Friday, December 23, 2016

#2,276. Don't Open Till Christmas (1984)

Directed By: Edmund Purdom

Starring: Edmund Purdom, Alan Lake, Belinda Mayne

Tag line: "The Gift of Terror That Just Won't Wait"

Trivia: The film took almost two years to complete after original director Edmund Purdom quit the job and Derek Ford took over but was fired after two days

Don’t Open Till Christmas is a bad film. It’s sleazy, gory, and at times utterly ridiculous.

So why did I have so much fun watching the damn thing?!?

It’s Christmastime in London, and a killer is on the loose, targeting anyone and everyone wearing a Santa Claus costume. When her father (Laurence Harrington), decked out in a Santa suit, is murdered during a holiday party (in front of dozens of witnesses, no less), a distraught Kate Briosky (Belinda Mayne) teams up with Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Harris (director Edmund Purdum) to track down the psychopath who is responsible. At first, Inspector Harris and his second-in-command Detective Powell (Mark Jones) believe Kate’s live-in boyfriend Cliff (Gerry Sundquist) may have something to do with the killing (Kate’s father was rich, and with him out of the way his girlfriend stands to inherit a great deal of money). But the bodies continue to pile up, and before long a brand new suspect emerges: Inspector Harris himself!

Released in 1984, Don’t Open Till Christmas is, in many ways, similar to the slasher films that were popular around that time. For one, the kill scenes are exceedingly violent, and in an interesting twist the murderer uses a variety of weapons (including a spear, a knife, a gun, a razor and a broken bottle). There’s even an electrocution, and one poor guy dressed like Father Christmas suffers a gruesome fate while in the bathroom. Along with the horror, Don’t Open Till Christmas is also straight-up exploitation; at one point, Cliff and Kate pay a visit to Cliff’s photographer pal Gerry (Kevin Lloyd), who is snapping pictures of a naked model. The sequence comes out of nowhere, and doesn’t really forward the plot, but it does give the film its lone nude scene (which some would argue is reason enough to include it).

In addition to its seedier elements, Don’t Open Till Christmas has some unintentionally funny dialogue (I laughed out loud when, after the fourth killing, Detective Powell asked inspector Harris “Do you think we’re dealing with a psychopath?”), and the murderer’s uncanny ability to find every drunk in a Santa suit gets a little silly after a while (he is always in the right place at the right time). As for the killer’s identity, I knew less than 15 minutes in that Don’t Open Till Christmas was going to be a movie where the “big reveal” doesn’t make a bit of sense (and I was right). We even get one of the most preposterous flashbacks I’ve ever experienced (during which we learn why the killer hates Christmas and Santa Claus).

Still, it was all so incredibly ludicrous, so hilariously inept that I couldn’t help but enjoy myself; without a doubt, Don’t Open Till Christmas is, in some ways, “so bad it’s good”, yet there were moments when it genuinely surprised me (like when Caroline Munro, playing herself, shows up to sing a Christmas tune). That said, it’s a hard movie to recommend. Most viewers will find it poorly paced, horribly acted, and with scenes so outrageous they’ll be scratching their head, wondering what’s going on. As mindless entertainment, though, this one delivered the goods.

Yes, Don’t Open Till Christmas is trash, but it’s the kind of trash I love.

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