Bill Goldberg - Santa Claus
Douglas Smith - Nicholas Yuleson
Emilie de Ravin - Mary Mackenzie
Robert Culp - Grandpa Yuleson
Saul Rubinek - Mr. Green
Genre - Horror/Comedy
Running Time - 95 Minutes
Score - 3.5 Howls Outta 4
When it comes to watching Christmas films, I don't go for classics like MARCH OF THE WOODEN SOLDIERS, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, WHITE CHRISTMAS, or MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET right away. I have to be in a sort of cheery mood to watch those flicks. But when it comes to Christmas and horror, I'm always in the Christmas spirit. Whether it's BLACK CHRISTMAS, CHRISTMAS EVIL, DON'T OPEN 'TIL CHRISTMAS, GREMLINS, JACK FROST, or SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT, I'm definitely down for it.
I can now add the Brett Ratner produced SANTA'S SLAY to the list that puts me in the Christmas mood. I've heard about this film for a while now but always avoided it because Bill Goldberg was the lead actor in the film. Since I wasn't a fan of his work in the squared circle [he was always a Stone Cold Steve Austin clone to me without the charisma or the ability to wrestle a decent match most of the time], I couldn't see myself sitting down and watching him dress as Santa Claus and butcher people. I like Kane and look how SEE NO EVIL turned out. Yeesh!
Anyway after much pushing and shoving for me to finally see it, I sat down this past weekend to check it out. And I can honestly say that SANTA'S SLAY was a pleasant surprise from beginning to end. It wasn't perfect and I don't think it's as good as a lot of people make it out to be, but it's definitely a film any horror fan will be entertained by during this holiday season. Bring on the ho, ho, hos and let's see why you should stuff SANTA'S SLAY in your stocking!
After murdering an obnoxious and dysfunctional family that includes James Caan, Fran Drescher, Chris Kattan, and Rebecca Gayheart, we learn that Santa Claus is really the son of Satan, who years ago lost a bet with an angel (Robert Culp) and was forced to play the role that we now associate with Santa Claus for a thousand years. Well those thousand years are up and Santa is tired of giving people presents and sliding down chimneys. Now back on Earth, Santa plans on doing what he loves best - killing people
alone or with his flying buffalo that loves to run people down. The only hope to stop Santa are the angel's grandson, Nick (Douglas Smith), and his girlfriend Mary (Emilie de Ravin). Will they be able to send Santa back to Hell or will they just be two more victims on Santa's Naughty or Nice list?
SANTA'S SLAY is a really fun film. It was meant to be released in theaters but something happened and went direct-to-DVD instead. It's a shame because we don't really have many great horror-themed Christmas films out there and SANTA'S SLAY could have restarted a trend that started with BLACK CHRISTMAS. Then again, the studios were probably afraid of another backlash similar to the one SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT received in 1984. Who knows? But it's definitely worth checking out if you're into this kind of movie.
The story is actually really clever here. I've been hearing and reading things about how Santa and Satan are either related or the same person for years now. So to have someone write a script based on those myths and actually make sense out of it is pretty awesome. I loved the whole idea of an evil Santa Claus forced to be nice for a millenium just because he lost a bet to an angel. And having Santa played by a big muscular dude like Bill Goldberg was genius. It made the character menacing and makes you wonder why would a guy like this actually go out of his way to make children happy. Plus Goldberg is Jewish and seeing him dressed as Santa was pleasantly ironic to say the least. I always thought Santa was a weird dude anyway, so this was just icing on my cake.
We also get a lot of little things in this film that makes SANTA'S SLAY stand out. Things like the grandson being named Nicholas Yuleson [as in Saint Nick] and his girlfriend Mary [like Saint Nick's Mary] are a nice touch. The town the film is settled in is called Hell Township, which leads to many one liners such as a weatherman claiming it's "near freezing...in Hell," and I believe there was another involving "crime doesn't stand a chance in Hell" or something. The grandpa was formerly a Hell's Angel. A cop's name was Dick Zucker [hardy har har!]. Mr. Green, the Jewish deli owner, used the Star of David to stop Santa from attacking him as if he was a vampire [didn't work, duh!]. And my personal favorite - the tracking system that monitors Santa's whereabouts being called GONAD. Yeah, they're all corny as hell. But sometimes cheese puts a smile on my face and it makes me chuckle. At least there was an attempt for humor and the film is pretty funny at times, especially when Santa sprang one-liners that were corny as hell but still amusing at the same time.
And I thought the main characters were developed quite well for the most part. They all had great dialogue and while stereotypical, they also had a bit of depth at the same time. I do think the Mary character was a bit off at times because she would act really strong and masculine and then become a scaredy-cat out of the blue without one having time to adjust to the mood change. It wasn't believable some of the time as to how she would switch from being brave to scared to brave again. But I did like the pairing of Mary with Nick, who seemed to be the girl in the relationship. And everyone loves a nutty grandfather who's more wise than he lets on.
I thought the best part of the film had to be the very beginning, where you have all these cameos by Fran Drescher, James Caan, Chris Kattan, and Rebecca Gayheart sitting at a table and then getting massacred by Santa Claus. The exchange between Caan and Drescher [who played husband and wife] is hysterical with the added bonus of Kattan and Gayheart reacting to it. The actors were obviously having fun here and if you watch the Gag Reel on the DVD, you see that I'm right. This scene was probably the true motivator for me watching SANTA'S SLAY, as I caught the clip on YouTube months ago and laughed my ass off. Just a great intro for the film. And I gotta say - Fran Drescher may have an annoying voice but hot damn does she look bangable as hell! I need me a cougar, stat! If she doesn't win the New York State Senate seat, she can always sit on mine! Meowr...
I think where people will be most disappointed is the lack of gore this film has. People get killed here. I mean alot. We have death by menorah, people on fire, hit-and-run by buffalo, killing someone with a sharp candy cane, stringing someone with Christmas lights to death, and so on. But we barely see any blood or any visible aftermath scenes. So yeah, if you want to see that kind of stuff, stick with SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT. And the film isn't all that scary anyway. It's more comedy than horror, but it's still a cool flick for what it does.
David Steiman does an excellent job directing SANTA'S SLAY. For a low-budget flick, it looks visually impressive. The cinematography is beautiful. The editing and pacing is crisp. The CGI looks believable enough. I loved the Rankin-Bass Christmas animation portion of the film where the bet was shown visually. I love those Christmas animated features and it made me all nostalgic. I have no complaints about the direction of this film actually. It was a really nice job.
The acting was really good. Bill Goldberg actually surprised me at how cool he was as Santa Claus. Like I said, I'm not a big fan but the guy won me over by just kicking ass and saying those stupid one-liners with a straight face. He looked like he was having a great time and this was a definite improvement over UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN and the "amazing" READY TO RUMBLE. I wouldn't mind seeing him do this again in a sequel. Douglas Smith and Emilie de Ravin have great chemistry together and really worked well off of each other. They made their stereotypical characters worth investing in and I liked the two of them alot. Then again, I have a thing for de Ravin since Roswell so I'm biased. Gotta love the epilogue in the deleted scenes where her character ended up Lost after the events of the film. Funny. And Robert Culp was eccentric and cool as the angelic grandfather. Culp is a great actor so I can't complain.
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE SPEARING THOSE WHO WERE NAUGHTY
- James Caan, Fran Drescher, Chris Kattan, and Rebecca Gayheart all got brutally attacked by an angry Santa Claus. Why?
a) Santa wanted to get revenge on Scott Caan over READY TO RUMBLE through his father.
b) Santa would rather bang The Nanny dead so he wouldn't have to hear her voice.
c) Santa doesn't like Mango. Is it because he's the homo-gay?
d) Santa feels that Noxzema products dry his skin.
Santa has issues, I gather.
- Senior citizen, Mrs. Talbot, told Santa to "Suck it!" Wishing Santa a Degeneration X-Mas will only get you on his naughty list. And death by car crash. Break it down!
- Don't ever mug a pissed off Santa. It's a pretty trashy thing to do. Literally.
- Mary gave Grandpa a plate of wolverine after her father shot one. Funny, I thought wolverines murdered their family and then themselves. Just like the WWE, I'm trying to erase that from memory.
- Santa likes to frequent the strip clubs. Now I see what sets his Yuletide log on fire.
- Some kids asked their parents if they could open their "motherfucking presents". I don't know why they were so offended. Their mom did fuck someone to pay for those presents, didn't she? Yeah, she looked the type. That ho, ho, ho!
- Mr. Green was killed by a menorah. I guess it'll take eight crazy nights to completely pull it out of him.
- Nicholas didn't know how to use a shotgun until Mary stepped in and gave him instructions. If your girl has to tell you how to use your gun, I don't think the relationship is gonna last too long.
- Santa was throwing down presents that exploded. They must have been unwanted copies of UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN. That'll scare anyone.
- The pits of Hell are underneath an ice-skating rink. That explains the evil behind the whole Kerrigan-Harding scandal of the 1990s. Also explains the popularity of Brian Boitano. What would he do?
THE FINAL HOWL
SANTA'S SLAY will definitely put a horror fan in the Christmas spirit. While not scary or gory, it's a cheesy B-flick that will be a great stocking stuffer for this time of year. It's rare to have a former professional wrestler to be a great film, so take advantage of this fact as soon as you can. A clever, silly, and extremely entertaining Christmas horror film - who knew? Spear your way and rent/buy this one. SANTA'S SLAY is definitely on my nice list this year.