Ready to have the worst Christmas ever? Yeah, me neither. But, it’s bound to happen. 2020 has been universally pretty shitty of a year. It’s cancelled holiday after holiday. Now, it’s got its sights set on Christmas. And, with the way this virus is booming, it looks about ready to take the shot. Yep. This is going to be a pretty shitty Christmas. So, I thought “why not double down on it?” Instead of watching and reviewing all the cinematic Christmas classics that literally everyone and their mother knows, I’m going to dive deep down in the muck. I’m talking the shittiest of the shitty. I want to find the absolute worst Christmas movie that’s ever been made. It’s going to be quite the challenge. But, I’ve dug through the internet, made a list, checked it twice, and, from Thanksgiving weekend all the way up to Christmas day, I’ll be reviewing these dumpster fires. It’s not going to be easy, but someone’s gotta do it. Will this challenge turn me into the Grinch or will it double down on my love for the holiday classics? There’s only one way to find out. Grab a cup of spiked hot cocoa, break off a piece of fruitcake, and let’s jump into it.
Our first Christmas adventure comes from 1950’s Mexico in the form of Santa Claus, which Wikipedia has informed me is sometimes called Santa Claus vs. the Devil. And, if that doesn’t sell you on this being a “so bad it’s good” movie, let me just inform you that the plot is only the tip of the weird iceberg here. The whole time I was watching this masterpiece of disaster, I just kept thinking about how much better it’d be if I were watching with friends. It’s that kind of movie. One to get drunk and laugh at. The movie was covered by Mystery Science Theater 3000, so you know there’s a lot to unpack here.
First of all, this version of the Santa myth is maybe the weirdest I’ve ever seen. He doesn’t live at the North Pole. He’s from another planet entirely. Details are scarce on why though. Is he a human or an alien? Is he actually god? How did he get there? How did his workers get there? We don’t know! This movie has no interest in explaining anything to us! Speaking of his workers, they’re not elves. Instead, he’s got a small collection of children from around the world that help him. We know this because there is a fairly long scene at the beginning of him introducing each country’s residents to us in song. And, being from 1959, it’s about as sensitive as you’d imagine. Think of Disney’s “It’s a Small World” but longer… and more racist… and the singers look like they’re being forced at gunpoint. Within two minutes of this movie’s runtime, I was already yelling “oh no” at my tv. But, it gets worse the more you see of this Santa’s workshop.
And, Santa’s reindeer are absolutely terrifying. Instead of actual animals, he uses robots that you have to crank up like a toy. And, the directors chose to show this by having them be these horrifying animatronics that wouldn’t look out of place in Five Nights at Freddy’s. They’ve got these dead eyes and clunky movements and I just don’t like them. But, don’t worry. That’s not the scariest technology Santa has lying around. He’s got to watch the kids somehow. In this universe, he uses a supercomputer to keep track of who’s been naughty or nice. And, wow. I… uhm… I don’t even know how to properly explain this…. It’s got a face. There are two monitors that make up it’s eyes and then, well, big ass lips. That move. In a very unsettling way. It’s like something out of Pee Wee’s Playhouse, if that show didn’t have a sense of humor and was even darker. I mean… just look at this thing.
But, don’t worry. Santa himself is just as terrifying as the world around him. I’m sure the dubbing didn’t help, but I definitely think they picked the wrong actor to play Old Saint Nick. He’s really throwing off some psycho vibes here. If you told me he had bodies of his former helpers buried in the back, I’d believe you. He’s always laughing. And, I know what you’re thinking. Santa is supposed to laugh a lot, right? Yeah. Sure. But, he’s also supposed to stop sometimes. This one doesn’t. He’s constantly chuckling at something. And, I’m not talking about the merry ho ho hoes either. This guy has a maniacal laugh. He’d be right at home amongst the Disney villains. But, that’s not all. He’s also just an awkward guy. There’s a scene where he has to hold a roughly ten year old child and speak to him. It should be a touching scene, except this actor decided to cradle him like a baby. The kid is way too big for that. Santa’s hands are in weird places. They’re too close. The kid looks uncomfortable. Because he’s not used to being held like that, he’s more or less plaking in Santa’s arms. It’s all bad. And then there’s the spying. Again, not unusual for Santa. But, damn, this one makes it seem so creepy. He looks in windows like he’s Michael Myers, not Santa. There’s no twinkle in this dude’s eyes. He’s just scary.
And, of course, there’s the plot. Satan himself, Lucifer, has sent a demon named Pitch to take down Santa Claus.Pitch does this by trying to get a bunch of children to betray Santa, mostly by berating them. There’s one little girl in particular that he’s especially rude to. All she wants for Christmas is a doll. So, how does he try to convince her to turn on Santa? By haunting her dreams as a terrifying blank faced, dancing, human sized doll. It’s terrifying. And, definitely gave at least a couple thousand kids nightmares. (Wikipedia actually credits this as the possible origin of the term “Nightmare Fuel.” Neat.) Other than that, it’s mostly just a group of three boys he’s trying to convince to kidnap the Santa Claus. (Cue Nightmare Before Christmas music.) When this largely fails, he uses a pitbull to chase Santa up into a tree. Because, apparently, Santa’s reindeer turn to dust when exposed to sunlight. Which, in turn, would leave Santa stranded. And he’d starve. Because he eats clouds and not food. I promise you I’m not making any of this up. Again, WHAT IS SANTA? Again, is he an alien? A god? Is that why the devil is fighting him? Where did those children on his planet come from? Obviously Earth, since they’re from different countries, but how did they end up working for Santa? Have the reindeer always been robots? Why do they turn to dust? What’s with that computer? I hate it. This is so weird. The myth of Santa has always left interesting questions, but never any this bizarre.
And, of course, all of the things you’d expect from a bad 50s science fiction movie are here too. The acting is bad. Like I said, Santa is creepy. I didn’t get into the demon too much, but he’s way, way over the top in his campiness. None of the kids look like they want to be there. Heck, during the musical numbers, a couple of them are literally just sitting there doing nothing. The dubbing makes absolutely everything worse. The songs especially suffer. They’ve been so lost in translation that they don’t fit the melody or rhyme anymore. And, as you can probably guess, the special effects are horrible. Not only do the lips and the reindeer move in terrifying ways, but the miniature sets all look super fake too. You can see the strings on everything. The costumes look like they just went down to the local Spirit Halloween. It’s great. And horrible. Pretty much exactly what I was looking for.
And, that’s the only way I can really recommend this movie. It’s definitely one to laugh at. Treat it in the same fashion you would The Room or Troll 2. It may be just a tad too long for some to really enjoy. (There’s only so much horribleness the human body can take after all.) But, every time you think it’s grown stale, they throw another curveball at you. So, I’d definitely recommend this one for the next “so bad, it’s good” viewing. Dress festive. Get a bunch of friends together. Make some alcoholic Christmas beverages. And, have a nice time roasting this movie over an open fire. It’ll be delightful.