Monday, December 23, 2013

December to Dismember: THE CHRISTMAS SEASON MASSACRE (2001)

Pre-modern Christianity believed that suffering in this mortal coil would put you on Saint Peter's Nice List. When the Jesus peeps were running around slaughtering nations and re-booting their pagan holidays, ironically that whole suffering angle seems to have dropped in favor of active niceness. In other words, instead of a passive activity such as suffering, Santa Claus demands that you are actively nice to make the index delicatus. Therefore after watching the movie, I have become holier in the eyes of the old church, but after this review I will definitely be getting a lump of coal in my stocking.

Seemingly taking a cue from the violent shit that came out of Germany in the '80s, the movie opens up with a girl in jeans running away from someone holding a home video camera who can't afford a steadycam harness. I thought it might be someone who was desperately trying to avoid being in this amateur mess, but after she trips and falls, a guy with a bandana, an eye patch and a wife-beater stabs her in the guts and proceeds to pull out her intestines... and plays with them. I'm guessing playing with them is the right way to put it. He grimaces and grunts while mushing them in his hands and pulling them... and he grunts some more, and pulls some more, and grimaces, and mashes and... Can we get on with this already?

A riveting way to spend 7.5 minutes
Set in Christmastown, CA (which suspiciously looks like Missouri), this alleged "horror/comedy" tells the tale of one Tommy "One Shoe" McGroo (Michael Hill) a scrawny kid who was so poor that when schoolyard bullies stole one of his shoes, he had to ask Santa for a replacement. Instead of a shoe, he gets "a pussy eye-patch" which pushes him over the edge. He disappeared, but every Christmas one of his classmates is found brutally murdered. We are told this by one of his former classmates, Boom Boom (Eric Stanze), who is drinking tequila with his rather homely girlfriend in a parked Toyota in the middle of a clearing. And lemme tell ya, that story takes some time to tell. Shot from the backseat and the side window, this loser rambles on and on, repeating points and digressing into soliloquies about what a "pussy" McGoo was. If you are in your 20s and you miss being around your loser friend who thinks he can tell a story and just bores the shit out of everyone, you will love this stuff. Of course when "the Boomer's gotta drain the main vein" he gets attacked by McGoo. This takes seven minutes and twenty-eight seconds of the movie. Seven and a half of the longest minutes of your life.

Shot silent with dialogue dubbed in later, a doughy dork laments to his equally doughy woman about how Christmas is for children and damn his low sperm count! Naturally it takes a loooooong time to get through this monologue and when we finally do, it's time to open presents! Well, when I say "presents", what I mean is an old suitcase filled with sex toys and random objects. After going through about 20 items and making funny faces at each other they strip down and have sex under the Christmas tree while the dude wears a watermelon piñata on his head. Oh yeah, this is supposed to be a "comedy" isn't it? Cue McGoo, who stumbles into the "set" and pulls watermellon dude off his chunky monkey and climbs aboard himself to which the wife coos "oh you've gotten bigger." Is it me or did someone miss the memo here? I would think that if you are going to have a killer stalking a guy with a piñata on his head, you might have the killer take him out by... oh, I don't know, maybe beating his head with a stick? Say what you want about Lloyd Kaufman, but he would have never blown that obvious set-up.

But wait, we haven't even gotten to the main plot yet! Seriously, there is one... sort of. The surviving classmates get together at a local summer camp and decide that "we're going to stay here, have some fun and fucking kill Tommy McGroo!" Note that they say they are going to have some fun. The viewer is not invited. Or rather we are invited to watch them have fun. Clearly the "cast" (ie: a group of friends) is having fun as evidenced by long sections of tomfoolery including a music montage of everyone tormenting the fat guy (how is burning his hand with a lighter funny?), placing a whoopie cushion on the slutty girl's chair, arguing and playing a very, very long game of Strip Trivial Pursuit in which no one strips or even plays the game. Oh, and there's the dorky redneck guy who is constantly serenading his girlfriend via acoustic guitar. The goofy ballads, with lyrics like "you are like a tall weed in a parking lot", might actually get a laugh if they were in a better movie. Remember how I said that the backstory on McGroo were the longest seven and a half minutes of your life? I lied. This part is the longest. It just goes on and on. Not like the Energizer Bunny, but more like that lingering, phlemmy cough that you can't get rid of after catching the Christmas flu.

Don't believe me? Wait till you see the sidesplitting scene where two of the oakie cast members have what they clearly think is a hilarious, drunken exchange that starts like this:
"Lemme ask you something. Is fish meat?"
"Why would you ask me a question like that? Of course fish is fish!"
Whether this is a flub that was left in or just terrible scripting is unclear. What is clear is that this is going to go on for a while. We cut away. We cut back and the conversation is still going and going and...

The most horrifying thing in this movie... perhaps ever.

Give me fear! C'mon, terror!
You are scared! You're... oh, fuck it.
McGoo stumbles around attacking the classmates with knife, ice pick, chainsaw and screwdriver, finally chasing the last two chumps into a graveyard. We know it's a graveyard because there is a montage of shots of the headstones that goes on for at least a full minute. It may not sound like much, but when these moments of obvious padding interrupt the flow of an already uneventful movie, 60 seconds of static shots of tombstones is asking a whole hell of a lot from your audience. Same can be said for the shot of one of the guys with a screwdriver through his head. No, we don't get to see it put there, but the guys are so proud of the application they shoot it from multiple angles over and over like it's a Jackie Chan stunt from the '80s.

Distributor Sub Rosa definitely lives up to their Latin name with this one. This release is so far under the radar that it is in danger of melting in the Earth's core. This is without a doubt the longest 69 minutes I have ever spent in my life. That 69 minutes includes a full four and a half minutes of bloopers that are awkwardly inserted in the middle of the end credits and a whopping seven and a half minutes of credits leaving a mere 57 minutes of actual movie that makes SHOAH (1985) feel like a penny arcade short. In the final act, the killer is chasing down the last guy in the cemetery, the victim has enough time to sit down and set up a Ouija board and try to mess with it for a while. No doubt writer-director Jeremy Wallace would like to chalk that up as part of the "comedy" but I call bullshit on that, it's just more stalling for time. At this point the sweat is starting to break and I was like David Naughton in a porn theater, except I'm not turning into a werewolf, I'm just in agonizing pain.

So inept is this production that the, presumably, TV news coverage of the killing of Boomer and the assault on his girlfriend is simply a bunch of black and white still images of the movie footage we just saw with a long droning narration that recaps the events we just saw in a "news anchor" voice-over! Ghaaa! You couldn't video one of your friends in a suit against a wall with some fake call signs and then play it back on a TV? Apparently not. Look, Jeremy Wallace, even the ultra-cheap know how to work the old "news" bit. You have someone driving a car, they turn on the radio and bam, there's your news story that fills in the audience on some exposition that, and this is the important part, you haven't covered previously!

Ultimately it seems as if Wallace watched VIOLENT SHIT (1989) and REDNECK ZOMBIES (1989) one too many times and said "That's easy! I can do that!" Much of the antics feel like they've been borrowed, except REDNECK ZOMBIES was genuinely clever, funny and really graphically gory. Here we have a "comic" scene with a girl massaging her breasts, a guy picking strange objects out of something and making comic faces and remarks, parody folk songs, an over-acting fat guy, and a moment of shotgun splatter that is the highlight of the movie. Seems all a bit too familiar. The comedy is painful (though it is funny watching Jason Christ accidentally smack his head into a truck windshield so hard that it legitimately spiderwebs), the gore is barely adequate and at just over an hour, it is far too long for the paltry few ideas that Wallace has.

So watching this movie may not get me past the pearly gates, but it's got to be good for some leverage with ol' Saint Pete, I'm thinking. If I can just make sure Santa doesn't read this till the 26th...

Moments of Clarity:

3 Reactions:

  1. I watched a dozen or so Christmas horrors last year around this same time and this was by far the worst of the lot, along with "Deadly Little Christmas." Happy Holidays and keep up the good work here.

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  2. Yes, it appears the further one goes down the stocking, the worse the presents get. Hopefully we can avoid DEADLY LITTLE CHRISTMAS. Thanks for the kind words.

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  3. Hey thanks! Glad to hear I'm not the only one who suffered through that mess. Misery loves company.

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