What better way to celebrate the holidays than by watching a bunch of Santa Clauses get brutally murdered?
Don’t Open Till Christmas (1984)
Director: Three different guys who all eventually got fired
Stars: Edmund Purdom, Alan Lake, Belinda Mayne
A killer is on the loose in London wreaking holiday havoc on every Santa he can find.
DON’T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS is a cult British slasher flick written by Derek Ford, who’s perhaps best known for his exploitation films like THE GIRL FROM STARSHIP VENUS (aka THE SEXPLORER), as well as for being one of Quentin Tarantino’s favorite filmmakers of the genre. Based on those criteria, it has all the ingredients you’d expect—gruesome violence, gratuitous nudity, and a gritty mean-spiritedness that will give you a nice warm feeling in your severed entrails just in time for the yuletide season.
The JASON VOORHEES HOLIDAY SPECTACULAR had some great musical numbers.
The film opens with a lengthy POV shot of man silently stalking a department store Santa and his girlfriend as they get in a car and begin to make out. He pervily watches them through the window as they get hot and heavy, before attacking and stabbing them both with what is clearly a retractable prop knife that squirts fake blood. That’s a pretty good indicator of what you’re in for for the next hour and a half.
There are some fun and inventive kills in DON’T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS, especially for such a low budget flick. The Santa killer attacks in a variety of settings—shopping malls, peep shows, erotic photo shoots—and he doesn’t always use the same weapon. At a holiday party, he straight up harpoons a Santa through the face in front of onlookers who, honestly, should be more stunned. He barbecues one Saint Nick to death while literally roasting chestnuts on an open fire. He uses a broken bottle to give another some impromptu vision correction surgery. And one poor Father Christmas gets his, uh, candy cane sliced off with a razor while he’s relieving himself in the bathroom.
A lot of those murders are more cheesy than scary thanks to the unconvincing gore effects, overdramatic music, and the killer’s smiling mask that strikes fear in the hearts of no one. However, there is one genuinely great sequence where the Santa serial slaughterer chases a victim in to the London Dungeon torture museum. It’s constant fun and suspense as the poor Santa is teased with real life scenes of murder and countless devices that could kill him.
It’s no William Shatner painted white, that’s for sure.
When someone isn’t being actively killed on screen, the movie follows…well, a bunch of random people. There’s no real protagonist in DON’T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS. For a while it seems like a Scotland Yard detective is supposed to be the hero and you’re even introduced to his wife and home life. But then he disappears for a while and another different detective takes over. And occasionally when no member of law enforcement is available, the film follows a girl whose father was one of the killer’s victims, as well as her boyfriend, who is easily the most interesting character in the movie for two reasons.
For one, his day job is apparently playing flute on the streets of London, which must be pretty lucrative given his lifestyle and the number of women who constantly throw themselves at him. And two, after his girlfriend’s father was just murdered in front of her the night before (via a spear to the head, no less), his plan to help her get over this tragic loss is by scheming to trick her in to posing nude with another girl in a raunchy Santa-themed photo shoot. (This plan goes about as well as you imagine.)
Ladies love a guy who can tongue a pizzicato. (That’s a flute joke, bitches!)
If this all sounds like a mess, that’s because the production was, by all accounts, a Christmas disaster. The movie went through three (3!) credited directors, including one who was fired only to later be brought back in to finish it. (He also played the first detective, which explains his prolonged absence.)
The film jumps around with timing that makes no sense. (The plot clearly unfolds over a period of weeks given what happens onscreen, but is only supposed to be a few days.) Characters are completely dropped without any explanation. (Sadly, this includes the boyfriend and his flute of seduction.) Vitally important scenes were clearly never shot. (The woman does an entire investigation and figures out who the killer is almost completely offscreen.) And worst of all, the entire thing is shot and presented like a mystery where the murderer is supposed to be a surprise, except there’s never a twist and you know who it was all along.
As for the killer’s motive, if you’ve seen any Christmas slasher movie, you can guess exactly why this guy is going around killing Santas. The only entertaining part is that when they finally get to the revealing childhood flashback that’s supposed to take place decades earlier, it was still clearly shot in the 1980s. They didn’t even bother to update the wardrobe or sets.
And that was the last year Santa delivered toys to Philadelphia.
Everything that works in DON’T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS is unfortunately punctuated by a fairly unsatisfying ending. I’m guessing the aforementioned production troubles are to blame, but there’s still not much in the way of closure for the story or the characters. Still, it’s occasional, gratuitous fun and a decent way to kill some time if you’re tired of watching feel-good holiday movies this time of year.
Happy holidays, everyone!
A collection of the best Santa kills and more!
Everything is kept strictly professional.
Take a shot or drink every time:
Double shot if:
- The music is a little overdramatic
Thanks to Michael for suggesting this week’s movie!
Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email and give him an excuse to drink.