Don't Open Till Christmas (1984, United Kingdom)

The creators: Director Edmund Purdom, in his only behind-the camera gig, as his career consists of an extraordinary number of roles in Italian thrillers (and the lead role in this feature); writer Derek Ford, a sexploitation director and British TV vet. Additional material written and directed by "Al McGoohan," AKA Alan Birkinshaw, a minor player in British cinema in the '80s.

The plot: Someone is killing Santas in the week before Christmas! Inspector Harris (Purdom) and Sergeant Powell (Mark Jones) of NEW SCOTLAND YARD and we know it's NEW SCOTLAND YARD because every time we start a scene there, Purdom opens with an establishing shot of the rotating NEW SCOTLAND YARD sign, are investigating, and their primary suspect is Cliff (Gerry Sundquist), whose girlfriend Kate (Belinda Mayne) is mourning her father, one of the first Santas to die. Cliff's friend Gerry (Kevin Lloyd) is a pornographer, and when he propositions Kate it puts a damper on her relationship with Cliff. Many Santas die. Kate dies. A phone-sex girl tries to escape from the killer. The killer is Harris's estranged brother Giles (Alan Lake). Harris has a dream about the time that Giles went crazy, then Harris opens a present that his brother sent him in the beginning of the movie with a label "don't open till Christmas," and it is a music box that explodes.

Christmas cheer: Lots. Dime-store Santa costumes abound, and tinny electric Christmas music is piped into every scene, just about. If there was a plot, it would doubtless be very seasonally-appropriate.

Type of horror: Slasher film about adults, which is to say it's not really a slasher at all.

The good: It ends.

The bad: To start: almost every single scene in the entire goddamn movie either comes out of nowhere or ends without resolving anything or introduces a plotline that gets dropped or just has nothing to do with the rest of the films. Fully fifteen minutes of the film are killing scenes without the least connection to the main line of the film, and it seems more than obvious that "McGoohan" and his "additional scenes" were a mercenary matter of "Add gore. Kids like gore." (I can't prove this, and I'm not doing any research). The result is a complete lack of a narrative through-line, and it doesn't feel like a story at all; it feels like we're observing four characters at arbitrary intervals over six days. Cliff, one of the initial protagonists? You know how he leaves the movie? Kate notices him spying as she has dinner with Harris. Then he's never mentioned again.

Meanwhile, it is filled with clumsy dialogue, especially the parts surrounding Kate's grief over her father's death by spear, and the clumsy dialogue is delivered mostly without inflection, or apparent rehearsals. When plot happens, it can be predicted from miles away (e.g. there is only one character who could possibly be the killer). The classic slasher trope of "woman who could easily run away stands and whimpers instead" reaches an absurd peak in a scene where a naked model (Pat Astley) allows the killer to rub the blunt side of a razor over her body for well over a minute. The whole film is over-lit and flat. The knife used in the straight-up stabbing scenes is one of the fakest fake knives ever. The opening credits steal wholesale from Halloween and make me angry that I'm not watching that infinitely superior film.

Blood: And how! Just some of the gore effects: a lovingly-detailed cranial exit wound, a jugular vein squirts blood all over a glass wall, an eye slides out of a crush skull, and in the film's classiest moment, we watch a man's stream of piss into a urinal in close-up, cut to see the killer sneak up and hack at his crotch, and cut back to the close-up of the urinal, with blood jetting out of his severed cock at the same angle as the stream of urine. If you're playing a Don't Open Till Christmas drinking game, this is when you start shotgunning whiskey from the bottle.

Boobs: A couple pairs, shot with sleazy indifference. It is the blandest kind of "Like tits? Here are tits" exploitation that you could imagine.

Sex=death: When sex is had, death follows, but sex is only really had in the first scene.

Body count: I kind of lost count, but I do believe it was 15 (holy fuck!): 10 Santas and 5 others. 6 of those deaths appear to be pure body-count padding, courtesy of "McGoohan."

Shots of Rotating NEW SCOTLAND YARD Sign: Five.

Sign it was 1984: Mostly just the hair. And the fact that it's a godawful slasher film.

Pithy wrap-up: I hate myself so very, very much.