Plot Outline: Something odd is happening in foggy London nearing Christmas time. Someone has initiated a nightly killing spree and the targets: Santa Claus! Any inebriated or fun loving fellow dressed as Saint Nick gets killed and it’s up to (New) Scotland Yard in order to figure out who the killer is. With the help of witnesses and Kate, the daughter of the second dead Santa, as well as a shady newspaper reporter, Scotland Yard’s finest Inspector Harris and Sergeant Powell unfortunately haven’t much time until Christmas Day while the bodies keep piling up, red herrings are falsely accused and odd tips are taken into scrutinizing accounts. Will our protagonists and supporting characters reveal the killer? Or will they be indiscriminately murdered by the Santa killer?
The Review: Sometimes, I really can’t resist myself. I will get impetuous notions in my head that will involve me finding something that sounds fantastic and ends up about as mediocre as a tasty chorizo stuffed burrito so inundated with enough grease to make 5/8 drywall about as transparent as Plexiglas. That being said, Don’t Open Till’ Christmas was a tasty idea in a movie that’s almost too heavily covered with its own problems to be 100% enjoyable. So we have a dirty-Santa Claus killer; great! Unfortunately it can only go down hill from there as this movie proves, but instead of stooping too low, it just drops and stays in its newly acquired descent. I’ve seen faster/jump-cut laden murder scenes in horror movies that either throw me into succinct anger for having to cut a wonderful kill or just slunk my head on my fist in ennui, but after watching the immediate kill scenes in this movie makes me wonder if I would prefer watching a jump-cut death or a five-second death of yet another Santa Claus. What seems to get in the way of these short kill-scenes however is the dialogue between characters, creating and solving different as well as their own mysteries and questioning their own relationships with each other. I’m not blatantly suggesting that character depth or development be omitted from the movie because that’s just it; there was not enough depth nor development in the characters for me to care about them as much as I would with different mystery movie protagonists trying to solve the dangerous riddles before them, regardless of the obstacles around. Yet, mysteriously enough, I can’t ponder any way of changing it aside from making us care more for the characters than the kill scenes which were either too short or surprisingly too long.
The movie starts out with some unique imagery well enough as we get to watch a Styrofoam Santa get burned from the pom-pom tip of his hat down to his jolly knees revealing a fiery knife behind. Though I can’t exactly say much for the rest of the cinematography as it was a little too dark in night time scenes, particularly with the first kill and a long winded chase and kill scene involving some sort of museum-of-horrors, still, the opening credit sequence was great to watch. Let’s just say that 85% of the movie was not obscured by the ensuing darkness around the sets. The kill scenes themselves were for the most part very brief, but somewhat creative. I say somewhat simply because I’m sure any slasher psycho could whip out these types of kills in one or two movies (Oh look; a drunk Santa! Oh look; it’s the smiley face mask of the killer and he’s got a gun! Hey, the killer just blasted the Santa in the mouth, causing a big explosion behind his neck! There goes the killer! And the dead drunk Santa falls forward, revealing his blasted brains!), until of course our masked killer whipped out spike-knuckle-gloves and a knife shoe! Fortunately this happened in a night time scene that was not as obscure as the others, so the blood and gore was used effectively for that matter. The acting for the most part wasn’t all too bad, though the consistent non-dramatic questioning of relationships beating the scenes involving vital clues got a little troublesome. There was one hilarious scene in which Kate asked Ins. Harris what happened to one of the witnesses who ran into the killer the other night, but the line was the actress’s voice recorded over and she didn’t move her lips at all!
Thus, for the most part, Don’t Open till’ Christmas isn’t the worse yule tide horror movie around, but it certainly isn’t anywhere near great without a few repairs. Still, it has its creativity from premise to killer and I think that’s really what counts. It almost feels as though the director wanted to apply some intelligence into the movie by making it more of a whodunit thriller mixed with slasher qualities, which wasn’t a bad move, it just wasn’t done correctly so that the audience would be intrigued enough to buy the whole package. The warning in the movie wasn’t so much of a warning as it was a foreshadowing connection with one of the characters that, in the end, really did not make much sense, thus like the film, the warning in the title came off comme ci, comme ca as it partially fulfilled its purpose, but could have been better. It’s not going to be a painful ride, so help yourself if you can’t resist, but don’t say no one warned you if you didn’t like it.