Way back in August, yours truly suffered a two-punch combo of a gall-bladder attack and a massive coronary upheavel. Over the months since, the gall-bladder has been removed from the equation but my heart still isn't palpating quite right even though a succession of doctors and specialists assure me I am A-OK and on the mend. On the bright side, these health woes have put my Annual Seasonal Affective Disorder Blues into proper perspective. So, there is that. This also brings us to the Annual All-Night Christmas Craptacular Movie Marathon, where I spend the one night a year the paper I work for doesn't go to press with a pecan pie, a bottle of Wild Turkey, a foot-long sub, and do battle with a dusk till dawn onslaught of fractured, theme-specific films.
The problem? One, I don't drink anymore; two, since all this started I tend to turn into a pumpkin around 2am; and three, if I sit too long in one position my angina acts up something fierce. Yoinks! And so, after contemplating on just skipping the marathon altogether this year, I settled on a compromise instead: a three movie marathon on Christmas day, a pie, a sub, and some noble intentions. As for the theme this year, I wanted some holiday specific horror with the caveat that they had to be ones I'd never seen before. And after some digging into the bowels of YouTube, I managed to cobble something together for your post-Yuletide reading pleasure.
First up we had Elves (1989), which, turns out, is a tad misleading in that only one singular Elf ever appears in the picture. Ever. But, he is a Nazi Elf, so there ya go. Anyhoo, try to get your head around this: seems some crackpot scientist escaped from Nazi Germany and set up shop in America where he incestuously tinkered with his own blood-line over the next four decades, finally spawning the perfect Aryan virgin to mate with a glorified sock-puppet to fulfill a prophecy and create a new master race of Super-Nazi Elves that [Lugosi/] "Vill conquer da vorld!" [/Lugosi].
Now, the perfect offspring in question has no desire to have sex with a slack-jawed and barely articulate armature, who seems more interested in consuming beetles than consummating their relationship anyways. This I'm-my-own-grandaughter also works at the local mall, where she befriends the new mall Santa, played by Grizzly Adams, who replaced the old one who just had his balls stabbed off by our evil Nazi Elf while doing lines of cocaine in the john. (In the Elf's defense, he did threaten to molest his reluctant bride to be.) A cat toilet drowning, a cap-gun shoot-out at the mall, random Nazi face-punching, explosions, hot library research action, a bath-tub electrocution, and some of the most hilarious plot-dumps, courtesy of Dr. Science and Professor Exposition, all follow, leading us to thee *ahem*, forgive me, climax. *snerk*
Where does one begin when discussing the bone-headed hilarity of Elves? The plot is asinine. Gloriously so. The highly quotable dialogue is so blunt and matter of fact it causes constant ripples in the Space-Time Continuum. ("I've got to find the connection between the Nazis and the Elves." "Horrible day at work. Santa got murdered.") Special shout-out to Julie Austin as our virginal sacrifice. She deserved better than this flick. Also special nods to Christopher Graham as her snotty, foul-mouthed and perverted little brother, Deanna "Land of the Giants" Lund as Austin's cranky, cat-drowning mother and sister (complete with extended fake-boob nude-scene), and to Dan Hagarty as the pickled pickle-barrel with a beard who fails us all.
I, for one, welcome our new Elven Overlords.
Up next, I was always hesitant to rent Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972) back in the glory days of VHS rentals at the late and lamented Video Kingdom. See, that delightfully macabre cover, courtesy of Paragon Video, would always stare back at me as I passed it in the Horror Aisle, where I always tried to avoid eye contact with that skull, whose blackened eyes tended to follow you, no matter if you ducked into the Action or Romance aisle. Now, having finally seen it, I am kicking myself over and over again for not giving it a spin sooner.
For you see, as the film progressed, despite the horrid print I watched on YouTube, I became totally engrossed in this morbidly creepifying tale, even though it barely made a lick of sense. I'm telling ya, once you thought you had a handle on things, the film kept pulling the rug right out from under you. Thus and so, the gist of it as you fight to stay upright is the old Butler mansion, which doubled as an insane asylum back in the day until something "bad" happened, is up for sale, much to the agitation and hand-wringing of several locals and the sole Butler heir, who breaks out of another asylum and makes a beeline for home, where somebody is knocking off all our players after luring them to the old homestead.
What Silent Night, Deadly Night lacks in cohesion is more than made up for in mood, mayhem and murder. (That flashback revolt at the Butler Asylum was AH-mazing in both concept and execution.) The cast really helps sell this runaway train of flashbacks and plot twists -- most of them leftover cogs from Andy Warhol's Factory. This film is a fever dream, and felt like a competent Andy Milligan flick to be honest. And now, if you'll excuse me, I'ma gonna go and order the restored version on DVD because I'd like to experience this film exactly as the lunatics who made it intended. TO THE AMAZON!
Once that order was placed, we wrapped up this Holiday Horror Triple-Feature with Don't Open Till Christmas (1984), which, sadly, wasn't as gonzo as Elves or as mesmerizing as Silent Night, Bloody Night, leaving me with a whole empty six-pack of "meh." Which is odd once you dig into the pedigree of this flick a bit. I mean it was produced by exploitation legend, Dick Randall, who had a hand in everything from skin flicks (Around the World with Nothing On), to Euro-Trash (The French Sex Murders), to Filipino midget spies (For Your Height Only), to gonzo giant creature features (Crocodile), and was directed by Edmund Purdom, an actor who was a favorite of Joe D'Mato and was in Randall's whackadoodle slasher knock-off, Pieces. But I'm telling ya, Don't Open Till Christmas is just awful because it commits one of the biggest cardinal sins by boring me to tears.
Also, turns out, as the film dragged on indefinitely, certain sequences kept sparking old memory streams, convincing me that I HAD seen this before but nothing stuck, apparently. (One day removed and most of this mess of a film is already gone again.) Quick and dirty: Some psycho has it in for Santa Claus and goes around killing anyone unfortunate enough to be decked out in the Red Suit and false beard. That's it. Stalk, stab, repeat. Oh, sure, there's a succession of Scotland Yard's finest trying to bring a stop to this nonsense but they mostly fail. There's another subplot about a kidnapped stripper, a witness to one of these Santacides, being held captive so we can get the how and the why but by then I simply did not care. And the less said about the rock-stupid ending the better.
Don't Open till Christmas is nigh incomprehensible. Even a musical number by Caroline Munro can salvage anything. Characters disappear. There is no real hero. The plot seems to keep changing its mind. And it appears to be edited with a Cuisinart. Further digging shows Purdom quit when he was only half done, leaving the production scrambling for nearly two years -- TWO YEARS -- to complete and release the film. This is the kind of garbage that gives slasher films such a bad reputation. Though it should be noted that almost all the victims here are male, and the one Santa who survives was a woman. A naked woman, naturally. *sigh*
And on that sour note, thus concludes our truncated 9th Annual Christmas Craptacular Movie Marathon. Until next year, Boils and Ghouls, Happy Holidays one and all. Or Bah! Humbug, where applicable.