Santa Claws (1996)
Review by Gnoll
The MCFTR 2004 Mini-tribute to the Christmas Horror flick wound up being a little thinner than I expected, but at least we managed to dig up a few gems in the process. This holiday season wraps up this time with Santa Claws, which is probably worse than the previous film, Christmas Evil, if you can believe it. And that’s a damn shame, because I was really hoping for some sort of guilty pleasure along the lines of Jack Frost but got a big ol’ turd instead.
It’s quite sad, really. Santa Claws looked like it was only a label away from being considered a Troma release. It promised senseless violence, gratuitous nudity, and even a starring role by Troma fave Debbie Rochon. But alas, it was not to be. This is actually one of Miss Rochon’s earlier performances, before she was known as one of the premiere scream queens out there. She even plays a scream queen in this film, and is quite good at doing that. In fact, she’s the best actor in the entire film.
What makes the suckitude of Santa Claws even more disappointing is the fact that it’s the product of John Russo, who was one of the creators of the original Night of the Living Dead along with George Romero. Of course, since then, he’s been relegated to doing movies that aspire to be C-movies, but he’s still one of the guys responsible for one of the greatest horror movies to ever be made. He even casts Marilyn Eastman and Karl Hardman, a/k/a Helen and Harry Cooper from the classic, in Santa Claws. But the movie still sucks rotten ass.
Santa Claws starts out by introducing us to the man who will eventually snap and become our Santa Killer. And in the same vein as both Christmas Evil and Silent Night, Deadly Night, the origin is based on a traumatic experience the guy had when he was a little kid. But this time around, little killer guy, named Wayne, is the one causing the havoc. As the movie begins, his mother is in bed with some fat dude in a Santa hat who apparently drugged the kid so he could get busy with mom. Wayne wakes up from his slumber and, just like in Christmas Evil, sees mommy kissing Santa Claus, but rather than run upstairs and cry he pulls out a gun and kills both of them. And there, folks, is your killer. It’s a premise stolen from every previous Santa slasher film ever made, and yet manages to be even lazier at establishing the killer’s character than any previous incarnation.
And to make it even lazier, Wayne apparently is able to live in a free society a decade later despite being caught plugging two people in the head with a pistol.
The opening credits (which look like they were edited in MS Paint) roll, and we meet Debbie Rochon’s character, Raven Quinn. Well, we don’t really meet her yet, but we see her strolling down a sidewalk for no explicable reason. After the credits, we see the inside of Scream Studios, where Raven works. Scream allegedly produces low-budget horror flicks, but they’re simply working on a naked Christmas video at this point. Raven and the studio’s owner are trying to justify their work to a local news reporter (who apparently have so little news to cover that they need to do exposes on B-movie studios) and Mrs. Quinn mentions that she has a Master’s degree in zoology. Because, you know, most people in that line of study wind up naked in horror movies.
Mrs. Quinn has a husband who photographs nude models for a living and was actually the reason Raven got into the business. They have two kids who apparently have no idea what mommy and daddy do for a living. Raven also has an obsessive fan: Wayne, who’s all growned up and lives next door in a house with a shrine to her work. Wayne even orders a life-sized bust of the scream queen (which looks absolutely nothing like Miss Rochon) so that he can talk to it, despite the fact that he’s so close to the real thing that her kids think of him as an uncle. Raven’s husband Eric has a mother and sister that occasionally babysit the kiddies while she’s off getting naked and/or disembowled on camera, and they think she’s a horrible person for what she does but Eric is a saint. They’re also played by the worst actors on the face of the planet. Mom is played by Marilyn Eastman, so I can see why she’s actually in the film, but the other chick is absolutely nobody.
So because her in-laws hate her, and because Eric has left Raven and plans to file for divorce while sleeping around with one of his models, Raven gets sweet little old Wayne to take care of the kids. She obviously has not realized that he worships at an altar to her and makes out with a fake head. Wayne apparently does an all right job with the kiddies, but decides to give Raven the third degree about the people she works with. Raven takes it a little personally, but soon Wayne is back in her good graces. She even teases sexual tension with him, which is about as believable as the entire plot of Superman II.
Wayne gets a little jealous of another starlet at Scream studios after his little conversation with Raven, so he arms himself with a garden claw and goes to the studio to relieve her of her breathing duties. He sneaks into her dressing room and apparently buries the hook into her head and chest, while the camera shows nothing but a pair of legs flailing and then going limp. Just for shits and giggles, Wayne then offs the studio’s owner. He takes an opportunity to bury the corpses somewhere in the woods, but not before stopping by and getting a little more work from Raven babysitting.
While looking after the girls the next night, Wayne uses the old trick that was pulled on him as a kid: he slips sleeping pills into their hot cocoa. Now he’ll have a chance to go off and commit even more of the murders, and will even have an alibi for doing so! Wayne also, probably just because he’s so taken by the holiday season and all, buys a Santa Claus costume to wear while he completes his next set of murders.
With the Santa costume on, Wayne goes after another of Raven’s scream queen coworkers, attacking her in her house. After he’s been firmly established as the Santa Claus killer, he decides he needs to color his costume black, apparenly so it will coordinate with his mask. His method for doing so? Spray Paint. Dude decides to spray paint his furry suit with black Krylon™, which makes for the crummiest-looking color job you’ll ever see. Come on, haven’t you ever heard of Rit dye?
Raven, somewhere during all of this alleged plot, keeps calling her abrasive unfaithful husband until he finally decides that he needs to quit cheating on her with random stripper chick and go back to his family. As he arrives home, the kids are passed out on the sofa and Raven and Wayne are nowhere to be found. Wayne is, you guessed it, off killin’ people. Just because we haven’t seen enough of the two worst actors in history, Eric calls his family to come over and look over the kids while he goes off looking for Raven and/or Wayne. He catches up to Raven at the studio, but Wayne is there too and is poised to kill Eric and Raven. And ever-so-realistically, Wayne gets a long and drawn-out scene where he gets to tell his potential victims all about his life and why he’s the nutcase that he is today.
Wayne gets the goods on Eric, stabbing him with the fork o’doom in the shoulder and then trying to plow it into Eric’s head. Raven gets the upper hand, though, when she rams the tool into Wayne’s throat, presumable ending his reign of terror. Eight years later and no sequel, we can hopefully presume safely that there won’t be any, because this is seriously one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. Seriously, this would be the worst thing ever put on celluloid, if I were convinced that it were even shot on celluloid. Even the best shots in the film look like they were recorded on a VHS-C Camcorder that’s been kicked down the stairs a few times.
The ending of the film shows Eric, Raven, and their kids enjoying a happy Christmas together, despite the whole divorce thing that was being teased the whole movie. The kids even get their very own Scream Studios jackets, showing just how thoughtful their parents are to begin with.
And finally, the movie is over. And while I was convinced that I had just wasted three hours of my life watching this blight on all that is holy, it turns out the thing is only about 80 minutes long. 80 painful, gut-wrenching, head-splitting minutes. And even with that short run time, it still has no redeemable factors going for it. I mean, it’s supposed to be a horror flick, but I think there’s more gore and genuinely scary moments in The Care Bears Movie. It’s supposed to be a T&A flick, but it’s about as erotic as an episode of Dr. Phil. The women, with the exception of Debbie Rochon, look like they were picked up at a truck stop somewhere in South Alabama. And again, despite Miss Rochon doing her best to save the picture, the film is filled with the most hideous performances this side of a rap video.
In essence, if you’re in the mood to completely wreck what’s left of a horrible Christmas season, then this is the movie to watch. Otherwise, leave it the hell alone. And learn from a powerful lesson: just because someone was involved with one of the greatest cult films of all time, they can’t always be trusted to put out quality products later in life. May the diety that is known as George Romero curse you for all eternity, Mr. Russo.
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