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Christmas Evil – Vinegar Syndrome (BluRay / DVD Combo) 
Written by: on November 23rd, 2014

Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1980
Director: Lewis Jackson
Writer: Lewis Jackson
Cast: Brandon Maggart, Jeffrey DeMunn, Dianne Hull, Andy Fenwick, Brian Neville, Joe Jamrog

BluRay released: November 11th, 2014
Approximate running time: 94 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: R
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English
Subtitles: N/A
BluRay Release: Vinegar Syndrome
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $24.98

Synopsis: A young boy witnesses his mother “kissing Santa Claus,” an event which leads to trauma, drama and murder years later as an adult.

Although Christmas Evil—credited here on Arrow Video’s print under its original title of You Better Watch Out—is often misconstrued as a holiday themed slasher a la the infamous 1984 nasty Silent Night, Deadly Night, the truth behind director Lewis Jackson’s 1980 effort is a bit more subtle and artistic than fans might expect.

The film follows the fate of one Harry Stadling, a recently promoted toy company executive who harbors an unhealthy obsession with Christmas; a deep-seeded trauma which results from a chance viewing of his mother and Santa Claus en flagrante as a child. Harry is a conflicted individual, torn between wanting to bring joy to good little boys and girls…while keeping strict record of all those who are ‘naughty’ in his eyes. Additionally, Harry also has a hard go of it with his mates at work, many of who aren’t exactly fond of his promotion to executive level, and who take great pride in telling him so on a daily basis.

What sets Christmas Evil apart from the more exploitative fare of the day is the sympathetic manner in which Harry is presented. Brandon Maggart brings a nicely textured performance to the role of Harry, balancing both malevolence and sympathy in his portrayal of a severely damaged, troubled man. Jackson’s screenplay also does a formidable job at retaining Harry’s humanity all the way to the film’s unique and oft-debated end, creating a feeling of tension and dread without a large body count.

Instead, Christmas Evil makes each killing count, with enough gratuitous gore effects to keep the diehards happy, while Jackson’s story and the cinematography of Ricardo Aronovich both lend the film with an artistic, avant-garde touch.

The BluRay:

Note: The Blu-Ray / DVD portion of this review was written by Michael Den Boer.

Christmas Evil comes on a 25 GB single layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. A brand new 4K master was created and used for this release. Colors look nicely saturated and vibrant when they need too, flesh tones look accurate, black levels look very good and details look crisp throughout. There are no issues with DNR or compression and grain looks natural.

This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD Mono mix in English. There are no issues with background noise or distortion. Dialog is always clear, everything sounds balanced and robust when its needs to be.

Extras on the Blu-Ray include, original comment cards, storyboards, a trailer for the film and three audio commentaries, the first audio commentary with screenwriter / director Lewis Jackson, the second audio commentary with Lewis Jackson and filmmaker John Waters and the third audio commentary with Lewis Jackson and actor Brandon Maggart.

Extras included on the DVD include, original comment cards, storyboards, a trailer for the film, audition tapes (25 minutes 52 seconds), deleted scenes (6 minutes 32 seconds), interviews with Lewis Jackson (6 minutes 53 seconds) and Brandon Maggart (6 minutes 41 seconds) and the three audio commentary tracks, the first audio commentary with screenwriter / director Lewis Jackson, the second audio commentary with Lewis Jackson and filmmaker John Waters and the third audio commentary with Lewis Jackson and actor Brandon Maggart.

There is a wealth of extra content and a few of the topics that are covered include, story-boarding, casting and a few actors who got passed over for roles in the film, the look the film, the score, how the film’s original title was You Better Watch Out and why the title was changed to Christmas Evil, this film’s distribution history and so much more. Needless to say these extras leave no stone unturned in regard to the making of this film and its legacy amongst cult movie fans. Overall Christmas Evil gets an exceptional release from Vinegar Syndrome.

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