelment! There’s also an incredibly gory shower scene that has to be seen to be believed. Good gory fun, and pretty much the only reason to watch this one.

TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT seems to have slipped into slasher semi-obscurity, which is too bad really. It’s not exactly a masterpiece of horror cinema, but it’s a decent enough holiday horror flick that deserves a larger audience for sure. A proper dvd release of this one is long overdue and would make a great X-mas present for the hardcore 80’s slasher enthusiasts.

 

DON’T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS (1984)

A bit of a change of pace from the other killer Santa flicks, “Don’t Open Till Christmas” is about a madman with a smoldering hatred for Christmas who goes on a holiday killing spree throughout London targeting people dressed up as the jolly old fat man. The masked maniac crashes a X-mas party being thrown by a pair of young lovers named Cliff and Kate and hurls a spear into the skull of Kate’s father. Edmond Purdom (Pieces!) and Mark Jones (Secrets Of A Superstud) play Harris and Powell – the dumbfounded detectives in charge of the investigation. Harris himself claims to be a victim of “another Santa murder” and spends most of his time wandering around looking confused or bored.

The killer wastes no time snuffing as many Santa impersonators as he can. His ho-ho-hoing victims are shot, stabbed, castrated (great scene!), and have their faces roasted on a open fire like chestnuts. Most of the imitation Santa’s are drunks and perverts, and the opportunistic killer even strikes inside a peepshow! Powell eventually becomes frustrated and suspicious of his inept partner and arranges a stakeout that turns deadly when the killer shows up wielding his deadly boot knife and swiftly plants it into a cop’s crotch! Another cop attempts to wrestle the lunatic to the ground and winds up losing an eye in the process.

The killer later returns to the peepshow and takes a stripper named Cherry hostage. He brings her into his basement where he keeps her captive and berates her for “selling her soul.” He also reveals the reason for his burning hatred of Christmas – as a wee impressionable youth he discovered his Daddy having sex with a whore while he was dressed as Santa. And then instead of seeing Mommy kissing Santa Claus he saw Santa Claus throw Mommy down a flight of stairs. The madman then vows make Cherry his “supreme sacrifice to all the EVIL that Christmas is!” Perhaps Cherry should offer to unwrap his package…

DON’T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS was promoted as “a gift from the people who brought you “Friday The 13th!” but in reality was a notoriously troubled and delayed production. The dreaded duo of Dick Randall (Pieces) and Steve Minasian (Slaughter High) produced and lined up the film’s star Edmond Purdom to direct. Unfortunately Purdom proved mostly inept and a director with a background in sex films named Derek Ford was brought in to replace him. Unbelievably, this replacement director was eventually fired from the production and the editor Ray Selfe had to finish the job. It’s not surprising that the end result is more than a little uneven and confusing. Most of the characters seem to pop in and out of the film at random and more than a few plot points are unresolved.

On the plus side, there’s no shortage of sleaze or violence. The new footage that was shot by Selfe includes a nifty murder set inside the famous London Dungeon wax museum, and a hilarious cameo from the one and only Caroline Munro (Maniac, Slaughter High) – who shows up to belt out a fucking hideous disco number called “I’m The Warrior Of Love!” The promotional materials screamed about “14 Amazing Kills!” and fortunately the flick did not disappoint. The impressive splatter effects were created by Peter Litton, who also served up the splatter in “Slaughter High.

Lovers of cheesy and sleazy slasher flicks should certainly enjoy this often overlooked holiday horror flick. It’s currently available on dvd in vhs quality in several of those cheap-o 50 Movie Packs from the good folks at Mill Creek Entertainment. Hardcore fans of this flick should track down a copy of the special edition unrated dvd release from Mondo Macabro, which is marginally better looking and also includes a behind the scenes featurette. Buy it for someone you hate.

HO! HO! HO! KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

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