1984 was not a good year to be Santa!! In addition to the Xmas classic (‘classic’ in the ya-gotta-see-it-to-believe-it kinda way), SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (released in November 1984; my review here), another little gem of a holiday horror film came out that year titled. DON’T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS (released in December 1984). Maybe it was filmmakers’ lashing out against the greed and materialism of the 1980’s? Maybe it was new territory to exploit? Or maybe people were just trying to make a quick buck by making another horror film based on a holiday. Whatever the reason, DON’T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS should stay unopened under the Xmas tree, or at the very least re-gifted to one of your creepy cousins that you’re always forced to buy a present for.
This stinky little yule log comes to us from the UK and is about a man full of hate stalking and killing anyone dressed in a Santa suit in London. And here’s something I didn’t know about London … there’ a shitload of people dressed up as Santa there!! The Scotland Yard gets involved in the case fairly quickly but they prove to be about as effective as Insp. Clouseau. The Scotland Yard inspector, Insp. Harris (Edmund Purdom) comes across as a pretty superfluous character and I wonder why writers Derek Ford and Al McGoohan even wrote him in. Giles (Alan Lake), a reporter hot on the case, fulfills the role of the “hero” making the inspector pretty unnecessary. And for all it’s faults (and there are many), SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT was at least a fun, well-paced, gory slasher flick. After the beginning of DON’T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS, we realize that director Edmund Purdom (more on this later) and the writers shift gears and the story suddenly becomes more of a whodunit than a slasher flick.
DON’T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS then settles into the pattern of following around a guy dressed in a Santa suit who is then stalked and killer by our unknown slayer. This happens a few times. Too many times. The kill setups aren’t suspenseful and everything has a very bland feel to it. Some of the kills are decent (in one, a drunk, pissing Santa gets his sleigh bells cut off) but there’s definitely not enough here that will keep your interest. Yes folks, DON’T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS commits the biggest sin a movie can commit … it’s fucking boring and plods along like a jolly fat man stuffed full of too many cookies. Give me an example, you ask? No problem. In one scene we see the killer stalking a drunk guy in a Santa suit, and just when we might get a little suspense, BAM … the scene cuts away to genre fav Caroline Munro, who’s playing herself here (??) dancing and singing some horrible 1980’s song. We then keep cutting back and forth between the killer stalking his prey and Munro singing. It’s pretty hard to build any suspense when the scene keeps cutting to a singing and dancing Munro!! Very poor editing decision.
Needless to say, I was very disappointed with this one. I was led to believe that DON’T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS was one of the classic holiday horror flicks out there, but this one felt really choppy with horrible editing, a terrible soundtrack, and has the look and feel of being pieced together and reassembled a few different times until it resembled some celluloid Frankenstein. There’s good reason for this … the post-production was a friggin’ disaster. DON’T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS took, in fact, almost two years to complete after it was shot. Original director Purdom quit and the job was given to Derek Ford, who was fired after two days. Then the distributors, who were trying to make some money off this turd, hired Ray Selfe (who directed to sprawling epic, EMMANUELLE IN SOHO) and Al McGoohan to finish the directing and to rewrite the ending. There’s a lot of footage in this one that was completely re-filmed. And as I mentioned above, it shows.
Some of the kills were well thought out, but the execution (no pun intended) was horrible. We get lots of close ups of a knife entering flesh, and it’s clearly a retractable blade with a blood groove. Pretty pathetic. And when the killer is finally revealed you’re gonna find that you could care less. It was so anti-climatic that I got pissed off for wasting my time on this one. The tie-in to the Christmas holiday felt so tacked on … like an afterthought. With very few changes to the script, the killer could’ve just as easily been killing people dressed up as leprechauns on St. Paddy’s Day. We do, at the end, discover why the killer was targeting guy’s dressed up as Santa: To the killer, Xmas is evil and he’s sacrificing people to atone for the world. Yeah, seriously. I wish I was making it up. And guess what? As a child the killer suffer a horrible trauma walking in on his dad, dressed like Santa of course, fucking some ho ho whore. Lame.
DON’T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS is disappointing on so many levels. The writing is lazy and was extremely repetitive; the editing is choppy and confusing; the soundtrack is terrible and in many places not synced up to people’s mouth’s moving; and the f/x are about as “special” as red-coloured water flowing from a wound. Some reviewers have called this plot “intricate and confusing,” but that makes it sounds like it was done on purpose. The plot here, folks, is a fucking train wreck. I’m gonna use a line that I’m gonna hate myself for, but what the hell; I already hate myself after watching this: DON’T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS is a big fat lump of coal. Skip this one.
Director: Edmund Purdom (then Derek Ford, then Ray Selfe)
Plot: 1.5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 2 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer