Welcome back to week 3 of Feature Presentation:The Nightmare on Christmas. Having already seen wrestlers grapple with puns in Santa’s Slay and why traumatized kids should never grow up to play Santa in Silent Night, Deadly Night, this week’s feature includes a special Christmas treat for me, or so I thought.
As I’ve stated many, many, many (perhaps too many) times on The Lair, I have quite a predilection for the films of Debbie Rochon. After seeing her in a bit part in Mulva:Zombie Asskicker and taking the lead role in the sequel Mulva 2:Kill Teen Ape, I quickly became a fan and began to track down her films. So when i came across this Christmas themed flick which promises festive slasher goodness with not only the pedigree of Ms Rochon but also veteran horror flick writer/director John Russo, I thought I was in for some fun. Well there is a little fun to have but overall I wish I had never crossed paths with….
Santa Claws (1996) starring Debbie Rochon, Grant Cramer, John Mowad, Marilyn Eastman, and Karl Hardman. Directed by John Russo.
Rayven Quinn (Rochon) has got it all, or so it seems. She’s a top b-movie actress for Scream productions and she’s got two darling daughters, but there’s trouble at home between her and her photographer husband Eric (Mowad). While he goes off to the midwest for a photo shoot,Rayven is left to prepare for Christmas on her own.
Little does she know that mild mannered next door neighbor Wayne is actually a former killer. When he was a kid he shot his mom and her boyfriend in a fit of oedipal rage. Now on the streets and reformed, he has found a new obsession in the Scream Queen starlet. He hordes tons of memorabilia of Rayven’s films including the garden tool used to dispatch victims in her latest flick. After hearing of Rayven’s troubles, Wayne sets out on a path to kill anyone who might stand in the way of her success or their presumed happiness.
–The character of Rayven Quinn is rumored to have been both based on Brinke Stevens and originally offered to her.
–Marilyn Eastman and Karl Hardman are members of the original Night of the Living Dead cast. John Russo was the writer of that film.
–This was actor John Mowod’s last role. (Thankfully)
The Bug Speaks
You’ve no doubt heard that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. Well, you can’t judge a movie by one either it seems. The box touts the films association with John Russo and the NoTLD cast members and also sports a synopsis that states that Rayven Quinn is a porno actress. While the former is just unfortunate, the latter is just plain wrong. Perhaps the confusion is the movie within a movie that is being made. It is simply a Christmas themed T&A flick starring horror actresses for-filling fan boy dreams. While this leads to many (and I mean many) scenes of various ladies writhing before the camera, it’s not porn. Nor is it erotic in any way.
So you may have gotten the idea by now that I thought this flick was abysmal, and you would be correct. The 90 minute running time is usually what I call the perfect length for any film. This time it was at least 30 minutes too long.
Wayne is perhaps the least threatening slasher I have ever seen. The simple truth is that slashers should never have sensitive guy pony tails if they expect to be menacing. His back story of repressed mommy love really doesn’t ever fit in with the rest of the tale, and to make it worse the film which promises a killer Santa doesn’t pay off until the last 15 minutes. Most of the time Wayne runs around in black sweats with a mask and dispatches people with a 3 pronged garden tool. Perhaps it was supposed to be tongue in cheek, but if so the film needs to at least imply it.
The rest of the film is a mess. The side story of Rayven’s failed marriage and her husbands hotel tryst with a nubile model is boring at best. With no basis in the husband’s character or why he left, there’s no reason to care if they’re together or not. The only good thing about that plot line is the appearance of Eastman as the husband’s mother.
The acting is overall very bad with Debbie seemingly trying to hold the film together, but there’s not much she can do with what she’s been given. Her performance was actually good (perhaps only in comparison), but the terrible acting from the likes of Cramer, Mowad, and the bevy of vapid “horror actresses” bring the movie plummeting down. I perhaps should have looked up to see what John Russo has been up to in recent years. If I had I would have recalled that he was the brainiac behind the Night of the Living Dead 30th Anniversary Edition where they inserted new footage into the classic. I’ll give him credit for writing the original, but as with all revisionist film making, (cough, cough, Lucas) all it succeeds in doing is marring the good name of the original. I can’t imagine how horrid it might be to someone who accidentally picked up that version for their first viewing.
But I digress. Perhaps the highlight of the film finally came at the 1:06 mark when Ms. Rochon finally delivered her strip tease. While about as exciting as a burlesque movie, I have to admit that it did fill me with holiday cheer when the finally “unwrapped the presents” shall we say. In the end, this film really doesn’t offer up enough of anything for me to recommend it to anyone beyond a Rochon completest like myself. Better skin can be seen readily on the old Internet or late night on Cinimax, better killing in nearly every film made since 1970, and better plots in Joe Bazooka comics and you get gum with those. This is one to miss folks, but don’t worry I have many days of X-mas treats still coming your way, and next week on that crazy Canadian holiday Boxing Day look for the Canadian X-mas classic Black Christmas.