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Film / Christmas Evil

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I'll be the perfect Santa!

Better watch out... better not cry... or you may die!
— One of the taglines for the film

Christmas Evil (aka Terror in Toyland and You Better Watch Out) is a 1980 American horror film written and directed by Lewis Jackson, starring Brandon Maggart, Dianne Hull, and Jeffrey DeMunn.

As a young boy, Harry Stadling was mentally scarred when he found out that Santa Claus wasn't real. Years later, he's grown up to become a Christmas-obsessed Manchild who works at a toy factory, surrounds himself with holiday decorations and songs all year long, and even keeps his own private list of "nice" and "naughty" children in his neighborhood. He eventually decides to take on the role of Santa, giving presents to children and punishing the the worst way.

This film has the examples of:

  • All of the Other Reindeer: Harry clearly doesn't have a lot of people in his life. His brother Phil doesn't want much to do with him while his co-workers constantly make fun of him and regard him as a schmuck.
  • Alternate DVD Commentary: One DVD release of the film has a commentary track by none other than John Waters, who claims this to be the "greatest Christmas movie ever made."
  • Ambiguous Ending: What exactly does happen at the end? Does Harry really fly off into the air in his van or does he drive off the bridge and die with the flying only happening in his mind?
  • Bad Santa: After he dons the Santa costume, Harry takes an extreme approach to the role, as he rewards the nice and punishes those who mock the spirit of Christmas.
  • Book Ends: The film opens and ends with a reading of lines from 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.
  • Brain Bleach: What causes Harry to start sliding down the slippery Santa slope is witnessing Santa getting ready to eat his mother's, um, "cookies" as a child which results in him storming upstairs, smashing a snowglobe, and then cutting himself with one of the shards.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Two of Harry's higher-ups are pocketing the money donated to buy toys for sick children instead of buying the toys. When Harry confronts them, their best excuse is that they're too lazy to find out the exact number of kids who are in the hospital.
  • Dirty Kid: Moss Garcia is on Harry's shit list for being way too interested in adult magazines at a young age, even telling Harry his one Christmas wish is for a lifetime subscription to Penthouse.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Inverted; Harry's response to his own brother strangling him unconscious in a fit of rage before dragging him back to his van is to slug him in the face before driving way.
  • Didn't Think This Through: The role of Santa goes well for Harry until he tries to go down a chimney, and he gets stuck.
  • Eye Scream: Harry stabs a smartass churchgoer in the eye with a toy soldier, followed by death by a toy axe to him and his two companions.
  • Harmful to Minors: Harry's slow spiral to madness starts when he witnesses his father, dressed as Santa Claus, having sex with his mother.
  • Heroic BSoD: While getting ready in the morning, Harry has one of these when he notices the amount of shaving cream he applied to his face resembles a Santa beard.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: Harry starts his Santa business on Christmas Eve.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • If the film's ending is taken for what it is and nothing less, Harry receives no proper punishment whatsoever for stealing from his place of work, sabotaging the company's products and killing four people. The most punishment he receives is being choked unconscious by his brother in a fit of rage.
    • Aside from having to quickly replace their floor supervisor, one deceased assembly worker and dozens, if not hundreds, of toys that were either stolen or smashed by Harry, the two Jerkass executives who were running a donation scam never face any comeuppance.
  • Laughing Mad: When Harry dons a Santa beard that he can't get off, he finally loses it and descends into a frenzy of maniacal laughter.
  • Offscreen Crash: Harry dies from a offscreen crash when he drives his van off from a bridge. Use of this trope had some unforeseen consequences as it confused many viewers to view the Dying Dream ending as a real deal, and chalking it to be a Gainax Ending.
  • Pet the Dog: Harry has a few moments of this in his attempts to fulfill the role of Santa - he delivers toys for his nephews and the children at a hospital, and later goes to a neighborhood Christmas party where he dances and brings everyone's spirits up.
  • Police Lineup: One is organized for men dressed as Santa Claus after Harry's murders at the front of a church.
  • Protected by a Child: A bunch of children surround Harry to protect him from their parents who realize that he is the killer Santa responsible for the deaths at the church.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Harry, albeit emphasizing the "manchild" half. He gets extremely hung up on children's toys, and his Sanity Slippage was all over his discovery that Santa Claus isn't real. Of course, he lives up to the "psychopath" half in the climax, where he brutally murders four people.
  • Sanity Slippage: Harry starts losing it from an early age and while he does keep himself under control for 23 years, limiting his odd behaviour to spying on the neighbour kids to track their behaviour and having his apartment decked out in Santa Claus merchandise, the holiday season of 1980 finally has him crack primarily due to worksplace stress and his Santa obsession finally boiling over.
  • Slashed Throat: When his attempt to suffocate Frank doesn't work out fast enough, Harry cuts his throat with a Christmas decoration.
  • Stuck in a Chimney: Harry, a Serial Killer dressed as Santa Claus, gets stuck in a chimney when breaking into the home of Frank, a co-worker he feels betrayed him. However, he manages to free himself and murder Frank.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Harry. He is not malicious, just seriously off his rocker.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: Harry's actions cause the people to arm themselves and go look for him. And yes, they do carry torches.
  • Tragic Villain: Harry ends up becoming a deranged murderer, but it's hard not to feel some pity for him, as he's a deeply unwell man who snaps due to a combination of workplace stress, a lack of respect from those around him and his own untreated psychological problems.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Moss Garcia's mom doesn't seem to think a strange man hiding in their bushes with mud on his face clearly making a grab for her son warrants any concern whatsoever.