This Canadian-lensed Christmas-themed splatter comedy from 2005 clearly wanted to be the BAD SANTA of its day…but wasn’t. Still, I find it difficult to entirely dislike any movie containing dialogue like “Run away! Santa’s on the loose!!”
The co-producer of SANTA’S SLAY was Brett Ratner, director of the RUSH HOUR movies, X-MEN 3 and many other Hollyweird products. The writer-director was David Steiman, Ratner’s assistant on THE FAMILY MAN, RUSH HOUR 2 and RED DRAGON, who was here directing his first (and thus far only) movie. The star was WWE superstar Bill Goldberg, who appears alongside several top Canadian actors (including Dave Thomas and Saul Rubinek). Also featured are cameos by the likes of Fran Drescher, James Caan, Chris Cattan and Rebecca Gayheart (Ratner’s ex).
Holy shit! Santa Claus is on a killing spree in a small town! He’s looking to “spread a little Yuletide fear,” and does so by leaving exploding packages under Christmas trees and massacring the patrons of a titty bar. Local cops dub Santa’s crimes the “Christmas Tree Killings” because the locations of the murders form the shape of a Christmas tree.
It seems that Santa Claus is actually the son of Satan. A thousand years earlier Santa was the loser of a bet that cursed him to fly around each Christmas Eve and deliver presents to kids. But now it’s Christmas Eve on the very day the curse is set to expire, and 16-year-old Nicolas is warned by his grandfather to watch out for Santa.
Nicolas reads from the “Book of Klaus” and learns the truth of Santa’s origins. What Nicolas doesn’t know is that his grandfather is immortal, and the winner of the bet that Santa lost all those years ago. It’s a good thing Grandpa’s on hand, as Santa is royally pissed, and looking to spread some serious Holiday Hell!
SANTA’S SLAY only lasts 78 minutes, but runs out of steam well before the end. The main culprit is a disappointingly one-note script that’s extremely eager to shock (the dialogue is sprinkled with innumerable “fucks” and “shits”) but doesn’t do enough to earn its shocks. The film is also rather stiffly directed, with relentlessly static camerawork and overly sparse scenery that all looks the same. Bill Goldberg as Santa spends much of his screen time glowering and grunting, but otherwise gets very little to do.
In short, the film simply needs more in all departments. In this respect it’s like a lot of Canadian films, which often suffer from precisely the same “That’s it???” feeling I experienced at the end of this one.
But it does have its moments. I defy anyone not to laugh during the titty bar rampage, in which Santa finds all sorts of creative ways to dispatch his opponents, or the animated flashback sequence (in the style of those old RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED RAINDEER and JACK FROST TV specials) that gives us the skinny on Santa’s origins. But then again, this part of the film, like the rest of it, should be funnier, more concretely visualized, and just plain better than it is.
Media 8 Entertainment
Director: David Steiman
Producers: Brett Ratner, Sammy Lee, Metthew Leonetti Jr, Douglas Steeden
Screenplay: David Steiman
Cinematography: Matthew F. Leonetti
Editing: Julia Wong, Steve Polivka
Cast: Bill Goldberg, Douglas Smith, Emilie De Ravin, Robert Culp, Dave Thomas, Saul Rubinek, Rebecca Gayheart, Chris Kattan, Fran Drescher, Alicia Loren, Annie Sorell