Who's Next? You're Next
When I was a little kid, any boy who wanted to grow up to be a man was a fan of professional wrestling. It didn’t matter that it was pretty obviously fake; this truly childish product made young boys feel like men, and the few truly successful wrestlers were idolized. History will remember with fondness the legacy of the WWE, formerly known as the WWF, for including wrestlers like Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Undertaker, and Mr. Ass, among others. Unfortunately, history will remember with intestinal discomfort the product that I was more familiar with, namely World Championship Wrestling (WCW). The WCW had Sting, the NWO, Rey Mysterio, Jr. and – my favorite at the time – Bill Goldberg (for the purposes of this piece, I will be referring to him by his stage name, Goldberg, instead of “Stone Cold but without domestic abuse charges,” which is what everyone else called him).
Goldberg kicked ass, and he totally made the WCW worth watching at the time. When he was on top I had just joined youth football and youth wrestling, and you could use his signature move – The Spear (basically just a form tackle) – in both sports. It was a move where you were sure there was a clear impact and you knew that as much acting as there was in the “sport,” that had to have hurt at least a little bit. His raspy growl was about as intimidating as a grizzly bear, and his catchphrase “Who’s next?” inspired confidence on playgrounds; most kids who used that catchphrase were just bragging about winning at Pokemon cards.
Sadly, Goldberg dissipated into the ether after the WCW folded, and I hadn’t heard from him until I idly googled “bad Christmas movies” at work one day. Seeing that he was in a movie wasn’t all that surprising; plenty of wrestlers have been in movies with varying degrees of success (all the way from Hulk Hogan in pretty much anything he’s ever been in to The “Dwayne Johnson” Rock in pretty much anything he’s ever been in). Lord knows we all rented Ready to Rumble over and over again as children to delight ourselves in the hysterics of one David Arquette. It was the title of this Canadian movie that caught my attention: Santa’s Slay. This is perfect, thought I, a movie with one of those obvious enticing titles like Chupacabra vs. The Alamo, except set during Christmas (so I guess like Silent Night, Deadly Night, but without the sequels). Here’s the best way I can describe it, in a pithy blurb that still deserves its own paragraph:
Goldberg plays Santa, who is not the jolly giver of gifts, but is rather an evil son of Satan who goes around killing people on Christmas Day. He drives a sleigh pulled by a buffalo, it has a rocket booster, and the body count is at least in the 30s.
If that isn’t enough to get you in the yuletide spirit, then I’m not sure what you’re doing on this site. Go sign into Club Penguin, nerdlington.
The title alone sounds like that movie Joe Carruthers was trying to make in Ernest Saves Christmas, so I know I’ve got to see it. This should be the perfect awful, horrendous, no good, very bad, I just slipped on cat food and landed face first in a basin of vinegar right in front of my boss who was about to give me a corner office type of movie.
The movie begins with the most embarrassing stereotype of a rich family I’ve seen since Richie Rich. I’ve got nothing against mocking the rich (but then again I’ve got no problem with mocking anyone except Kurt Russell), but you’ve got to do it in a clever, creative way. The daughters of the family are like the stereotypical crosses between the Kardashians and the Hiltons, and the heads of the family seem like they’re trying to emulate the patriarch and matriarch of the Bluth family without the clever dialogue. This is all typical slasher movie affair – you set up unlikable characters that still have a twinge of humanity so you feel bad for wanting to see them killed. Personally, I think it’s a pretty cheap gag, and it isn’t something that Hitchcock or Kubrick would have relied on, alth-
Santa (Goldberg) explodes through the chimney, dives on the table, somersaults for some reason, and kills the shit out of everyone. Like any slasher movie, the kills are varied and somewhat holiday themed, and you don’t even feel bad for the characters – not because they’ve been poorly characterized, but you’re so hyped to see Goldberg in all his goddam glory. Seriously, this is a role of a lifetime for him, and he’s having more fun than Jack Nicholson on any given day. There’s distorted guitar playing when he enters the scene, his makeup is great, his outfit is great; honestly, this guy could play Santa in any other movie and it’d probably be a shitload better. I know he’d cut down the running time of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians by roughly 70 minutes. Goldberg is the best actor in Santa’s Slay, and this is a movie that has Academy Award nominee James Caan. Yeah, you read that right. Homeboy went from The Godfather to Goldberg shoving a turkey leg down his throat. AND GOODWILL TOWARD MEN, SONNY CORLEONE.
|He looks like he just got done listening to Kool & The Gang|
The movie shows us that we’re at Hell Township, which appears to be in Hell, Michigan. This is probably the laziest joke I’ve heard since it was used in Twisted Metal III. We see a butcher’s shop run by Mr. Green (clearly drawing influence from Hey Arnold) and staffed by Nicolas Yuleson (Douglas Smith) and Mary “Mac” MacKenzie (Emilie de Ravin). Please don’t comment on how obvious Nick’s last name is; I try to focus on things where actual effort was put forth. Neither one of these teenagers puts forth their best effort, and I find myself missing Goldberg after a mere eight minutes. This does not bode well. There’s some obnoxious old woman who swears a lot, pays in quarters, and does that thing where she demands that people say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.” You know, the thing that no one actually does in public. It’s at this point that I realize the writing in this movie is really, really bad, but not the kind of bad where you laugh at it and wonder if David Steiman speaks a different dialect of English from the rest of us, but rather if he actually saw any movies while he was assisting Brett Ratner all those years. The old woman’s unpleasantness and vulgarity means we won’t mind when she inevitably gets the axe (no, not literally), but why is she like that? If we’re going to go through the trouble of having the female version of Crankshaft, why not give her a legitimate reason? Hell, that mean old woman at the beginning of The Wizard of Oz was fleshed out better than this woman (again, not literally, thank goodness). Anyway, she leaves the butcher and gets run off the road by Santa. You start to feel kinda weird that you haven’t had an iota of pity for any of the victims, and then you start unconsciously flexing your muscles whenever you see Goldberg.
Cut back to STATELY HELL BUTCHER and we find Mr. Green taking a break from running for mayor of Arnold’s city and giving Christmas presents to the kids. Of particular note is the moment where he gives a clock to Nick, and I seriously can’t tell whether Nick is genuinely excited, sarcastically excited, or patronizingly excited. It’s like how in Miracle on 34th Street you couldn’t quite tell whether that old guy was really Santa Claus, and it made you question your own belief system, except in this one Goldberg is a killer demon Santa Claus. Nick and Mac decide to leave for the night, with Mac wishing Mr. Green a Happy Chanukah, with an incorrect emphasis on the CH. Mac offers Nick a ride home but Nick pointedly refuses, opting instead to ride a stupid looking motorized scooter in the snow (I think Nick was kicked in the head as a child by a rogue ostrich). He grumbles and loads the scooter into Mac’s pickup truck as he arrives home. It’s really odd because de Ravin is pretty cute in this movie, and very clearly out of Nick’s league in terms of looks and likability. You’d think he’d jump on this opportunity – she doesn’t just offer him a ride, but asks him what he’s doing for Christmas TWICE – and he’s more content to complain about how Christmas sucks because his inventor grandfather doesn’t give him presents.
Regardless, Nick makes his way home and pulls a key out from under a fake rock to open two of the locks on his front door. He then pulls a key out from another location to open a third lock on the front door. Wow, this family must really care about its home security! Golly jeepers Davey, I wonder if they’re setting up something for later! Nick goes into his cellar in a sequence of shots that emulates the Evil Dead series in an almost uncanny recreation, and comes across his “nutty” inventor grandfather. They talk about some dumb bullshit that’s really lame and uninteresting while I try to get a streak of 100 on Bop-It.
The main criticism about this movie is that there’s not enough Goldberg and it actually focuses far too much on having a story. I can certainly agree with the first part, as I’d watch 80 minutes of Goldberg dressed as Santa ruthlessly massacring a village any day, but the story actually isn’t that bad.
Speaking of Nick’s douchebaggery, Mac stops by and Nick snaps at her for having the gall to show up at his house just minutes after she dropped him off there, carrying an Optimus Prime doll disguised as a handgun. I’m pretty sure that’s enough for a marriage proposal for any 16-year-old boy, but Nick is a special breed of dickhead. He implies Mac thinks his grandfather – the guy with a literal fallout bunker in the year of our lord and savior Jesus Herman Christ 2005 – is “bananas”. She insists that he’s just a little bit “odd,” and he explodes at her for having the unmitigated audacity to say that when her father owns a couple of guns or something. In Michigan? I’m shocked. He should know that S-Mart’s 12-gauge double barreled Remington was manufactured in Grand Rapids. She (rightfully) storms out and tells him to call her when he’s ready to have a mature relationship. Wait, what?
Yeah, apparently they were in a relationship this whole time. I honestly had no idea, and they had zero on-screen chemistry. Nick at first appeared to barely tolerate her, then it seemed as if he was bothered by her existence, which then progressed to a deep loathing of the fact that she even looked at him. Now I’m curious as to how they ever got together in the first place. What’s even going on? Where the hell is Goldberg? Why won't this piece of shit register when I Pull It when I get near my personal high score?
We cut to a crappy church, run by Pastor Timmons (Dave Thomas, co-star of Strange Brew, one of my all-time favorite movies). He’s playing the awful stereotype of the dirty priest, which was embarrassing in Donnie Darko, cringe-worthy in V for Vendetta and just boring in this movie. I’m not saying all priests have to be pure symbols of morality in films, but maybe they could be more interesting. I would recommend the cyber monks in Simon Sez, but then someone would have to watch Simon Sez, and I’ve got too much love for my fellow man in this joyous season to recommend anything from that movie. Regardless, it seems that Steiman sunk all his creativity into Santa, and that’s fine; Goldberg’s saving this movie from the depths. Timmons goes to a ramshackle strip club that somehow has a valet (my Friday nights consist of cold turkey sandwiches and John Hurt movies; can anyone tell me if real life strip clubs have valets?) and Santa follows close behind, leaving destruction in his wake. At this point I’m going to try not to spoil too much of what Santa says, because every line that Goldberg snarls is solid gold and I’ve realized that this movie might – MIGHT - deserve to be seen. Santa kills everyone in a variety of ways, and I’m back in a good mood. I’m not usually big on mass killing movies, especially ones set at Christmastime, but it’s so worth it just to see Goldberg about as happy as he can be.
Cut back home, Nic opens up his grandfather’s dumbass Norse book about Santa Claus or the history of Greek salad or something. This tells the backstory of Santa and why he’s killing people, so pay attention, because this is pretty good. There were two virgin births: Jesus Christ, son of Mary and The Big G, and Santa, son of Satan and someone else. Originally, Santa would go around killing everyone on the day of his birth, and the people of Earth took to praying on that day that he’d knock it off. An archangel was sent down from heaven to challenge Santa to a curling match, with the wager being that if Santa lost he’d have to give gifts on December 25th instead of killing people, and if he won he’d…win a capsnaffler, I guess. I’m still stuck on the curling match, to be frank. Santa ends up losing, and is doomed to deliver gifts for a thousand years. That whole thing was told in that sort of Rankin-Bass crud-puppet animation, except it looks even cheaper. Truly this is a magical season.
That whole thing went down in the year 1005, and the movie takes place in 2005, so Santa’s back to his wacky waste-laying ways. Two rotten kids who swear a lot are blown up by their gifts, and I’m more offended by the fact that Steiman confuses random, meaningless vulgarity for comedy like he’s the Nostalgia Critic than by the fact that two young children got their heads blown off.
|HERE COME THE IRISH|
Nick visits a convenience store headed by that huge cross-eyed guy from Friday (glad to see he’s still getting work), and overhears on the radio that some bad shit’s going down at his place of employment. He rushes over and sees Mr. Green has been killed by a Menorah. Nick opens up that stupid mini manila folder and the Parker Brothers tell him that Santa did it – in the butcher’s shop – with the menorah, and he goes down to the police station to tell them all about it. KINDA REALLY HOPING GOLDBERG SHOWS UP AGAIN.
Sometimes (especially toward the beginning) the jokes in this movie are really bad – but for the most part you can tell they’re putting forth their best effort, and I really appreciate it. Unfortunately, the nadir of the movie occurs when there’s an Officer Caulk and an Officer Bush and there’s this juvenile back and forth about them that’s really forced. I’m kinda in a weird place now as I realize there are missed opportunities to make this movie worse – the effects are better than you’d expect for a movie with this premise – and there are missed opportunities to make this movie better, like tightening up the writing. This could have gone from a pretty decent bad movie to a fantastic bad movie. Actually, that’s not even fair. By this point in the film, I’m wondering whether it could be like Big Trouble in Little China, which people call a “great bad movie” when what they really mean is it’s a “great movie”. As it stands, the cops don’t believe Nick, he leaves with his girlfriend (still feels weird saying that) and Santa comes in to kill everyone in the station. I’m back in my happy place.
Santa follows them in a police car, and there’s a genuinely amusing back and forth between Mac and Nick about how to load and utilize a shotgun. Nick shoots Santa right in the breadbasket, but he lives (!) and they make their getaway to Casa del Yuleson, taking great care to unlock all three of those locks on the door and escape to Doc Bro- I mean Grandpa’s secret underground bunker. Santa finds them anyway, kicks down the door (so those three locks that they went through painstaking detail to show us twice were completely worthless) and kills Grandpa with his “helldeer” (man-eating buffalo) as Nick and Mac are forced to make their escape on a snowmobile. The whole idea of two teenagers speeding through the forest on a snowmobile while Goldberg as Santa Claus flies overhead throwing presents like grenades sounds good on paper – and also looks good on film.
The two teens decide to hide in their high school, with Santa constantly in pursuit. Santa’s lines are getting funnier and funnier – the holiday puns are actually fantastic – and it turns out he can literally spit fireballs. Why did I ever doubt you, Spieman? They decide to try to run out the clock, as when it hits 7:00 p.m., Christmas will officially be over in Greenwich, and he’ll stop killing for a year. They’re basically counting on Santa taking lessons in clock management from Andy Reid. As the kids hide out in a library, I begin to realize that this is not a scary movie. In fact, I think they knew that when they were making it. It doesn’t even appear to be a horror movie. To be fair, Santa’s Slay is billed as a black comedy (despite the distinct absence of Tyler Perry), and that looks far more likely than anyone being scared by this movie. I’m sure that some people might be scared by the (at times) gory deaths, and the “suspense” – for example, when the teens run into the school’s ice rink (how rich is this school?) and almost get killed by a Zamboni – but a) you know nothing’s going to happen to these kids, because that’s not how these movies work, and b) the gore really isn’t that shocking in 2015. As such, the movie has to rely on its humor, and that actually is enough to keep the movie afloat.
Santa explains that “most people make the same mistake. The correct time at the pole is completely discretionary, because the poles are where all the time zones actually converge.” Basically, “Christmas is over when [he] say[s] it’s over.” God I love this movie. Luckily, it turns out Grandpa’s not dead, he was just the original archangel from back in 1005. What does that have to do with his stupid inventions and bomb shelter? Nothing. He challenges Santa to another curling match (trying to go double or nothing, I presume), appears to lose (get your head in the game, Gramps!) but Santa still somehow loses because each of their stones ends up in a portal to hell. I’m not exactly Kevin Martin over here, so I’m not sure how the rules work.
So Santa’s vulnerable now, but that’s not going to stop him. He goes into the township and kills some more before attempting to make his getaway in the air.
Santa gets shot with a bazooka.
I feel like that deserves its own paragraph as well. Pastor Timmons is found dead wearing a Santa outfit, so he shoulders all the blame. Our two leads share this magical exchange:
Mac: “You hit like a girl!”
Nick: “Well you kiss like a guy!”
I laugh hysterically, and it turns out that Santa’s alive and well in Winnipeg, hoping to fly home to the North Pole. Then there’s this really weird scene where it shows each character from the movie, but it doesn’t superimpose the names of the actors or the names of the characters. It doesn’t make a lick of sense.
This is the movie Sharknado should have been: a ridiculous premise with a ridiculous title that balances great humor and action with a mediocre story. For all the flack this movie gets that there’s not enough Goldberg (to be fair, I say that about every movie I see), he actually gets a fair amount of screentime, and you pay attention whenever you see him. In fact, Sharknado is really the movie with a lame bullshit story that takes up way too much time. It’s kinda dull at first, and the poor writing doesn’t help very much, but it maintained my interest enough that I wanted to see the main character live (despite the fact that he’s an asshole), but I wasn’t biting my nails over his every decision. That’s a pretty tough balance to keep. I haven’t seen very many Christmas killer movies, but I do know that this is probably the best one ever made. I don’t know if I can recommend it as a Christmas movie per se, but I know it’s better than Holiday Inn. At least there wasn’t a blackface scene in this movie. Sorry Marjorie Reynolds, people don’t forget.
|Happy holidays. More to come if I don’t get fired.|