Sunday, December 7, 2014

Carry on Screaming! British Horror Week - The Sequel!/Chilling at Christmas AND 1984 Turns 30! - Don't Open Till Christmas (Edmund Purdom, 1984)

Rounding off the British horror blogging, kicking off the Christmas content and also returning to that all important year of 1984, today's movie is already sitting at a crossroads of general awesomeness, so is a review really necessary? Assuming not everyone will simply be sold by the above, I better tell y'all a bit more about it...

Reversing a trope that's been used in a few Yuletide horror films (i.e. the killer Santa), Don't Open Till Christmas is a giallo/slasher hybrid about a serial killer knocking off anyone dressed as St. Nick. Edmund Purdom (of Pieces - which we'll come back to - Absurd and The Fifth Cord fame. He also directs, sort of... and therein hangs a tale for later) is Chief Inspector Ian Harris of Scotland Yard, the man tasked with putting an end this next level Scrooge's not so festive frenzy. Also embroiled are Kate Briosky (Belinda Mayne), whose father (Laurence Harrington) has been murdered (and now she "can't concentrate!", which might explain a few things that transpire later), her sometimes boyfriend and general arse Cliff Boyd (Gerry Sundquist), who becomes a suspect, and Sherry Graham (from Slaughter High, which we'll also come back to), a stripper who witnesses one of the Santa slayings and narrowly escapes the killer's clutches.

Released on the 19th December 1984 (and Edmund Purdom's 60th birthday!), this allegedly took the best part of two years to get made. If IMDb is to be believed, Purdom originally said he'd want to direct (having never done it before) in order to star, later quit and was replaced by one of the writers, Derek Ford, who was fired after two days. Ray Selfe was later hired to finish the job and the other writer, Alan Birkinshaw (credited as Al McGoohan) rewrote certain scenes. Much was also re-shot apparently. It probably won't surprise you to discover then that this is a bit of a bad movie... but of a "it's bad and I'm glad" kind. Your mileage (dependent no doubt on your level of sanity, which is probably higher than mine I'd wager!) may vary of course but I defy anyone who isn't averse to slasher movies to find this boring. From the sometimes hilarious dialogue (which is often rendered more so by the line readings) to the generous lashings of gore strewn throughout, this arguably delivers the goods as far as popcorn horror goes. And it has a similarly demented, anything-might-happen, trash aesthetic to two other movies we alluded to earlier... Pieces (from '82) and Slaughter High ('86), which can't be a bad thing right?

Incidentally, there's a damn good reason Don't Open Till Christmas, Pieces and Slaughter High may seem tonally similar... they were all produced by Steve Minasian and Dick Randall. Furthering connecting the three, Edmund Purdom was in Pieces and Kelly Baker was in Slaughter High... as was Caroline Munro, who plays herself in a cameo pop promo scene (she's the warrior of love... and she's coming to get ya!). If you want a full evening of balls to the wall, trashtastic Euro-slasher shenanigans, this loose trilogy will hit the spot I think.

Also on the subject of music, the synth score by Des Dolan might be a bit of an acquired taste. Personally, I enjoy the slightly cheap (by today's standards) sounding creakiness of it but frankly it might grate on the ears of some viewers. And a last bit of trivia for you... apparently Alan Lake, who plays newspaper reporter Giles in the film (have a drink every time he introduces himself if you fancy passing out by the way) sadly died before it was released, it having taken that long to reach cinema screens. Perhaps unsurprisingly, critics were far from impressed... but don't let that put you off, they rarely were when it came to these movies! If you've seen Black Christmas, Silent Night Deadly Night (also from '84 and which we'll be looking at later this month), Christmas Evil, and even Silent Night Bloody Night, then I'd say hit this up when you're next in the market for a bit of festive slasher action. Just be prepared for something a bit daft (to put it mildly), lay back and enjoy!

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