We hope you enjoyed our last season of Christmas-movie reviews – “Nixon And Hogan Smoke Christmas”, “Bikini Bloodbath Christmas”, and so on. while the pickings are possibly a little slimmer now (will we ever find a movie as entirely un-Christmassy as “Silent Night, Deadly Night 4” again?) we’ll endeavour to bring you the reviews of your holiday choices for the year, allowing you to make sensible entertainment decisions.
The only thing I knew about this before popping it on was that it starred Bill Goldberg. He started off as a professional American Football player, playing for the LA Rams and the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL before being forced to retire due to a serious muscle injury. Then he went into pro wrestling and from 1997 to 2001 and was probably the second-biggest star in the world (behind “Stone Cold” Steve Austin) – he wrestled a little longer after WCW folded in 2001, but moved away from that world and acted, hosted TV shows, and commentated on some MMA. As of this writing (December 2016) he’s a WWE wrestler again, but don’t expect it to last too long. He’s super-charismatic though, seems to have been smart with his money, and was always fun to watch. Thanks to the murky cinematic waters I swim in, I’ve seen a few of his movies (“Ready To Rumble”, “Half Past Dead 2”, and “The Longest Yard”) but how does he do in the “lead” role?
Right from the off, “Santa’s Slay” wants to let you know they won’t be taking things seriously, at all. We’re introduced to a family slinging passive-aggressive insults at each other over a Christmas day, and it’s a list of weird and wonderful names – as well as former SNL star Chris Kattan, there’s Rebecca Gayheart, the great Fran Drescher and the even greater James Caan. Interrupting dinner by coming down the chimney is Santa! He slaughters this dysfunctional family with great glee, showing off a few of his pro wrestling moves as well as a few that might well have been banned, such as tearing off a limb. Caan manages to fire off some hilarious lines in his few minutes, including dismissing Kattan as “half a fag”, which while I don’t agree with the sentiment, thought was hilarious. I believe the joke is that everyone on screen is Jewish (including Goldberg himself, obviously, who would refuse to wrestle on Yom Kippur).
I thought this might’ve been a film-within-a-film, or a “20 years earlier”, but no, they just decided to get things going as soon as possible. Congratulations, movie! Congratulations, writer / director David Steiman! By the way, this is Steiman’s only movie in either capacity, and in fact his only other IMDB credits are as an assistant to Brett Ratner, so I’m sort of interested as to how he got this gig. Anyway.
The weird references and jokes come thick and fast – for instance, the main guy’s name, a teenager called “Nicholas Yuleson”. Really? He’s wearing a hoodie for “SWNSDU” – South West North Dakota State University? – and their football team, the “Fighting Insurance Salesmen” (Americans have team nicknames like “The Fighting Irish” and so on). Santa just loves murder, and he makes sure to kill everyone in a different way because he must get bored easily, so folks get impaled and thrown and choked with wreaths and blown up and kicked through walls and all sorts.
There’s a plot of sorts, but it’s really just a bit of fun to hang the jokes and violence on. Santa is the result of a virgin birth, although via the Devil rather than God. He rampaged, until an angel challenged him to a curling match. If Santa lost, he’d have to be a nice guy and distribute presents for 1000 years – guess how long it’s been since that bet was made? So Nicholas and his Grandpa, who has an ancient Norse book of Santa legends, have to figure out a way to stop Santa from continuing his reign of terror.
It’s a lot of fun, first and foremost. Goldberg will never win an Oscar, but he goes for the gusto with every line and fits the bill perfectly. As well as the aforementioned cast, there’s also Saul Rubinek as a deli owner, Robert Culp as Grandpa, Dave Thomas as the sleazy local Pastor, and Emilie de Ravin (“Lost”) as Nicholas’ co-worker / love interest. Nicholas himself (Douglas Smith) is…okay, I guess? A bit bland, but perhaps we need one sensible person in the sea of lunacy. It’s nice to see the occasionally blasé attitude to violent slaughter that the town has, and the way Santa goes about his business is always on the right side of camp.
I don’t have a ton of negative things to say about “Santa’s Slay”. Some of the special effects perhaps aren’t great (although I like the fact that Santa’s “reindeer” is really a buffalo) and it’s a rare movie that I wish was a little longer, as it’s barely 70 minutes before the credits kick in. For a first-time director (heck, an only-time director) it’s totally competently made, no glaring errors, no weird logic lapses – okay, not sure why Santa agreed to the bet the second time round, but whatever – and a very strong and quite unique sense of humour. If it can cut through the miserable weekend I had and put a smile on my face, then it’s got a lot going for it. It’s, gore and stupid one-liners aside, a pretty wholesome bit of Christmas fun.
Definitely one for the “nice” list (can’t believe I’ve never made that joke about a Santa-themed movie before).
Rating: thumbs up