Santa's Slay (2005)
I wish I could tell you that Santa's Slay, a movie starring a massively muscular Jewish professional wrestler as a murderous Santa Claus, was so spectacularly bad that it was a laugh riot. I wish I could tell you that Santa's Slay was surprisingly good, an undiscovered gem of modern slasher horror. Sadly, both of these ends of the spectrum are wrong. Santa's Slay is merely a disappointment, a cheap horror comedy that wishes it was funnier.
The setup screams with potential. Potential that is ultimately unfulfilled. Santa, as this film claims, is the immaculate son of Satan, going out every Christmas on a great slaying spree. That is, until Santa lost a curling game to an angel and had to behave for one thousand years. Now, those thousand years are up, and Santa's making up for lost time with his fresh batch of Christmas carnage.
Let's start with the obvious problem: Bill Goldberg as Santa. Bill brings all the subtleties and nuances of a steel folding chair to the head to his role. Now, obviously, evil Santa Claus doesn't much depth of character to begin with, but Bill just doesn't have enough charisma to pull off the humor inherent to the role. A beautiful line is wasted when our murderous Kris Kringle gets a flashlight shone in his eyes. He blurts out “I'm f**king Santa Claus, not Dracula!” Bill just fumbles the cadence and plays it so deadpan that it just doesn't work as a punchline. While Bill is certainly an imposing physical presence on the screen, he's just dead weight the way he is utilized. In contrast to fellow pro wrestler Glen Jacobs' performance in See No Evil, Bill is constantly giving one-liners and various bits of dialog. This is where everything falls apart. Bill Goldberg simply cannot pull off this festive Freddy Krueger like character. He has no charisma, no timing, nothing. He begins with this great opening, a beautiful delivery of 'Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!' followed with some general mayhem. Sadly, it was all downhill from there.
What's even more disappointing than Bill, however, is some of his costars. Robert Culp's mere presence in this movie is depressing. You feel sorry for the guy, that I Spy residuals are obviously not paying his bills well enough that he has to star in this train wreck. He does his best with the script, but it just breaks your heart when he has such awful lines. Dave Thomas, of Strange Brew fame, is largely wasted in his role of the town preacher. The final disappointment is James Caan, who appears in the opening teaser scene, rightfully going uncredited. You wonder what horrible sin he committed to end up here, in what is sadly is one of the funniest roles of the whole film.
Yes, a character who dies within the first five minutes has some of the funniest lines. Perhaps it's not even the lines that are funny, just Mr. Caan's ability to say them that redeems them. The script is simply awful. It fills itself with Christmas puns and referential humor that almost all falls flat. Various holiday paraphernalia ends up utilized as murder weapons, from wreaths to menorahs to candy canes. It's like they went down a list of things associated with Christmas, came up with a way to kill someone with it, and put every single one into the film. Hell, the rest of the film seems to be collection of horror clichés, with the pointless female nudity, the chase through the high school, the epic backstory -- it's all just so badly thrown together.
There are a few shining moments in this film, though they are far outweighed by the bad. When we get the aforementioned epic backstory, it is played out in this beautiful stop motion animation sequence, like the beloved Rudolph and Frosty TV Christmas specials. The character of Vinny, introduced way too late in the film, is one of the few genuinely funny parts. With his artificial voice box and chain smoking, he brings some genuine mirth to the otherwise un-merry comedy.
It's possible that with the help of a lot of alcohol and some snarky friends that you could extract a good amount of entertainment from Santa's Slay. Sadly, for this reviewer, Santa's Slay merely answered one question. “Can a movie kill off Fran Drescher in the first ten minutes and then still suck?”
Yes. Yes it can.
This look at Santa's Slay is part of our Yuletide Terror event, a weekend of Christmas-themed reviews running December 21-25, 2007