What’s Christmas without Santa Claus? I think this is probably my only date-specific part of this list. For this collection of Santa-centric films, I’d recommend a Christmas Eve movie marathon. Gather up any kids you’ll be spending the holiday with, have them watch this collection of films to teach them the importance of being good for goodness sake a la “scared straight.”
Start off by laying the groundwork with:
Santa Claus: The Movie (1985) – Dir. Jeannot Szwarc
At first glance this film seems harmless enough, a nice family film about Santa’s origin, starring Dudley Moore and John Lithgow, with David Huddleston as the eponymous protagonist. But about ten minutes in, things become a bit questionable when Mr. and Mrs. Claus, along with Donner & Blitzen, all appear to die of hypothermia as they make their way between towns. Now, no one ever actually says that they die, but if it looks like a duck and it talks like a duck… as an icy winter storm beats them down, and the reindeer drop faster than Han Solo’s Tauntaun, a light from the heavens shines down upon them and they wake to find themselves in the land of the magical Vendigum (read: Elves).
So, for all intents and purposes, it seems that Mr. & Mrs. Claus, Donner and Blitzen freeze to death in the first reel. Magical candy canes turn out to be highly volatile and can result in children exploding. John Lithgow plays an unscrupulous toy maker who has a devil-may-care attitude about manufacturing explosive candy canes, flammable dolls, and teddy bears stuffed with nails, ever ready to make his escape to a South American country without an extradition treaty. And apparently Santa is the exception to the rule about accepting rides from strangers.
In other words, Santa Claus: The Movie is amazing.
aka You Better Watch Out–(1980)
– Dir. Lewis Jackson
Young Harry Stadling spies mom and “Santa Claus” doing a bit more than kissing underneath the mistletoe. When “Santa” unhooked mom’s garter belt he unknowingly unhinged Harry, warping his fragile little mind.
Once Harry’s all grown up, he’s got an unhealthy obsession with Christmas, spying on all the neighborhood kids, making his own list of whose naughty and nice. Imagine Travis Bickle, but instead of driving a taxi he works in a toy factory. And when he finally snaps, instead of donning a Mohawk, he super-glues a white beard to his face, dons a Santa suit, and spreads a little Christmas fear by killing those he deems naughty.
But the nice need not fear him; he has no problem rewarding the good boys and girls. You won’t believe the ending. It’s a nice, shocking segue into the next film.
Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 (1987) – Dir. Lee Harry
Now, you’re probably asking, “why the sequel without the first?” Well, the second film is essentially the “good parts” version of the original, almost literally “all killer, no filler.” In the first film, after witnessing the murder of his parents by a thief dressed as Santa, young Billy is scarred for life.
Consistently tormented by holiday cheer as he grows up, he, too, finally snaps, dons a Santa suit and goes on a killing spree, punishing those he deems have been naughty, before being gunned down in front of his little brother Ricky. The first film has a bit more plot development involving an overbearing nun. But the second film is almost entirely flashbacks of the kills from the first, as Billy’s brother Ricky recounts the incidents of the first film to a psychiatrist.
Meanwhile, Ricky awaits trial for his own amazingly gratuitous killing spree, attributed to the trauma of witnessing his brother’s death (such a vicious cycle), which he then recounts before escaping, donning a Santa suit of his own and going after the nun he blames for his brother’s death. But, essentially, Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 is the greatest hits from the first film with a cherry on top.
Santa’s Slay (2005)
– Dir. David Steiman
In this film, jolly St. Nick isn’t a willing purveyor of Christmas cheer. In fact, he’s not a saint either, not even close.
Bill Goldberg (yes, the former wrestler) plays the son of Satan, after losing a bet with an angel he’s forced to go around the world giving gifts and spreading joy for 2000 years. But, once the bet is off, he goes back to raising holy hell.
So, after a day of watching the naughty incur Santa’s wrath, when your tiny tots wake up Christmas Day, alive and well, they should have a new-found respect for life and a predilection for all things nice.