Back in 1947, young Harry and his brother Phil watch their father in a Santa suit actually climb down through their chimney and leave gifts for them. As if this weren't disturbing enough, Phil sneaks back a few minutes later, to find 'Santa' doing something oddly sexual with his mother, which seems to involve a lot of sniffing her leg.
33 years later, Harry now sleeps in Santa pyjamas, has an apartment full of creepy dolls and toys, and constantly sings Christmas songs. Oh, and he uses a pair of binoculars to watch local children through their bedroom windows and takes notes about them in a big book. "Susy you look so beautiful!" he later says to a little girl, who he keeps a photograph of on his desk.
He works in a factory that specialises in the kind of toys that would have seemed boring even in the 1950s, where his unpleasant colleagues exploit him. On one occasion Harry is so furious he goes home and breaks the head off a doll while humming 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town'.
This film seems to be marketed as a slasher movie, but it really isn't at all. In fact there are only a couple of killing sequences, and neither of them happen until about 50 minutes in. The focus is more on Harry's deteriorating mental state as he starts to 'become' Santa. As the movie progresses, we become more aware of his delusions, which seemingly come to a peak at the end. The movie also seems to have a message about the true meaning of Santa Claus getting forgotten with all the commercialism (though personally I'd prefer the inauthentic version to the one that watches children through binoculars). There are some unique ideas which could make for an interesting psychological thriller or character study. But it takes so long for things to get going, and the pace is so slow, that half way through I had to stop the film to have a break and get some coffee.
In the role of Harry, Brandon Maggart conveys the mental breakdown well, particularly in a few interesting scenes with his reflection in mirrors. The other adults give adequate performances, but most of the children recite their lines in a fairly wooden manner. The score is headache-inducingly awful. At various times there's either a plinky-plonky xylophone, a piano, seemingly random synthesizer notes, and possibly a cello too.
The film does have a sense of humour. At one point, the TV news advises people to "avoid anyone dressed as Santa Claus" and to call the police if they see someone fitting that description. There follows a scene with a police line-up of men in red suits and white beards, having to step forward and say "Merry Christmas!" one at a time. There is also an angry mob with burning torches held aloft, as if in a black and white monster movie.
Despite being classed as a horror film, this isn't frightening at all, and the only remotely shocking sequences are the two killing scenes, which really aren't very strong by today's standards. It certainly has creepy elements (Harry's relationship with children for example) but I don't think those were meant to be seen in the way we might view them these days. Christmas Evil has some interesting ideas, but I just found it too slow, and got bored with it. 1/5