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Film / Don't Open Till Christmas

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... It was a puppy, wasn't it?

"... t'was the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring... THEY WERE ALL DEAD!"

Dont Open Till Christmas (yes, they spell it like that on the title screen) is a British (yes, really) Slasher Movie released in 1984.

With Christmas only days away, the grand old city of London finds itself terrorized by a sadistic and creative serial killer targeting one specific demographic; men dressed like Santa Claus. Adorned in a translucent mask, the killer prowls the streets, stabbing, burning, impaling and shooting any jolly old Saint Nick he finds. Considering how many of them there are wandering around, it must have been a good year for Santa suits.

After her father becomes another victim, getting speared through the neck while hosting a Christmas party, a woman named Kate Brioski (and her roommate and insensitive boyfriend Cliff Boyd) becomes embroiled in the case, which is headed by New Scotland Yard employees Chief Inspector Ian Harris and Detective Sergeant Powell, who find themselves stumped due to a lack of worthwhile leads or any discernable motive. Additionally, after witnessing one of the murders, a stripper named Sherry Graham finds herself become a target of the killer, who takes her captive for unknown purposes instead of outright killing her. As the bodies pile up, the only person who seems to have any clue as to what is going on is an enigmatic self-proclaimed reporter who refers to himself as Giles Morgan.


While that sounds all well and good, being the creative complete opposite of the usual Bad Santa routine featured in most Christmas horrors, this utter sleazefest of a film is quite a jumbled and confused mess, and for good reason. While production began in 1982, the film remained in Development Hell for two years, due to the title of director continually changing hands; first up was Edmund Purdom (who also portrayed Inspector Harris) who walked off the set, prompting at least three or four others to fill in for him, with one only holding Purdom's former position for a mere two days before being fired. During this time, there was reshoot after reshoot, and rewrite after rewrite, which resulted in more gore, and more continuity and editing problems than you can shake a stick at. When the film finally lurched its way to theatres, it was to little fanfare (presumably due to Silent Night, Deadly Night, released around the same time, and the controversy it caused) before fading into obscurity, nowadays living on through multiple mediocre DVD releases, each one differing in content and length. In summation, it's worth viewing (to some) due to its weirdness, to see What Could Have Been, and if you hate Christmas and want to watch Santas be killed through increasingly bizarre means every six or seven minutes.


And for anyone interested, the film's trainwreck of a production can be seen in the hour-long and less than serious documentary The Making of a Horror Film.

Damn, you opened it! Ugh, might as well see what's inside...

  • '80s Hair: Caroline Munro is really the only noticeable instance of this.
  • The Alcoholic: At least half the Santas.
  • Amateur Sleuth: Kate.
  • Arch-Enemies: Chief Inspector Ian Harris has his insane brother Giles Harrison, who starts killing men dressed as Santa Claus to give his brother a challenging case.
  • Armed Legs: A Santa gets stabbed in the crotch with a knife-shoe.
  • As Herself: Minor Scream Queen Caroline Munronote .
  • Auto Erotica: The first two victims are attacked while having sex in their car.
  • Ax-Crazy: Giles, who gives off an aura of weirdness even when he's trying to act normal.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: The film ends with almost all the main characters dead, and Giles apparently still alive.
  • Bad Santa: It seems to be a requirement that London Santas be either drunks, perverts, or both.
  • Ballroom Blitz: Kate's father is killed in the middle of a nightclub party.
  • Barrier-Busting Blow: The killer punches through the glass of Sherry's peep show booth.
  • Big Bad: Giles Harrison, our Santa-slaying Serial Killer.
  • Bloody Handprints: In the washroom murder.
  • Blind Without 'Em: A random woman whose glasses a fleeing Santa knocks off.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Getting shot in the mouth blows off the entire back of a Santa's head.
  • Cain and Abel: Giles and Ian.
  • Camping a Crapper: A mall Santa's death.
  • Captain Obvious: Powell suggests to Harris that perhaps they might be dealing with a psychopath after he's killed several men with nothing in common except that they're dressed as Santa. Gee, really?
  • Carry a Big Stick: Sherry initially tries to escape the killer by whacking him with a piece of lumber.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Experienced by Ian.
  • Chain Pain: The killer goes after Sherry with one.
  • Chase Scene: Multiple, including one set in the London Dungeon.
  • Chekhov's Gift: The present Ian gets in the mail, which turns out to be a bomb.
  • Clueless Deputy: Sergeant Powell.
  • Coitus Uninterruptus: While the first victim is annoyed when he discovers the killer watching him and his girlfriend making out, the girlfriend merely suggests he ignore the peeper.
  • Creator Cameo: Writer Derek Ford and composer Des Dolan both play police officers
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The main draw.
  • Daylight Horror: The deaths of a pair of officers working undercover as Santas, and Sherry's abduction.
  • Death by Falling Over: Mrs. Harrison's tumble down a flight of stairs.
  • Death by Sex: The couple engaging in some Auto Erotica, and Sherry and her peep show patron. Oddly averted with Sharon the porn star, though.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Everyone.
  • Down in the Dumps: The killer is chased to one, and kills Powell there by electrocuting him.
  • Dumb Blonde: Sharon.
  • The '80s
  • Establishing Shot: Someone certainly seemed to have a hard-on for New Scotland Yard, considering the excessive number of times the exterior is shown.
  • Everyone Is a Suspect
  • Evil Plan: The killer is icing Santas in order to give his detective brother an interesting case to solve.
  • Expy: Replace the killer's green jacket with a yellow one and he'd look identical to the villain from Alice, Sweet Alice.
  • Eye Scream: After being stabbed in the face, a Santa's eye pops out of its socket and dribbles down his cheek.
  • Final Girl: Zig-Zagged. It at first appears to be Kate, a chaste woman with a personal connection to the case, but she is randomly killed off, causing the title to shift to Sherry, a stripper who appeared to be just another victim. But then she apparently gets killed, causing things to shift to Ian, a man... who also dies.
  • Flashback:
    • To Giles's childhood trauma.
    • Flashback Effects: People's voices are distorted, and seemingly disembodied.
  • Flipping the Bird: A Santa riding by on a bike flips off a group of punks.
  • Foreshadowing: "Powell, I think this may very well be my last case."
  • Freudian Excuse: One Christmas when he was a boy, Giles walked in on his father (dressed as Santa) having sex with a woman, and when his mother also walked into the room, her husband apparently killed her by shoving her down the stairs.
  • Gay Panic: When Sharon (who is in a Santa suit) starts coming on to him outside, Cliff freaks out, saying that people will think "we're a couple of gays" due to the costume.
  • Giallo: Very akin to one.
  • Girl-on-Girl Is Hot: Cliff and his friend Gerry try to get Kate to do some naked photos with Sharon.
  • Gorn
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Giles's father is responsible for his insanity, due to murdering his mother in front of him while dressed as Santa Claus.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: One Santa is smashed over the head with one and stabbed in the eye with the broken glass.
  • Groin Attack: Along with aforementioned knife-shoe attack, another Santa gets his chopped off with a straight razor while using a urinal.
  • Gross-Up Close-Up: On the grill victim's burnt mug, and on the Santa knifed in the face.
  • Harmful to Minors: Giles walking in on his father committing adultery, then witnessing him kill his mother.
  • High-Voltage Death: Sgt. Powell is murdered when the killer hooks up a car body to the mains, and Powell opens the door while searching for the killer.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday
  • Identical Stranger: Several reviews note that the peepshow Santa bears an uncanny resemblance to Jasper Carrott.
  • Idiot Ball: Kate apparently never bothered to tell anyone she had essentially pieced together who the killer was.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Kate's father is impaled through the neck and out the mouth by a tossed spear.
  • Impromptu Tracheotomy: The peepshow Santa's death.
  • Incredibly Obvious Tail: One is set on Ian.
  • In the Hood: The killer wears a green hoodie.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Giles, or so he claims.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: A creepy rendition of "Jingle Bells" plays over the opening and closing credits.
  • Jerkass: Cliff.
  • Kill 'Em All: With the exception of Cliff, all the main characters die in the end.
  • Machete Mayhem: A Santa gets one in the face.
  • Male Gaze: When Caroline Munro first appears.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: The killer wears a translucent mask, though before killing Kate's father he has a demonic one on.
  • Mall Santa: The castration victim.
  • Man on Fire: After being shoved onto his grill, a Santa literally bursts into flames.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: The killer only murders women when he absolutely has to.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Sharon.
  • Murderer P.O.V.
  • My Little Panzer: The present Ian received contained a music box, which explodes after being activated.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Ian's housekeeper, who hopes he'll show her "some of the gory photographs" of one of the latest murders.
  • Ninja Log: After murdering Kate's father, the killer somehow manages to hang his mask and costume on a pole at the bar, which Cliff then tackles.
  • No Ending
  • No Name Given: Almost all the victims.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: The killer shrugging off being knocked off a multi-story stairwell by Sherry.
  • A Party, Also Known as an Orgy: "It's turning into an orgy out there!"
  • Police Are Useless: As one review put it:
    "The plot, if you can call it that, involves a particularly inept police man hunt for the psychotic killer- and I know, by God, the police are usually inept in these things but here... Jeez!"
  • Power Fist: A Santa gets punched to death with spiked brass knuckles.
  • Reaction Shot
  • Rear Window Witness: The girl working at the peep show can only watch helplessly as her client is stabbed to death on the other side of the glass.
  • Recut: The film has a ton of different versions floating around.
  • The Reveal: Giles is the killer, and the younger brother of Ian (whose real surname is Harrison).
  • Serial Killer
  • Sexy Coat Flashing: When outdoors with Cliff, Sharon opens her Santa coat to reveal she is wearing nothing but thigh boots and a leather thong under it.
  • Sexy Santa Dress: Sharon wears a revealing Santa cloak, along with thigh high boots and a leather thong.
  • Sinister Scraping Sound: While chasing Sherry, the killer bangs a chain he's carrying against guard rails.
  • Slasher Smile
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: While Kate is helping her father prepare his Santa costume, he says he looks "like a gay old queen". When Cliff walks in a few seconds later, and is asked how Mr. Brioski looks, he responds with "like a gay old queen".
  • Title Drop: "Oh, Inspector Harris! Look what just arrived by special delivery, a Christmas present! And it says "Don't Open Till Christmas!"
  • Token Minority: One of the Santas is black.
  • Too Dumb to Live: You'd think that once it became clear that a serial killer who specifically targets people who are dressed like Santa is on the loose, people would, y'know, stop dressing as Santa.
  • Torture Cellar: Sherry is kept in one.
  • Tyop on the Cover: The apostrophe is missing from the title card.
  • Vader Breath: At the very beginning.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Giles somehow survives being hurled off a balcony and falling at least five storeys with no explanation given.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Characters set up to be major ones come and go at random.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: They mention around the beginning that it's three more days until Christmas... this isn't consistent with what's shown.
  • You Killed My Father: Outright said by Kate.