I am almost 100% certain that the epitaph on John Russo’s tombstone is going to read, “Hey, don’t forget I co-wrote the original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD!” It is his claim to fame and he is still riding it to this day. When Russo and George Romero split in the early 1970s (after the second collaboration THERE’S ALWAYS VANILLA ), it became pretty apparently who the more talented filmmaker was. Both men stayed in Pennsylvania and went the independent route – Romero blossomed into an illustrious horror director with 1970s classics such as THE CRAZIES (1973), MARTIN (1976) and DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978), while Russo made THE BOOBY HATCH (1976). ‘Nuff said. Yet Russo kept right on trying. He maintained a busy horror fiction career alongside more directorial efforts such as MIDNIGHT (1981) and HEARTSTOPPER (1991), all the while reminding everyone “I co-wrote the original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD” at conventions (where he would hock dirt from the original NOTLD cemetery).
Perhaps all that time spent at horror conventions helped him come up with the idea of launching the magazine Scream Queens Illustrated in 1993. Under the sound business model of “sex sells,” the publication highlighted the bevy of horror hotties whose claim to fame is stepping before a camera and screaming. With Playboy-on-a-budget style layouts, the bi-monthly publication seemingly catered to the virginal horror geek loser stereotype. With business busting, Russo decided to once again use his filmmaking “skills” to create some companion pieces to his print fodder. The resulting films from this era were SCREAM QUEENS’ NAKED CHRISTMAS (1996) and today's review subject SANTA CLAWS (1996).
Now I’m open to giving every film a chance, but when something offers me a shot like this within the first minute, I know that I’m going to be in for a rough ride.
Yes, nothing says fun movie like a flabby, middle-aged man with skin as white as frozen chicken topless with a hot lady. The offending above shot is what young Wayne sees on Christmas Eve. Even worse, it is his mom in bed with his uncle after his father passed away, so the kid has no recourse but to shoot them dead (understandable).
|Even this dummy is creeped out by Wayne!|
About the only clever thing about this movie is the title that playfully puns old St. Nick’s name. But SANTA CLAWS will immediately evoke something much better in your brain than a guy in a Santa suit and black mask carrying around a garden tool. Hell, even the Shock-o-Rama DVD cover (see above) to “celebrate” the 10th anniversary (ha!) offers a better monster. We want Santa tearing people apart with actual claws! Damn, Russo, why didn’t you even try?
|"Hmm, I wonder what that Wayne guy is up to?"|