|Directed by||Lewis Jackson|
|Produced by||Burt Kleiner
|Written by||Lewis Jackson|
|Music by||Joel Harris
|Edited by||Linda Leeds
Edward R. Pressman Film
|Distributed by||Pan American Pictures|
Christmas Evil (also known as You Better Watch Out and Terror in Toyland) is a 1980 slasher film, directed by Lewis Jackson and starring Brandon Maggart. It is considered an obscure film but has gained a cult following which includes film director John Waters.
It was originally released as You Better Watch Out. Though lesser known, it predates the horror film Silent Night, Deadly Night, in which a deranged man goes on a murderous rampage dressed in Santa Claus clothing.
Suburban New Jersey, Christmas Eve - 1947: Harry catches his mother being sexually groped by his father, who is dressed up as Santa. Heartbroken, the child then rushes up to the attic and cuts his hand with a shard of glass from a shattered snow globe.
Fast-forward to thirty-three years later, the year is 1980, an adult Harry (Brandon Maggart) now works in "a lousy position" at the Jolly Dreams toy factory. At home, he has taken it upon himself to become the next true Santa; he sleeps in costume, and his apartment is resplendent with Christmas toys and décor. From the roof of his building, he uses binoculars to spy on neighborhood children to see if they have been 'bad or good' (two children are doing household chores and playing with their doll, the third child, Moss Garcia, is shown rifling through a Penthouse magazine and cutting out a nude photograph). Harry runs back home and writes Moss' name in his "Bad Boys & Girls" book.
On his way home, Harry peeps into the window of a local bar and sees coworker Frank Stoller, whom earlier that day had phoned-in sick and Harry had relieved on the assembly line. Harry becomes angry and rushes home, hums a Christmas tune, and breaks one of his male dollhouse figures.
The following morning Harry phones his younger brother Phil (Jeffrey DeMunn) and cancels Thanksgiving dinner.
The Company Christmas party is in full swing. Harry watches the owner of Jolly Dreams making a televised announcement that, if production increases sufficiently, the company will be able to donate toys to the disadvantaged children at Willowy Springs State Hospital. Just then, Harry is greeted by coworkers Ben, who thanks him for taking Frank's place at the warehouse, and Frank, who introduces him to newcomer-employee George.
At home, Harry realizes that people generally consider him a "schmuck" and is constantly exploited by others. He then has a nervous breakdown, and he is now convinced that he truly is Santa Claus. Down in his basement workshop, he begins smelting toy soldiers (with swords at attention) and small axes.
Alone after-hours, Harry gets a brilliant idea. He steals company toys, wraps them, loads them into his van, and later drops them off at the hospital. He then leaves a bagful of dirt at bad-boy Moss Garcia's doorstep, and thereafter murders three parishioners who happen to taunt him at the bottom steps of a nearby church. Coincidentally, Frank and George are also attending the midnight mass, and witness "Santa's" bloody crime, the hatchet murders of the young bullying preppies.
Later that evening Harry manages to invade two family's homes for different reasons. After sneaking into Phil's home, he destroys his nephews' Jolly Dreams gifts, and delivers the newly minted soldiers, as well as toys from his own workshop. At the Stoller home, he sneaks in through their basement, delivers the kids' toys, murders Frank in bed, and escapes in his van.
Christmas morning, Phil begins to suspect something is seriously wrong with his brother and argues with his wife Jackie. Their children are preoccupied with watching a television program and do not seem to mind playing with their damaged and sub-par toys.
At the closed warehouse, Harry gains entrance and activates the assembly lines, breaking even-more toys in the process. That night he drives off, and his van becomes stuck in a beautifully decorated street with plenty of lights, sending him further into a delusional state. By now his costume is dirty and dishevelled. He eventually finds himself on the wrong side of his brother's neighborhood, and a torch-bearing mob pursues him. Nevertheless, he manages to drive his van out of the sludge and arrives at his brother's house.
Phil quickly realizes that his brother is the homicidal Santa he has heard announced on the news and proceeds to choke him unconscious. He loads him into the front seat of the van, whereupon Harry comes-to, cold-cocks him, and again drives off. During his escape, the oncoming mob forces him and his van off a bridge. The van then is shown to fly off towards the moon as a voice over reads the end of "Twas the Night Before Christmas."
- Brandon Maggart as Harry Stadling
- Jeffrey DeMunn as Philip Stadling
- Dianne Hull as Jackie Stadling
- Andy Fenwick as Dennis Stadling
- Brian Neville as Marc Stadling
- Joe Jamrog as Frank Stoller
- Peter Neuman as Moss Garcia
- Lance Holcomb as Scotty Goodrich
- Elizabeth Ridge as Susie Lovett
- Chris Browning as Richie Sharp
- Tyrone Holmes as Frankie
- Patricia Richardson as Mrs. Garcia
- Wally Moran as Young Philip Stadling
- Gus Salud as Young Harry Stadling
- Ellen McElduff as Mrs. Stadling
- Brian Hartigan as Mr. Stadling
In December 2006, Synapse Films released a special edition DVD of Christmas Evil. It features audio commentary from the director and cult filmmaker John Waters, who is quoted as saying it is the "greatest Christmas movie ever made."
The film had previously been released by Troma in December 2000.
As of December 2014, a Blu-Ray copy of "Christmas Evil" has been released now restored to 4K quality.