Written by: George Pacheco on November 28th, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1980
Director: Lewis Jackson
Writers: Lewis Jackson
Cast: Brandon Maggart, Jeffrey DeMunn, Dianne Hull
DVD Release Date: December 12th, 2012
Approximate Running Time: 91 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
Subtitles: Optional English SDH subtitles
DVD Release: Arrow Video
Region Encoding: Region 0 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £8.99
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.
Arrow Video presents Christmas Evil in its original widescreen theatrical ratio. The colors are soft overall, evoking fond memories of the VHS era in which Jackson’s film was originally released. The audio is a bit low and muffled in places, but discernible overall.
Most of the extras here have been imported from the Synapse and Troma releases of the film from 2006 and 2000, respectively, including audio commentary from John Waters, deleted scenes, audition tapes, and interview footage from director Lewis Jackson and actor Brandon Maggart. Arrow’s release does include a collectible booklet with liner notes from Jackson, Waters and noted film critic Kim Newman, however, resulting in a presentation of Christmas Evil which is jam packed for new fans, yet somewhat of a questionable double dip for those who already own the previous region 1 releases.