Santa's Slay (January 6/06)
Even if Santa's Slay was a terrible movie - which it isn't, not really - it'd still be worth a look for its opening sequence, in which an evil Santa Claus (played by Bill Goldberg) systematically murders a squabbling upper-crust family (consisting of, among others, James Caan, Fran Drescher, and Chris Kattan). And though the rest of the film can't quite live up to that brilliant introduction, writer/director David Steiman does an effective job of infusing the proceedings with an appropriately lighthearted sensibility - ensuring that the movie never takes itself too seriously (with beefy wrestler Goldberg playing Kris Kringle, how could it, really?)
As we eventually learn, Santa Claus - Satan's son - is forced into spreading cheer and good will for 1000 years after losing a curling match to one of God's angels. The film, which takes place immediately following the 1000 years, follows Santa Claus as he arrives in the small town of Hell (yep, Hell) to wreak havoc on Christmas. Of particular interest to ol' Santa is young Nicholas Yuleson (Douglas Smith) and his eccentric grandfather (played by Robert Culp), for reasons that are revealed in the film's final act.
Writer/director David Steiman has clearly been influenced by Gremlins, judging by the dark tone, blacker-than-black humor, and the fact that one of the characters is an inventor. And though it goes without saying that Gremlins remains the superior film, Santa's Slay comes off as a surprisingly adept horror comedy (it is, not surprisingly, more comedic than horrific). Goldberg delivers an appropriately tongue-in-cheek performance, imbuing his Santa Claus with a nice balance of malevolence and sleaziness (ie after forcing his way into a strip joint, Santa exclaims, "hoes, hoes, hoes!")
But somewhere around the one-hour mark, the film begins to run out of steam and essentially transforms into one long chase sequence as Santa amps up his pursuit of Nicholas and his would-be girlfriend (played by Lost's Emilie De Ravin). Having said that, the conventional finale doesn't negatively impact the film to such an extent that it's not worth seeing; with its brisk pace and off-kilter sense of humor, Santa's Slay is a worthy addition to the Christmas horror subgenre (and is surely an improvement over certain other killer Santa-themed flicks, ie Silent Night, Deadly Night).