Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Christmas in July: Santa's Slay (2005)

The horror in Santa's Slay is so cartoonish that it barely qualifies as a horror movie at all, and the presence of professional wrestler Bill Goldberg as the evil Santa pretty much guarantees the movie will be an exercise in camp. Luckily, writer-director David Steiman (Brett Ratner's former assistant, with his ex-boss on board as producer) understands this, and he drenches the movie in self-awareness and mockery. It's certainly not the most sophisticated humor, and the writing isn't clever enough to make up for the overall dopiness of the concept. But the extremely brief (less than 80 minutes) movie is a breeze to watch because it doesn't have a single moment of taking itself seriously.

Steiman sets the tone right away in an opening scene that is the embodiment of a producer calling in favors: James Caan, Fran Drescher, Chris Kattan and Rebecca Gayheart have brief cameos as members of an obnoxious wealthy family who become the first victims of the homicidal Santa, who has apparently been released from a thousand-year-old curse. See, in this world Santa is actually the son of Satan, and he used to commemorate Christmas every year with a day of slaughter, until an angel tricked him into agreeing to spend a thousand years bringing the world joy instead of death. Now those years are up, and Santa is ready once again to go on a Christmas killing spree.

Which he naturally decides to do in a small freezing town in Canada, where the actual stars of the movie (including Robert Culp in his second-to-last onscreen appearance and Lost's Emilie de Ravin) are minding their own business. Culp's quirky grandpa knows the truth about Santa, though, and he educates his grandson and his grandson's girlfriend in how to defeat the one-liner-spouting psychopath. It's all pretty much as over-the-top as it can be, including a big showdown between Santa and grandpa that involves curling. There's a "reindeer" that looks like some sort of mutant yak, exploding Christmas presents, and the requisite scene in a strip club to fill the nudity quotient. But everyone clearly knows how silly it all is, and the actors play up the ridiculousness accordingly. There's even a little animated sequence about Santa's origin that uses stop-motion animation à la old Rankin-Bass Christmas specials. Santa's Slay never quite lives up to the giddy promise of that first scene, but for a movie starring a pro wrestler as Santa on a killing spree, it's about as entertaining as you could hope for.

The True Meaning of Christmas: Even Santa hates it.

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