Wednesday, December 20, 2017

December to Dismember: CHRISTMAS SLAY (2015)

Tom recently dipped his toe across the pond with THE 12 DEATHS OF CHRISTMAS (2017), so I guess I have to be brave enough. Not to be confused with SANTA’S SLAY (2005) - which is easily the best killer Santa movie starring Bill Goldberg - CHRISTMAS SLAY is another in the long line of “homicidal maniac in a Santa suit” slashers with the only difference from our other cinematic tortures is the ineptness comes at us with charming British accents. Cheerio, old chap!

The film opens with a family (father, mother, young daughter) celebrating on Christmas Eve. When they hit the hay, a deranged killer (Frank Jakeman) in a Santa suit breaks in. How do we know he is deranged? He sits down and slices himself a piece of their cake! Have you ever seen such madness? He then heads upstairs and kills mom and dad (dad is violently stabbed while mom just sleeps through it; yeah, it is one of those kind of movies). The cops arrive thanks to a silent alarm (always the best kind of alarm for a vulnerable family in the middle of nowhere) and quickly blast the killer to hell. Hahaha, just kidding. This is England where they are still civilized and politely-yet-sternly tell him “get down on the floor now.” After a bit of a scuffle (that would have made him extra dead in the U.S.), he is taken into custody. Just think, the slay from the next 80 minutes could never have happened if some good ol’ American cops got to the scene first.


Cut to a year later and three girlfriends - Emma (Jessica Ann Bonner), Beccy (Dani Thompson), and Sarah (Lydia Kay) - are heading to Scotland for some winter fun. Things are tough for Emma as she found her boyfriend Ryan in bed with her best friend. He says they were just pissed (drunk for you non-Brits), but she ain’t having it and the three ladies decide it is girls’ weekend as they get dropped off at an isolated cabin. On the way back the van driver hears on the radio about a breakout over several patients at the Moorview mental institution the day previous. Wait...what breakout? In his infinite wisdom, writer-director Steve Davis decides to show the breakout AFTER it is mentioned. We meet nurse Chloe (Laura Ellen Wilson), who runs into our killer, Simon Carter, in the hallway of this psych ward. You see, in Europe if you slaughter an entire family you only get the nut house. Over here in the U.S. you get prison...plus a fanclub and Wikipedia page. Simon proves he still isn’t on the level when he stabs a fellow patient in the head with a bunch of pens and steals his Santa suit before escaping. No need to guess where he is going as the director has already told us.

Back at the bungalow, the girls are preparing to get wild by decorating a Christmas tree and roasting marshmallows. Whoa, calm down, girls, just calm down. Trouble arrives in a slight form as Chloe shows up. You see, she was the best friend that Emma’s boyfriend was in bed with. Drama! Trouble also arrives in a slightly bigger form as boyfriends John and Paul also show up (Ringo and George apparently not invited). Trouble then arrives in its biggest form as Simon eventually shows up with an axe. We just have to assume he followed Chloe here, but obviously it doesn’t matter (to both the director and the audience). Chloe is the first to get killed when she goes out to get some firewood. One of the boys goes out to find her and he also gets slayed. This gives Simon his first chance to show his holiday horror decorating flair as he sneaks into the house and puts Chloe’s severed head in the toilet. Let’s just say master horror planners like Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees aren’t impressed. Hell, Billy from SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984) mounted Linnea Quigley on a deer rack on his first killing spree. Simon, you ain’t no Billy. Not that you would care as all this action happens offscreen. Why? Because we need to have the amazing 5 minutes long scene where John fills his tiny joint and ponders the wonders of marijuana. Naturally, when John finally makes it to the john and sees the severed head, he freaks out and pounds his palms against his forehead while mumbling. The girls decide the best course of action is to get to higher ground for some good cell phone reception. Not to call the cops, they just want to chance their Facebook status to “It’s complicated.”

The tagline on the DVD cover for this is “You better watch out. You better not cry.” Guess what? I
didn’t watch out and as a result I cried a lot. Now I’m not blaming the film outright, but after I saw it I was very sick for three days and felt like I was gonna puke (“That was probably the new STAR WARS that made you sick,” said Tom). You have to wonder what writer-director Steve Davis has going on in that (egg)noggin of his. Stalk-and-slash movies don’t require the highest level of brain function, but some basic logic does apply. For example, let’s look at the scene where the women decide to leave the house to head to higher ground. They were settling in for the night so the characters were in t-shirts, bras and short shorts. Price has them all leave the house to go out into the cold dressed like this. Now, mind you, they are not being chased at all at this point and they are inside a house (insert Donald Moffat in THE THING voice) FILLED WITH THEIR FUCKING WARM CLOTHES! Now I’ve seen characters do some dumb stuff in horror movies, but I’ve never seen them choose to avoid weather conditions by choice. Weird.

The end is even more bizarre as Emma becomes the final girl and chops Simon to death with his axe. Ryan, the boyfriend savior, shows up the next morning and does what anyone would do and immediately takes her to the hospital and calls the police. Hahahaha, just kidding. He takes her to her apartment so she can have a bath. The police show up and arrest her because of all the dead bodies back at the cabin. Wait, I thought she killed Simon. Well, his body is gone and they just assume she was the escaped looney. No, I’m not kidding. This is an actual dialogue exchange in the film:

Constable: “They picked up that escaped patient from Moorview a few hours ago. The one that killed all those students up in the highlands.”
Sergeant: “That is good news. Where’d they find him?”
Constable: “It wasn’t a him, it was a her.”
Sergeant: “A her? You sure about that?”
Constable: “Yeah, positive. They found her prints everywhere.”

I can’t even begin to unpack all the dumb in those five lines. Now I’ve heard about British folks being bumbling, but this might take the crumpet. Hmmm, did a hulking killer escape or was it a tiny girl? Eh, same thing. Can’t tell ‘em apart, guv’ner. Jeez, remind me never to get caught up in a mass murder in England. It is boneheaded directorial decision one after the next. Viewers might wonder what makes Simon tick. You could infer he has a Christmas tragedy in his past by the way he freaks out in the asylum when he sees a fellow patient in a Santa get up. Nope. Working such simple exposition in some throwaway dialogue is just too damn demanding for Price. A shame as Jakeman is an imposing actor and seems to have some range to maybe pull it off. Of course Simon lives and the door is left open for CHRISTMAS SLAY 2. Thankfully, no one has entered that yet.

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