Title: Don’t Open Till ChristmasDirector: Edmund Purdom
Starring: Edmund Purdom, Alan Lake, Belinda Mayne, Gerry Sundquist, Mark Jones, Kelly Baker, Caroline Munro, Kevin Lloyd, Pat Astley, Wendy Danvers
Plot: A serial killer is targeting anyone dressed as Santa in London, leaving Chief Inspector Harris (Purdom) to try and track down the killer while seemingly being taunted and offered clues by the mysterious reporter Giles (Lake)
Review: For some reason when I think of British horror my mind for some reason always seems to go images of gothic castles and period set horror, no doubt thanks to the films of the legendry “Hammer Films”. As such it’s kind of refreshing to find a London set Festive slasher while also another of those titles eclipsed by the “Silent Night Deadly Night” franchise.
Opening to a POV killing being carried out by the killer, this is a film which really wastes little time getting started as even in the opening credits we have harm coming to a Santa….okay it’s a doll which is set on fire and slowly melts while the opening credits roll, but from here its back to more Santa slaying fun, while teasing the idea that the whole film is shot from a killers POV, which sadly it isn’t but atleast director Purdom makes up for it by having another cool kill, this time seeing the Santa being killed via a well-aimed spear while worse still in front of his daughter Kate (Mayne) and whose boyfriend Cliff is soon being suspected of the killings due to seemingly always being in the same place as the murders.
A pretty sleazy offering which might come from some expecting something more classy from a British production, but this film has a real “Christmas Evil” style of sleaze to it as the cobblestone streets and tourists spots are traded for shots of Soho and peep shows, even the first Christmas tree which see is a pathetic stick with a few decorations hung off it which even Charlie Brown would have been embarrassed by. Its off course only the more surprising that the film is as sleazy as it is with Purdom only agreeing to star in this film if he could direct aswell, so the fact that the film turned out the way it did when he had this level of control is pretty surprising.
Where it seems his focus was though for this film though was in finding ever unique ways to kill Santa’s which he really racks up quite the bodycount doing so as they are slashed, stabbed, set on fire and one even has his penis slashed while using the urinal which comes seemingly out of nowhere. There is also an impressive electrocution which is far more spectacular than any previous time I’ve seen this death on screen and next to the roasted Santa makes for a real standout moment for the film. Overall the gore is pretty light with the occasional splatter of blood, but none of the kills feel any less effective for holding back on the splatter.
Where the film really comes apart is with the actual tracking of the killer with Chief Inspector Harris bumbling his way through the case while never seemingly managing to get any kind of a solid leads, with his only ones often coming from the suspicious reporter Giles while the killer himself only taunts Harris further by sending him a wrapped gift with the titular "Don’t Open Till Christmas” message on the label. Elsewhere we get further bumbling from Kate and Cliff which isn’t as focused on the killer either as you’d expect with Kate’s father being killed as I mentioned already and Cliff being a prime suspect. Instead the pair hang outside a tube station busking and Cliff even tries to con Kate into doing porn, when he takes her to his friends porn studio and is essentially just an excuse for Pat Astley to show her boobs which I guess for fans of her work in porn and sex comedies was nothing new and seeing how long this scene is dragged out, with her often being barely covered by a little Santa cape while her being threatened with a straight edge razor brought to mind memories of the equally sleazy “New York Ripper”.
So what inspires someone to go on a Santa killing spree? Well once more its down to Santa being caught in a less than traditional position as like “Christmas Evil” its catching Santa having sex, in this case the killers father cheating on his mother and in full Santa gear no less, before bizzarly acting like he was wrong and knocking his wife down the stairs in a strange little flashback which also sees a child being given a switchblade for Christmas! True this might seem like a spoiler, but its clumsily tacked on the end similar to “Silent Night” almost as if Purdom suddenly realised that he’d spent too much time killing Santa’s and not actually spending any time explaining why the killer is doing what he’s doing.
No doubt I would be rating this movie higher if the last hour didn’t seem like such a mess with various plot threads suddenly being tied up so suddenly that it ends up coming off more than alittle confused, much like the killer suddenly choosing to add kidnapping to his list as he randomly abducts the stripper we see at the peep show earlier who he plans to sacrifice despite her not wearing anything Santa related or even remotely christmasy either.
While this might have its flaws its still enjoyable for the majority of the runtime to make it worth checking out, especially when it currently seems to be overlooked like the superior Christmas Evil. At the same time its London setting is a refreshing change and no doubt what made this film work more than had it been just another American slasher. Still for those of you who like your Santa slashers this is one certainly worth hunting down, even if it is not without its flaws.