Thursday, November 27, 2014

CHRISTMAS EVIL (Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray Review) - You Better Watch.. This Blu-ray!

I reviewed Christmas Evil last year for a The Moon is a Dead World’s “The Gory Gifts of Christmas” which you can check out HERE: The concept behind the The Moon is a Dead World’s celebration was to get a mystery movie in the mail complete with some holiday cheer in the form of candy or hot cocoa. It was an absolute treat to have the opportunity to watch and review Christmas Evil last year, and it’s a treat to revisit it a year later. Much of what I said holds true, so I’ll be offering up new comments about the Vinegar Syndrome release. Of course it’s always confusing to see it listed as “You Better Watch Out” mostly because I’m more familiar with the Christmas Evil imagery and poster/box cover art. I love both titles, and it almost provides peace of mind that we see it as Christmas Evil as Silent Night Deadly Night 3 uses You Better Watch Out as its subtitle.

While Christmas Evil predates Silent Night Deadly Night by about four years, the parallels between it and several of the installments in the SNDN series are pretty telling. One might call Christmas Evil influential, opening up the genre to some very clever killer Santa kills even if they follow formula slasher ideals. It seems that if you cross imagery of Santa Claus with sexuality or murder, somehow, little kids get fucked up in their brain holes and suddenly want to murder all the naughties rather than fuck all the hotties. Personally if I a hot mommy with a garter belt poking out as my Santa tried to put presents under her “tree”, I’d be more inclined, in the truest Oedipal way, to want to stick my pecker in a gift wrapped box or better yet…a stocking (aka Christmas jerk sock). Well… maybe it’d be better if I caught someone else’s mother for to suggest anything else about my own dear mama might put you on the goddamn naughty list and get you piece o’ coal straight up your ass (you’d have a diamond sooner than you’d think).

As mentioned earlier, Silent Night Deadly Night 3 was subtitled Better Watch Out!!! (and if you’re as confused as I am with the damn slush fest of a movie, you’ll include the “You” in front of it). That doesn’t mean that these two movies are comparable in storyline, quality or even in watchability. SNDN3 is atrocious. Christmas Evil is damn good, slow moving fun with a surprise ending that I’m not spoiling for all the good girls and boys, but my advice to you would be to keep believing in Santa Claus. If you always try to be on the “Nice” list then you can’t get killed by psychological damaged kids with firm belief systems drunk on the magic of Christmas. Also note that this one goes under the name Terror in Toyland. That’s just ridiculous and wholly inappropriate. It would be a much better subtitle for Silent Night Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker.

Do I think Silent Night Deadly Night writers and directors are watching Christmas Evil trying to steal ideas? No, but it’s interesting to see from which traditions, phrases and images that we pull our most scary and controversial scenes and naming conventions. Hell, the Silent Night, Deadly Night naming convention is closer to Silent Night Evil Night (aka Black Christmas) or Silent Night Bloody Night aka Night of the Dark Full Moon.

The best reason for the modern day viewer to watch Christmas Evil (other than a desire to see sexy suggestive scenes with juxtaposing fat man in red suit imagery) is the acting styling of Jeffrey DeMunn… you remember him right? The last time you saw him a walker was opening up his stomach like it was a present on Christmas morning (hint: he was Dale). In the first year that DeMunn started making movies he showed up in this gem. He’s not the killer Santa, but he goes a little crazy. He’s come along way, and I can assure you that you’ll find his performance more comedic than heart wrenching.

Make sure to watch for the beautiful painted van completed with Sleigh image on the side as ridden by our homicidal St. Nick, giving gifts, thieving, killing and spreading general merriment. It’s the kind of creepy that kidnappers would only dream of if they were less focused on using candy as bait for kids and more interested in getting children in bulk to follow their van like rats behind a pied piper. Hey look kids… there’s Santa in that unmarked van giving out presents… that’d get ‘em moving.

While Synapse was responsible for the DVD transfer, Vinegar Syndrome now gets the chance to at the Blu-ray. They’ve provided some unique cover art which I enjoy though I would have preferred the use of the traditional poster art. Synapse also used original artwork leaving me to wonder if there was an issue using the traditional “santa poster”.  I’m glad that Vinegar Syndrome features the alternate title on their cover. I would have liked an alternate cover art option on the reverse, but again, there could be a bigger reason why this was left off. The Blu-ray comes complete with DVD in this combo set, perfect for putting the kiddies in the back seat of the SUV with the onboard DVD player or watching on Hi-Def with the Yule Log.

The Vinegar Syndrome release boasts a new 4K restoration from 35mm elements. Granted the version I watched for my project with The Moon is a Dead World wasn’t the Synapse but appeared to a be a rip from another source to save expense (this was just a fun project so it looked like a VHS rip). The result is a crisp picture that maintains the quality level of the period with appropriate grain; a Vinegar Syndrome hallmark; their Blu-rays are always gorgeous.  The extras are similar to the extra package provided on the Synpase package including a commentary with director Lewis Jackson and a commentary with the infamous master of filth, John Waters. The deleted scenes are included (the Synapse was a director’s cut). You also get archival interviews with director, Jackson and actor Brandon Maggart. Theatrical trailer, actor screen tests, storyboards gallery and vintage test screening comment cards included.

You can order Christmas Evil now from Vinegar Syndrome. Maybe buy To All a Good Night as released by Scorpion Releasing as well for the perfect double feature for your Christmas horror loving giftee.

Tune in tomorrow (11/28/2014) for Vinegar Syndrome's HUGE Black Friday sale to pick up this item!

Can't wait? Go to DiabolikDVD and support this release:

Synopsis from Vinegar Syndrome:

When he was a boy, Harry idolized Santa Claus, but one Christmas Eve, he witnessed something horrifying that forever shattered his innocent understanding of Santa. Now an adult, Harry wants to embody the pure Santa Claus he grew up loving. He works at a toy factory and keeps records of who’s been naughty and nice, but the spirit of Christmas isn’t what it used to be and he can’t take it. So, garbed in his red suit, Harry decides that the only thing he can do is to become Santa himself and make all of the naughty townspeople pay…in blood! Vinegar Syndrome is proud to present Lewis Jackson’s cult favorite Christmas Evil newly restored in 4k and on blu-ray for the first time!

NTSC All Region DVD
Blu-Ray All Region

Director: Lewis Jackson
94 minutes / 1980 / Color / 1.85:1

Features Include:

+ Blu-ray & DVD Combo Pack | Region Free | DTS-HD Master Audio
+ Restored in 4k from 35mm archival elements
+ Commentary track with Lewis Jackson
+ Commentary track with Lewis Jackson & Brandon Maggart
+ Commentary track with Lewis Jackson & John Waters
+ Archival video interviews with Lewis Jackson & Brandon Maggart
+ Original theatrical trailer
+ Deleted scenes & screen tests
+ Storyboards & comment cards gallery

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