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Satan Claus (1996)

VHS Cover (Rounds Entertainment)
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Ranked #7,608
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On the night before Christmas, a serial killer dressed in a Santa Claus suit stalks the streets of New York looking for blood. It seems this madman is building the perfect Christmas tree and adorning it with parts of his victims. It's up to an actor, his police officer girlfriend and a voodoo woman to stop him. --IMDb
Robert Cummins
Robert Cummins
Jodie Rafty
Jodie Rafty
Robert Hector
Robert Hector
Barie Snider
Barie Snider
Lauretta Ali
Lauretta Ali
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Review by Chad
Added: December 24, 2011
I love a good slasher flick, and since it's Christmas, I decided to pick up the double-bill of Satan Claus and Psycho Santa to combine my love of the genre with the holidays. I didn't expect much from either of the films, but I simply wanted to see the basics of the genre: some kills, some gore, a good serial killer, and I wanted it to be topped off with a little Christmas spirit. What I got in this first film was an absolute mess.

The story is unnecessarily complicated (especially towards the end), but it basically centers around a guy dressed up in a Santa Claus suit who is going around chopping people up with an axe before putting various body parts on his Christmas tree. His first kill is a woman whose head he puts atop the tree where the star should have went, and unfortunately for our killer, this woman happened to be the wife of police chief George Ardison (Barie Snider). To say that this killer has become priority number one in the city is an understatement.

Meanwhile, failed actor Steve (Robert Hector) and his friend Sandra (Jodie Rafty) have their own encounter with the killer when he shows up and kills Sandra's boyfriend. The two now have a vested interest in the case, even while Steve's mother Maman (Lauretta Ali) warns him that the killer could be the embodiment of Satan himself. The murders rack up, the police try to find out who is responsible, and it is all wrapped up with one of the goofiest twist endings that I have seen in a long time.

One of the biggest, but far from the only, problems with the film is the lack of any semblance of lighting. It all takes place at night and is horribly underlit, and thus, we really can't see much of anything that is happening on screen. I suppose that this could be considered a good thing when you realize how bad the props and effects were, but still, it was highly annoying. Even shooting their scenes under a streetlight would have worked wonders to elevate this part of the film, but alas, it simply wasn't meant to be.

Secondly, the acting from all involved is hideous. It was actually sort of funny listening to the lead character bitch about how he was never going to make it as an actor, while we at home are watching a horrible actor spout out these lines. He is far from the only problem in this regard, don't get me wrong, but this guy in particular just made it more amusing given the character that he was playing. How about the girl who has a huge smile plastered across her face while she is being chopped to pieces? Look, I don't expect award-winning acting from a movie like this, but when it's this bad, something really should have been done.

As far as the effects and kills go, it's a hit or miss affair. Some of the kills look decent, while others are - you guessed it - downright horrible and laughably fake. I did like the idea of the killer putting body parts on a Christmas tree, even though this really had no bearing on the storyline at hand. It looked neat, and that went a long way in an otherwise forgettable film.

Finally, the ending. Minor spoilers follow. Throughout the film, we watch as an old man in a Santa suit kills people and antagonizes the police over the phone. We can't see who he is due to the Santa beard and hat, but it's plainly obvious that he is an elderly plump gentleman based on his facial features. At the end, the killer is revealed... and the killer is not old, not plump, and not even a gentleman. It was a swerve for the sake of swerving the audience, and I hate when we are supposed to disregard everything we have seen for the last hour just to make a twist work. There are supernatural elements here as well, what with the killer employing black magic to do various things that I'm not going to reveal, but even that is stretching it.

Satan Claus is a bad movie even by slasher standards, but as I mentioned, I do have a weak spot for trashy films like this. I'm going with a 5/10 for the film based on some of the kills, the morbid Christmas tree, and the absolute absurdity of the overall storyline, but don't take that as any kind of recommendation unless you share my love of this kind of trash.
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