The creators: Written and directed by John A. Russo, who as the cover art is hugely eager to remind you, co-wrote 1968's Night of the Living Dead. Among the producers is Bob Michelucci, who appeared as a zombie in Dawn of the Dead and had otherwise no contact with that franchise; of the three movies he produced in his short career, this is the least pornographic, which I imagine is a great comfort to him late at night.

The plot: Many years ago, Wayne's (Grant Kramer) father died, and his mother started dating his uncle. One Christmas eve, the boy was drugged so that his mother and Uncle Joe could shake like a bowlful of jelly, but he pulled a fast one on them, where by "fast one" I mean "gun". The arresting cops (Russo and Michelucci) grouse about how he's going to be out of prison before you know it, being 14 and all, and sure enough, some decades later, Wayne is now a grown-up with a terrifying little pedophile beard and buggy psycho eyes. Somehow, this does not invalidate him from being good friends with his neighbor Raven Quinn (Debbie Rochon), mother of two and wife of a real shithead named Eric (John Mowod). Raven is also the big star at the local T&A video studio, where they're currently shooting Scream Queens' Naked Christmas, which actually exists. Within the context of the film, it's not clear when they plan to get this Christmas-themed porno on the shelves since it's shooting during the actual Christmas season, but it's not mine to question the ingenuity of a skin flick producer.

Wayne has a huge crush on Raven, and when we meet him, he's just purchased a latex bust of his favorite star, which he talks to in the finest crazy movie psycho tradition. Wayne is, however, going to have to wait until we see him erupt in whatever neurotic fit is a-coming, because first there's a whole lot of drama about how Eric's mom (Marilyn Eastman) and sister (Julie Wallace) disapprove of Raven's lifestyle, and how Eric is screwing the girl he's doing a holiday-themed photo shoot with, and since this is a movie called Santa Claws and it takes place in December, that theme is obviously Halloween.

Mostly, we see the production of Scream Queens' Naked Christmas, which is pretty much what you think it is, and after 31 horrifyingly long minutes, Wayne finally goes to the studio to start killing all of Raven's competition, in a wildly misguided attempt at proving his affections for her - accompanied, I might add, by a weird little speech about how moviemakers make people crazy or something; coupled with Raven's winking speech about how Naked Christmas is "an excuse for horny guys to look at naked women; basically, it has no plot", Santa Claws is, essentially, the Scream of shot-on-video horror porn with a Yuletide setting.

At some point, Wayne's intermittent attempts to kill porn stars switches to Wayne's intermittent attempts to kill porn stars while dressed as Santa Claus, which may have something to do with his childhood trauma and probably doesn't actually.

The last twenty minutes or so, Russo abruptly decides that filming naked ladies is boring and he starts ramping up the plot a great deal, and it turns out that we really wish he didn't, because the only way he knows how is to scrap all of the meager character details we've been able to scrape up for the last hour, and make the adulterous shit Eric the stand-up good guy and loving father.

Christmas cheer: Well, I mean, golly, what more can you want than Scream Queens' Naked Christmas? Actually, after a fairly anonymous opening 20 minutes, it becomes almost suffocatingly Christmassy; barely one scene goes by without a carol being sung or a brightly-festooned tree pulling attention in the corner.

Style of horror: Shot-on-video softcore hybridised with just enough of a psycho nutjob subplot that you can get away with filing it outside of your porno collection.

The good: After a great deal of consideration, allowing for the sort of movie that this is, and assuming that Ms. Rochon was aware of the sort of actress she was, I believe I can say without it necessarily making me a terrible human being that she is entirely worth looking at, though it takes an hour before she finally shows us her, uh, plum puddings.* Also, believe it or not, this is the movie where that great song "Brand New Christmas" first appeared! You know that country song by John Russo about the guy who never bothered to celebrate Christmas, and then was guilted into it after his mom died? That totally first showed up in this movie, right before all those people started covering it and it became everybody's favorite Christmas song ever, because, hey, what's more festive than dead moms?

The bad: Since it is a direct-to-video skin flick that is only arbitrarily and thoughtlessly retrofitted into what we could charitably call a "horror" movie if we only paid attention to the colossally misleading cover art, concessions should be made to the limitations of its production budget. This means that I will not see fit to mock the film for its ugly, cramped 4:3 cinematography, the incompetent sound recording in which one half of a conversation sounds like it was recorded on a busy freeway in a moving car, the strained line readings and how intensely uncomfortable all of the actors seem in their own skin at all moments when they are not fondling themselves and/or stripping, the "look what I found in my folks' basement!" tackiness of the props and costumes, the synthesised score and drippy songs (alas, I was teasing about "Brand New Christmas" being good, if you can believe it), the special awfulness of the child actors playing Raven's daughters - one of them Michelucci's own kin - and I will even concede that Russo's phenomenally bad script, with dialogue that is at best one step up from The Room in terms of sounding like nothing that a native speaker of human would ever produce except under the influence of powerful cold medicine, particularly when he tries to cram more than one bit of exposition into a single line, is probably the result of having no time for rewrites. To call any of these generic necessities a mistake or sign of ineptitude would be unfair. Thus I must concede that Santa Claws is not bad in any way at all.

Blood: Does red watercolor paint that gets dabbed on actors' faces in between shots of Wayne holding a gardening fork in the air count as blood? Then there is blood.

Boobs: Christ, yes.

Sex=death: After a Halloween-ish opening that suggests that Wayne's particular insanity is based in the hatred of sex, there is no trace of this commonplace trope. Because let's be honest, that would mean the entire cast would have to end up dead.

Body count: 7, and maybe some people get killed offscreen, and maybe they don't, but it is generally held to be bad form to interrupt the scenes of naked women rubbing themselves with scenes of plot being clarified.

Sign it was 1996: Every facet of its existence. But I will give special props to the fact that it's a idiotic softcore DTV flick that makes a big deal about mocking idiotic softcore DTV flicks, and with an October, 1996 release date, it was in fact on the bleeding edge of that particular trend.

Pithy wrap-up: I'm not going to improve on "the Scream of shot-on-video horror porn with a Yuletide setting". Have at it, DVD cover producers!