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John’s Horror Corner: Don’t Open Till Christmas (1984), a thoughtfully written yet moderately boring British holiday horror.

December 18, 2022

MY CALL: This movie had a lot of potential, but somehow dropped the ball on the “horror” in this horror movie. Sorry, but I found it boring. MORE MOVIES LIKE Don’t Open Till Christmas: For more holiday horror, check out Black Christmas (1974, 2006 remake, 2019), Await Further Instructions (2018), Holidays (2016; Christmas), A Christmas Horror Story (2015), Krampus (2015), Better Watch Out (2016), Silent Night Deadly Night (1984), Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010) Gremlins (1984), Elves (1989), Tales from the Crypt Season 1 (1989; And All Through the House) and Tales from the Crypt (1972; And All Through the House). Skip The Oracle (1985), Silent Night Deadly Night part 2 (1987), and maybe even All the Creatures Were Stirring (2018).

The heavy mouth-breathing killer POV and cheap, retractable blade stabbery make for a rather dull opening sequence that doesn’t leave me terribly optimistic for whatever shall follow. If I’m being completely honest, I enjoyed watching the Christmas party dancing more than the first two kills. The second Santa kill was much better. Nothing particularly impressive, just better than the empty murders of the opening and the subsequent third Santa murder. Oh, and there’s your theme! Our holiday hacker is slashing as many Santas as he can in the days leading up to Christmas.

If this movie had but one success, it’s that I may have never seen so many different people in Santa suits in a single movie before. Nor, I doubt anyway, have I ever seen so many people in Santa suits murdered in a single movie. So… I guess there’s that.

When a wrapped Christmas present is delivered to Inspector Harris (Edmund Purdom) with the note “don’t open till Christmas” I suppose we’re all to gawk “that’s the name of the movie!” By the end of the movie when we learn the present’s contents I was underwhelmed with “meh.” And that, likewise, is a fair representation of my experience with this movie. I didn’t hate it. But it was a whole lotta’ “meh.”

The death scenes are largely uninspired, unclever, and phoned-in. They’re often so disappointingly basic as to be less entertaining than the non-horror parts of this British slasher movie. Though the movie isn’t without its occasional charm—like a massively gory exit would from a gunshot through a Santa’s open mouth or a Santa discovered with a cleaver embedded in in his face. But the highlight for me was the “implied” razorblade to the crotch while a blue-collar Santa was at a urinal. Charming indeed, even if we don’t see anything but blood spurts and a urine stream.

The movie “tries” to diversify its death scenes for our entertainment. But it generally fails. A shoeblade kick to the groin and studded gauntlet punch to the face both land very briefly and very flat, not unlike the quick and stale strangling. It’s like they filmed the movie saving the death scenes for the end and then realized they had five bucks of budget left, and then one-take’d a bunch of haphazard and very brief murders.

For as boring as this slash movie is, a lot of attention went to the plot, the creepy opening credit sequence, the police investigation and the characters. Great thought was placed in the personality of the killer (Alan Lake), which would have finely complemented the movie had there been bloodier or better built-up murders. Somehow, though, the atmosphere and cultivation of dread were largely squandered. With a better special effects team, some attention to building tension, and a little more money, this could have been a solid 80s slasher with far above average quality non-horror scenes and acting, along with (hopefully) serviceable horror.

Director Edmund Purdom’s only feature film was nothing special for me; as I’ve said, kind of boring. But it also was no reason for which he should not have directed more horror movies. I wonder what the story was there.

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