most evil movie santas

This Friday sees the release of Krampus, the second holiday-flavored horror movie from Trick ‘r Treat director Michael Dougherty. This film is part of a long cinematic tradition: Santa Claus isn’t what you think he is. That jolly, playful fellow who comes bearing toys for all the good little girls and boys? He’s not here now. Instead, how about a figure who has come bearing punishment for all of the bad children? And, you know, anyone else who gets in his way.

There have been a number of films about “evil” Santas over the years, ranging from versions who are just big jerks to guys who will split your head open with an axe. To celebrate this tradition, this rich, cinematic tapestry of red-suited, white-bearded menace, let’s take a quick tour through some of the more bizarre, brutal, and coal-hearted depictions of St. Nicholas.

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In the early ’80s, the horror film Silent Night, Deadly Night caused an uproar, but now it just more remake fodder. Released at Christmas in ’84, people were just as angry about one TV ad for the film, which showed an axe-wielding Santa Claus during the prime time block of TV, as they were about the movie itself. (Probably more so, as I doubt that most of the angry ones actually saw the film.)

The movie depicted a family being killed by a criminal dressed as Santa Claus; the one survivor of that family massacre then snaps at Christmas many years later, and turns into a killer. Gene Siskel ripped the movie on At the Movies — “your profits really are blood money,” he said of the film’s creators — but in truth, the only thing more hilarious than the controversy over the film is the movie itself. Mostly inept, the picture has wonderfully unintentionally funny scenes and a few depraved and entertainingly exploitative kills. Best use of a sled since Citizen Kane!

And now we’ll get to see it all again, with Malcolm McDowell in one of the lead roles. Read More »