Double Feature #17: Christmas Horrors

Don't Open Till Christmas (1984)/ Elves (1989)

The 1980s were perhaps the Golden Age of Christmas movies: A Christmas Story (1983), Christmas Vacation (1989), Scrooged (1988), A Very Brady Christmas (1984) and some may count Die Hard and Trading Places.

There were also a handful of Christmas horror movies: Gremlins (1984), Silent Night Deadly Night (1984) and Christmas Evil (1980),  Don't Open Till Christmas (1984), and Elves (1989).

The last two comprise tonight's double feature... and no points for guessing why I listed them last.

Don't Open Till Christmas (1984)

Don't Open Till Christmas is a British Christmas horror movie that was riddled with problems.  They went through three directors and took two years to make.  It's been almost universally unliked ever since its release.

The movie begins with a flaming Santa doll, so it's off to a good start with one of the best title screens ever.

British partygoers stare in horror as their guest Santa is harpooned through the mouth.  The gal in front is the daughter of the Santa, Kate (Belinda Mayne).

As it turns out, her dad is just the latest victim of the still-at-large Santa slayer.  Yes, instead of making St. Nick the slasher, Don't Open Till Christmas makes Santas the victims.  An interesting twist.  A stupid one... but interesting nonetheless.

And so we're treated to a series of senseless Santa slayings and boring police investigations until Kate is brought to a nude photo shoot by her douchebag boyfriend.  Just when you think she might disrobe, the photographer pulls out a Santa costume (?) which sends her hysterically from the room.

Note the model here is Pat Astley, no stranger to taking her clothes off in British sexploitation.  You may remember her many appearances on Are You Being Served?

Pat Astley leaves the photo shoot wearing the Santa costume.  Her and Kate's douchebag boyfriend start making out on the street outside the building..... the police arrive, and apparently are going to arrest them for being gay in public (they think Pat is a man, and being gay in public was evidently a criminal act in 1984 England).

Pat runs for it, and is nearly killed by the mysterious Santa Murderer.  When the masked madman realizes she's no Santa, her life is spared.

Another Santa bites the dust.  This one is a perv visiting a peep show.  The model looks on in horror as the Kris Kringle is bludgeoned to death.

The police warn the poor girl that the killer knows she's seen his face, and will come after her.  And so he does.  But what interested me was her shirt.... "Ti-Ti Decontract Diffusion No Parking".  What the hell?  I had to watch an extended sequence of her in the police station, then stalked endlessly through back alleys, all the while wondering what this shirt is about.  Anyone have a clue?

Another look at the shirt that will haunt my dreams.

But moving on from the shirt, there's Caroline Munro...

She plays a Sheena Easton type singer who witnesses yet another Santa Claus murder.  (Truly, the number of Santa deaths in this film is ridiculous.  There's more Santa killings in Don't Open Till Christmas than teenage killings in Friday the 13th!)

Munro, one of THE hottest babes to ever to grace the silver screen is wasted on a few precious moments of her singing, then screaming.  Just as in two movies covered on Retrospace Dracula AD 1972 and Faceless, and a movie covered on The Horshack Redemption, The Devil Within Her, she is waaaaay underutilized.

And speaking of being under-utilized, Belinda Mayne as the main character, Kate, is left with a nothing role.  She's gorgeous, but never gets to project it, offering no eye candy whatsoever.  And considering the story more or less revolves around her, it comes as a bit of a shock when this happens with over thirty minutes of film left to go....

Spoiler alert, Kate dies for no reason.  Note the sad bit of garland draped across the lamp stand.

In the end it's the "Ti-Ti Decontract Diffusion No Parking" gal who gets to be the Final Girl.  She's able to toss the psycho down a stairwell.

As he revives, we get to see the killer's backstory (very odd to have it at the very end - a reverse of Halloween and similar slashers).

You see, the killer caught a guy dressed as Santa doinking his mom... thus, he's grown up a Santa serial killer.  Painfully stupid.

Overall, Don't Open Until Christmas is just too inept to provide anything approaching horror...  and it's too blah to at least operate on an exploitation level.  It falls short of the mediocre line, and winds up miles from being either great or godawful.  If I were a movie critic, I'd feel obliged to say something like, "Don't Open Till Christmas shouldn't be opened at all.  I recommend you keep it wrapped, save the receipt and return it from whence it came."

Elves (1989)

When I heard there exists a Christmas horror movie starring Dan Haggerty (Grizzly Adams) and Deanna Lund (Land of the Giants), it was a no-brainer - this had to be seen.

Kirsten (Julie Austin) is a teenager with a terrible life: her mother is a stone cold bitch (Deanna Lund) who's just stolen all her money, her dad is MIA, and her brother.... well, let's just say he has issues.

Kirsten also cut her hand during the performance of a séance in the woods with her friends.  It's been a long day, so she decides to wash away her sadness and take a shower.

What follows is a scene worthy of Troll 2....

Her brother, wearing his Teenage Mutant Ninja pajamas, is caught spying on her.  A taste of the dialog:

"You pervert!"
"I'm not a pervert. I like seeing naked girls."
"I'm you're f***ing sister!"
"Yeah, and you've got f***ing big tits and I'm going to tell everybody I saw them!"

That night, her perv brother is attacked by the Elf which was resurrected by Kirsten's dumbass séance. Kirsten comes to the rescue wearing only a Guns N Roses t-shirt.  I'm certain the lusty young lad was grateful for her assistance.

So, Kirsten works at a department store.  Her and her friends Brooke (Laura Lichstein) and Amy (Stacey Dye) decide to sit on the store Santa's lap during her break.  Unfortunately, Santa is a worse pervert than her brother and propositions Kirsten, who promptly slaps him.

The lecherous Santa is then brutally murdered by the Elf, but the homeless down-on-his-luck mall cop (Haggerty) has his curiosity piqued.

Grizzly Adams believes the death of the mall-Santa was no random killing.  This is the work of a demon of some kind.  He heads to the library to investigate.  And like any small town library branch, it's stocked with ancient books on demonology.

Kirsten and her ditzy friends decide to spend the night in the department story.  Naturally, the first thing the girls do is try on the lingerie.

Brooke and Amy are soon killed when a band of Nazis and the Elf storm the department store. Yep, you read that sentence correctly: Nazis and an evil Elf.

Fortunately, Grizzly Adams, lives in a dingy janitor's closet in the store and manages to save Kirsten.

Kirsten's mother has just killed her cat and is unwinding in a nice bath.  The Elf knocks a radio into the tub electrocuting the queen bitch.

I will say that Deanna Lund is still looking good a couple decades after Land of the Giants - sadly, the nudity in this scene is clearly provided by a double.

So, the deal is that the Nazis want Kirsten (because she's from some bloodline) to mate with the Elf to create a master race of Nazi Elf Soldiers.

It sounds like such an over-the-top concept that this would have to be up there with Birdemic, Troll 2, Plan 9, etc. but it just can't sustain that bad-movie-mojo throughout.  What prevents this from being a Hall of Famer like those films is long stretches of tedium.  Alas, the best that can be said is that it shows hints of legendary awfulness, but can't quite maintain that level of badnes, and slips into long stretches of yawn inducing mediocrity.  It could've been a contender.


  1. The woman at the molded plastic work station in the Retrospace header: from around 1968 to 1972, all design was influenced by this recognizable style from electronics to fashion. I've always wondered if this short movement had a name, do you know?

    1. I'm not sure the name, but I pulled the image from a post I did back in 2011 on Euro design that might be worth checking out:

  2. AnonymousMay 03, 2016

    Too much time on your hands?