“Christmas Evil (a.k.a. You Better Watch Out)” (1980)


Starring: Brandon Maggart, Jeffrey DeMunn, Dianne Hull
Directed by: Lewis Jackson
Rated: R
Running Time: 95 min.

Synopsis: A man dressed in a Santa suit gives gifts to the people that have been nice but kills the ones who’ve been naughty.

Four years before Silent Night, Deadly Night came out, another killer Santa movie, Christmas Evil or a.k.a. You Better Watch Out. Whatever the title is called you’ll end up watching a very messed up and bizarre movie, but not in a good messed up and bizarre way.

The film starts off on Christmas 1947. Two brothers and their mother are watching Santa (which happens to be the father dressed up) eating milk and cookies and putting gifts under the tree. Later, when the brothers are in their room in bed, the two argue over if it was the real Santa or just their dad. The older brother, Harry, goes back downstairs to figure out the mystery. He ends up seeing his dad (still in the Santa suit) feeling up the mom by the Christmas tree. This sends little Harry in a tailspin of childhood trauma. Harry runs upstairs into the attic and ends up knocking over a snow globe. He picks up a piece of glass and starts to cut into his hands as visions of Santa getting it on with mom dance in his head.

Fast-forward to present day (well, 1980) where Harry is all grown up. It seems that now he has a Santa Claus obsession where the guy wears Santa pajamas to bed and has everything Santa and Christmas all over his apartment. He then goes to the roof and spies on the neighborhood kids to see who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. One kid he catches looking at a Penthouse magazine in which Harry goes and puts him in his naughty book. Yes, he keeps a good and bad book of all the children he knows. But, Harry doesn’t spend all his day spying on kids. He actually works at a toy factory and takes his job really seriously. When everyone else doesn’t even care about the product, Harry tries to lecture them on how they must make sure the toys are good quality for all the boys and girls. Pretty much everyone thinks he’s a joke and this has Harry freaking out in his apartment humming Christmas tunes and smashing some of his own toys. He also walks around late at night and looks in the window of his younger brother’s house. He watches his brother playing with his kids and later when the kids are asleep he watches his brother make out with his wife.

It seems that Harry wants to have a purpose in life and figures out that purpose when watching the Thanksgiving Day parade and seeing Santa and everyone cheering for him. Harry then starts putting together the perfect costume of Santa and even paints a sleigh on his van. During this time in the movie there’s not much action. Just Harry walking around acting weird and staring at himself in the mirror humming Christmas songs. At one point he goes over to the boy with the Penthouse magazine’s house and looks at him in the window. Looks as if he’s about to sneak in the house and kill the kid, but his mom gets the boy and they run out of the house to go to the store or something. The kid sees Harry hiding in the bushes. He goes over to investigate only to have Harry just scare him. He cries to his mother but his mom doesn’t believe him and all he gets is a slap in the face and drags him in the car.

Finally on Christmas Eve, Harry dons the Santa suit and takes toys from the toy factory and hops in his van to deliver gifts. His first stop is to his brother’s and leaves presents for his nephews. He then leaves a bag of dirt in front of the Penthouse kid’s house. Then he goes to a children’s hospital to drop off toys. He almost gets into an argument with the old man security guard. The old man almost pulls out his gun on Harry. Here I thought this is when the horror starts and the blood goes flying. But instead he gives the guard a present and gets all the hospital staff to come outside. Suddenly it turns into a Hallmark Channel movie when he starts to shouts “Marry Christmas” and gives gifts to all of them. He leaves them as they shout, “We love you, Santa”.

His next stop is a church where they’re having midnight mass. The entire crowd gets out as Harry stands on the corner. Two couples, who act like they just left a bar instead of a church, start making fun of Harry. Harry ends up stabbing one of guys in the eye with a toy soldier’s sword and taking an axe to the head of another. Harry races to his van and takes off. Now the horror begins. He later stumbles into a Christmas party and is welcomed with open arms as he entertains the children there. He later leaves the group without harming a soul, just warning the kids to be good.

Meanwhile a manhunt is on for a killer Santa. Harry then goes to the house of one of his co-workers who he hates and wants to get revenge. He sneaks in his house and tries to suffocate him with his sack. When that doesn’t work, he takes a sharp tree ornament and slits his throat. As he runs to get out of the house, the guy’s kids just stand there and smile at him, not knowing what he did to their father.

The next day, Harry’s brother is worried because his brother usually comes over for Christmas. Meanwhile, Harry wakes up in his van later that day and tries to go back to his apartment. Police are looking for the killer everywhere, bringing in all people dressed as Santa. As Harry walks in his neighborhood, the kids there run over to him asking for presents. The parents see this and think that it could be the killer Santa. At one point one of the fathers takes out a switchblade like he’s a street thug and threatens to cut Santa’s throat. His daughter starts to yell, “No, Daddy, No!”, and starts to kick her dad in the leg. The mother comes over to help only to have the father push her on the ground. Harry ends up escaping them, and here’s where it gets really ridiculous, the parents turn into a mob and light touches and start chasing Harry like he was Frankenstein’s monster. Soon the whole town is chasing him, but Harry jumps in his van and gets away.

Harry tries to find safety with his brother. As he gets to his house the brother then realizes that he’s the killer Santa. The brother starts to strangle Harry until he goes limp. His brother takes him outside thinking he killed him, only to have Harry wake up and knock his brother out, then flee in his van again. At this point, the mob catches up with him and runs him off a cliff. Instead of crashing to his doom, the van begins to fly through the air as he shouts “Merry Christmas!” WTF!

I’ll say this film is worth watching just once, but it’s not up there in the it’s so bad it’s good category (that would be Silent Night, Deadly Night). The film has a weird vibe to it and just doesn’t make sense. It’s very slow moving at times and doesn’t pick up until the second half. Most of the characters are pretty dull. Harry starts off dull as well, but once he’s in the Santa suit he does a good job. If you want to see a Christmas/horror movie with lots of ridiculous moments, check out this one.