Santa’s Slay (2005), directed by David Steiman, written by David Steiman, with Bill Goldberg, Douglas Smith and Emilie de Ravin
The plot: In a twist on the Christmas legend — not the one about the virgin birth and the son of God, but the one about the jolly old elf who dresses in red and delivers toys once a year to good girls and boys all around the world — Santa Claus is the son of Satan.
At least that’s according to the “Book of Klaus,” a mysterious take on the origin of Old Saint Nick and the heart of Santa’s Slay, a 2005 direct-to-video horror comedy that’s not half as bad as you would think, but still pretty goddamn putrid. Like fruitcake, the “Santa Claus goes on a rampage” genre is tasteless, but remains an I-have-no-idea-exactly-why-but-it-just-is holiday staple. We’ll touch on that a little more in Thursday’s review. For now, let’s just say that — to horror movie fans — the killer St. Nick flick is a genre tradition and practically a subgenre of its own. It’s even spawned such bastard children as the Uncle-Sam-goes-on-a-rampage flick and the Thanksgiving massacre movie.
To elaborate on Santa’s Slay‘s back story, many years ago, Christmas was Santa’s “Day of Slaying.” Then, one day, an angel challenged Santa to a game of curling. Santa lost and the son of Satan promised not to harm any human being for 1,000 years. Instead, he’s forced to deliver toys to children — the part of Santa Claus’s job description that most of us are familiar with.
Santa’s Slay begins after these 1,000 years have passed. Santa’s itching to make up for lost time. By “make up for lost time,” of course I mean “kill a whole lot of people in gruesome yet entertaining ways.” If anything, Santa’s Slay fulfills the expectations created by its title, which is more than I can say for The Neverending Story or Everlasting Gobstoppers.
In Santa’s Slay, Bill Goldberg, former pro wrestler and football player, plays Santa Claus. As a grappler with the WWE and WCW, Goldberg never was much of an exciting interview. What he did best was look mean and beat people up. Fortunately, the director of this movie was well aware of where Goldberg’s talents lay and keeps the nearly 7-foot-tall behemoth’s speaking lines to a minimum. Goldberg spends most of Santa’s Slay letting his fists do the talking — at one point he even delivers one of his signature wrestling moves, the Spear, to a victim. When he does talk, it’s usually to spout a one-liner or pun.
Much like this review, Santa’s Slay doesn’t take itself seriously. Not in the slightest. Its tongue is planted firmly in its big rosy cheek and that’s a good thing, since the concept of a killer Santa Claus is — by default — kind of ridiculous.
I was also pleased that Santa’s Slay wasted no time with boring stuff like character development and other exposition that isn’t relevant to the theme of Santa Claus destroying shit, which begins even before the opening credits and is easily the best part of the movie. The scene is a 10-minute sequence in which a family is seated around a dinner table preparing to eat their Christmas Eve meal. Playing the family members are a number of familiar faces from television and film. I’d probably be ruining the surprise if I told who you the actors are. I’ll only say that it’s quite satisfying when Satan/Santa offs each of these D-list actors. Do not miss this scene.
You might recognize the protagonists as Bill Paxton’s son from the HBO show Big Love and Claire from Lost. As for the director, Santa’s Slay is David Steiman’s only directorial credit, however, he did direct and write the film, making him an auteur — so that has to count for something, right?
Recommended if you know what you’re getting into. Keep your expectations low and you might be mildly amused. It’s available on Netflix Instant Watch. (Click here to add it to your queue!) Whoops! It used to be on Netflix Instant Watch. Like Christmas, Santa’s Slay only comes once a year. Blink and you’ll miss it.