Don’t Open Till Christmas (1984)

Originally published in Bleeding Skull! A 1980s Trash-Horror Odyssey.

Don’t Open Till Christmas is a raunchy UK slasher about a guy that kills people who are dressed like Santa Claus. You don’t watch it because you’re excited to see two guys talking in an office, as in Rescue Force. You watch it because you’re excited to see Santa get castrated while he’s taking a leak. Don’t Open delivers both of these things. But, it delivers way too much of the former and not enough of the latter. Fast-forwarding is not a problem.

It’s a disco Christmas party! And people are wearing costumes! Santa gets a sword through his face. Two people are fucking! In a car! Santa gets his face smashed with a tire iron. A prostitute is wearing a red coat with white trim! She looks nothing like Santa! She gets a knife in the gut. Some ineffectual cops discuss the murders (“It was the costume! He was the victim of another Santa murder!”) and a couple has relationship problems. An establishing shot of the Scotland Yard sign is abused at least five times. There’s an attempted murder in a peep show booth. A hack-job band featuring Caroline Munro on lead vocals plays an ENTIRE song. An old man dressed as Santa rides his bicycle into some sort of public art installation. More Santas die by knife-boot to the groin, roasted chestnuts, and face-melting. The killer’s problem has something to do with sex. Of course.

Don’t Open Till Christmas is a mess. Continuity errors (a main character is released from custody before we see him get arrested), sloppy photography (people bump into the camera), and poorly dubbed lines keep the film from being taken as anything but total garbage. And that’s just fine. This is rank filmmaking that exists solely to give us ultra-sleazy gore within a Christmas context. No one working on the film cared about anything else but that. And they did a good job. They also did a good job of dedicating 85% of the film to people sitting at desks and talking. Regrettably, that’s what you remember most after watching.

Rescue Force is the same way. But, it has title cards that read, “KIKI AND ANGEL’S FAVORITE RESTAURANT, 5:30 P.M.”, followed by a tank exploding. The ineptitude of Don’t isn’t extreme enough to endear its empty spaces. Most people will find it exhausting. Others will recognize the beauty in sitting through an 85-minute film just to see Santa get stabbed in the groin. I know how I feel.

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