I love Christmas time. The bright lights, cheery sounds, and piquant smells of gingerbread, eggnog, and the inevitable gift set of Old Spice I find under my tree; it’s so rife with nostalgia and warm-fuzzies that I can barely contain myself. Then again, there are some things I really frikken’ hate about the holidays, too. Bumper-to-bumper traffic, long lines, rude people; it’s enough to make me wish that Santa would swoop down from the sky, not bearing good tidings and cheer, but, rather, a semi-automatic rifle, some grenades, and a pack of wild boar to sic on the Martha Stuart wannabes, the rude seasonal help, and that guy that holds up traffic for miles in order to wait out an elderly woman as she slowly and methodically vacates her coveted parking spot.
It’s times like these that I appreciate something a little less cloying than your average holiday movie; more blood drops than gumdrops, a little bit of Christmas “fear”, and that’s where David Steiman’s ultra-silly, low-budget yuletide farce, Santa’s Slay, comes in.
Dig this concept; Santa Claus (played by professional wrestler, Bill Goldberg) is, in fact, the lone son of Satan, and, up until a thousand years ago, he was a bloodthirsty barbarian who’d spent his Christmas Eves slicing and dicing his way around the globe. That was until a lost wager with an angel cursed Santa Claus to a millennium of kindness and giving. However, the curse has been lifted and Santa is back and madder than ever! He descends upon a small northern town where Nicholas Yuleson (Smith) lives with his eccentric, Christmas-hating grandfather (Culp). Grandpa, you see, knows all about of Santa’s past, and has been preparing for the return of the real Santa. Nicholas thinks his grandfather’s off his rocker; that is until Santa Claus does indeed come to town, burns down a strip club, murders the owner of the delicatessen Nicholas works in, and threatens to wipe out his whole town. So, with the help of his lovelorn “pal” Mac (Lost’s de Ravin), Nicholas tries to get the holiday spirit, literally.
Santa’s Slay is slapstick, rapid-fire comedy that works about as often as it misfires, but, despite its wicked mean streak, the film makes for a nice holiday watch. Actually, this is a film that I’ll probably revisit again next Christmas, as I’m always on the lookout for a decent holiday-themed horror flicks to show at my much-maligned Christmas Eve gatherings, and this is leagues better than the Silent Night/Deadly Night films I’ve been showing all these years.
This is a low-budget flick, but it actually does a great job hiding its budgetary limitations, and, in some cases, the lack of cash lends to this film’s charm. I especially liked how Santa’s costume was given something of a Norse makeover (as was his slay), and thought that the flying buffalo/reindeer beast was a hilarious cost-cutting measure. Actually, none of my major problems with this film have anything to do with the film’s low-budget as you don’t need millions of dollars to come up with good jokes (hell, look at Clerks for an example of that).
Yep, the main problem I have with Santa’s Slay is its script. While I’ve read other viewer’s opinions in which they say they’d like to have seen this concept played “straight”, I think it works best as a comedy. That being said, though, I’m not a big fan of broad humor, something that Santa’s Slay relies far too much upon. From Goldberg’s groaning one-liners to silly physical comedy bits, the film feels like it’s trying too hard too often. There are definitely darker moments here that border on traditional black comedy, but they’re few and far between. And, while I realize that one has to employ a certain suspension of disbelief when watching a horror film or a holiday film, let alone a hybrid of both, there’s just not enough “shock and awe” here. People seem to take Santa’s arrival in stride, as though he were just another visitor to the town. If that weren’t enough, our heroes react to Santa’s acts of violence with just as much apathy.
Still, Santa’s Slay is still worth watching as a holiday goof, and does have some gut-busting moments that make it a better parody than any of those god-awful Scary Movie flicks.
The DVD from Lion’s Gate features some short making-of featurettes, commentary track, and a seemingly endless barrage of trailers for other Lion’s Gate releases.