I’m not that big in to Christmas. I think once you get past a certain age, it becomes more of a pain in the ass than anything else. I have always thought there has been an incredibly forced sappy sentimentality associated with the holiday that you see in commercials for SUVs with giant red ribbons on them and ugly ass jewelry you probably can’t afford. I guess I’ve become cynical in my tail end of young age. However, one thing that myself and all of the other weirdos here in the graveyard can all agree upon is that we LOVE the fact that there are so many weird and wonderful Christmas themed horror movies out there. When thinking of a Christmas movie to talk about for this blog, a few thoughts rattled around in my head. After flip flopping a few times, I finally decided that I would talk about a movie that, in addition to being full of Christmassy goodness, just might be the worst movie I’ve ever seen. That’s right. Let that sink in for a minute. Worst… Movie… Ever… So let’s dive right in to John Russo’s creepy ode to the holiday season and weird fake tits, Santa Claws.
Yeah. John Russo… as in Night of the Living Dead co-writer John Russo. I only bring it up here because Russo has been coasting on that one legit credit for over 40 years now. Before we start slobbering all over him for his role in creating a genre defining classic, let’s also remember that he is also the man responsible for the cinematic abortion that is the 30th Anniversary Edition of Night of the Living Dead. If you don’t know about that particular cut, look it up. It is potentially infuriating depending on how seriously you take stupid shit like that. An assumption can be made based on his work since NotLD that Romero was really the one who did most of the heavy lifting in the script process. At the very least, he put a damper on some of the more bizarrely bad ideas that Russo had. But by the time 1996 rolled around, Russo was working on his own, making borderline softcore porn Christmas slashers, and Romero was making great films like Bruiser. Well, he made Bruiser…. Bruiser was LOLBAD, you guys. I’m pretty sure Romero is a fraud who is also coasting on the 2 or 3 good movies he made decades ago. But that is a debate for another day. We’re here to talk about Santa Claws.
So, Santa Claws is the tale of a horror starlet/sexy topless pinup named Raven Quinn (played by Debbie Rochon), and her biggest fan Wayne (Grant Cramer), a delusional weirdo who has trouble telling fact from fantasy. As Wayne’s fantasy of Raven begins to erode the more entangled he becomes in her life, he acts increasingly violent, leading to a murder spree based off of one of her slasher movies. Ok, I just made that sound way better than this actually is. And maybe that’s why this movie is so frustrating? Like, there are definitely seeds of good ideas in the basic story. I think the story of an obsessed fan, while it has been done before, is one of those legit real world fears that is even more relevant now almost 20 years later with the rise of the internet. But while that is the basic plot of the movie, it really isn’t what it is about. It’s really about boobs.
Ok, let me explain… Or at least try to. Around the same time of this movie, Russo was also involved in running a magazine called Scream Queens Illustrated, which from what I can tell, was pretty much Playboy for horror geeks. I mean, that actually seems like a good idea, and the late 80’s/early 90’s were certainly full of actresses who achieved a decent amount of fame whipping their boobs out in low budget horror flicks. I guess this magazine could be an earnest homage to a now forgotten era? Whatever. I don’t really have a problem with the magazine. The magazine is fine. So, in addition to the magazine, Russo also made a Christmas themed softcore video called Scream Queens’ Naked Christmas, which is fine. There’s a niche market for stuff like that. But here’s where things get a bit muddled. He shot Scream Queens’ Naked Christmas concurrently with Santa Claws, using cast members in both. He even made the production of Naked Christmas, along with the publishing of Scream Queens Illustrated the backdrop of the events in Santa Claws. So at it’s core, this horror movie is basically a commercial for a painfully tame softcore titty flick.
Now, I have not seen Scream Queens’ Naked Christmas. I don’t know if Santa Claws ties in to ITS production. But it seems like the FILM should be the priority over the niche porn that you’re making on the side. That doesn’t really seem to be the case here. This is basically a behind the scenes look at the making of Naked Christmas, while some idiotic man-child kills people in the background.
Ok, so it’s a crass excuse for cross promotion… So what? That moxie is admirable in a way. But the fact is, this is really the least of the movie’s problems. The performances are all disasters. Grant Cramer in particular is a mess. Since he is one of the leads, this is clearly a problem. I would describe his performance as creepy needy innocence, which is full of contradictions. You wonder why Raven would be friends with someone so obviously unstable. He’s sort of like Denny from The Room with a pony tail and beard, and more bizarre in his perversions.
Debbie Rochon is a little better, I guess… But I think she’s pretty awful as an actress. I mean, I guess she’s doing that whole self aware B Movie thing, but the problem with that is that no one else is hamming it up on the same level. Her acting style is definitely better suited for Troma type movies, where the broader the performance, the better.
It’s not just the leads who are bad. The supporting roles are just as embarrassing. Now, I know calling out supporting players in a B Movie on their acting chops is going after low hanging fruit, but you also have to understand that I am usually pretty forgiving in these performances. I wouldn’t even mention them if they weren’t next level cringeworthy. Special honors go to Raven’s in-laws, who owe a debt to the Russian waitress from Birdemic for putting a more oddly terrible performance out there in the universe. All in all, there isn’t one actor in this movie who is believable as a person from this planet.
Also, and this is kind of a nitpick, but if you are making a movie about porn, maybe cast ONE person who you might actually believe someone would be willing to see naked. Lots of those weird, impossibly round fake boobs, and those horribly unsexy high waisted thongs. I guess it was the mid 90s, and implant technology has come a long way in the last 20 years. The only reason I bring it up is because the same actresses who looked pretty awful in this, also starred in the Naked Christmas video.
Ok, Ok… so it has a greedy and slightly dubious purpose. No big deal, right? Most movies that get made are from less than creative places. And so what if the people in it can’t act? It’s a low budget movie? What do you expect? Also, who cares if the naked women they got to star in the porn and the behind the scenes/quasi-related film were less than hot? Does that really matter? Well, here’s the thing. Individually, all these things are bad, but combined… Combined, they are a cinematic punch to the balls. But I haven’t even talked about the WORST part of the movie yet. The movie is called Santa Claws… CLAWS! First of all, you know they had the title first, and worked backwards from there. A lame pun is never a good launchpad for a movie. If it was, my movie idea DuctApe, about a killer gorilla in a ventilation system, would have been made by now. Aside from that, he really only goes with the Santa gimmick at the very end of the movie. But the biggest flaw here is the “Claws” part. The word claw brings to mind some pretty visceral imagery. They could be bestial mutated appendages, or maybe pay homage to Freddy Kreuger and have some cool fucking finger knives. There’s a few legitimately scary images that this particular word conjures up. But instead, we get this…
Words cannot express just how lame this is. This is what takes it past the “so bad it’s good” territory into the “so bad it’s GO FUCK YOURSELF” territory. The sad thing is, that this isn’t even the least threatening garden tool used as a murder weapon I’ve discussed here. Again, Leaf Blower Massacre can fuck itself. Ok, there is one other thing about this that bothers me. He took the mask and the… claw, I guess… from the costume of the killer from one of Raven’s movies. So that means that in this universe where idiots use tiny garden tools as murder weapons, they also watch movies about idiots using tiny garden tools as murder weapons. And let’s talk about that mask. Wayne has 2 types of victims. People who have no idea who he is, and people who already know he’s the killer under the mask. So it really serves no purpose other than to create a need for some of the absolute worst ADR ever put to film. not as bad as the sad little claw, but still pretty damn stupid.
I’ve watched this movie 3 times now. I have no idea what it is. I mean, it fails as a movie and as a commercial for porn. It manages to do either effectively. Beyond that, I can’t find ANYTHING redeeming about this, and believe me, I looked. It’s poorly acted, poorly scripted, poorly cast, poorly shot, and the concept was poorly thought out. I can’t think of one thing in this that I enjoyed even on a “so bad it’s good level”. I wasn’t big on Christmas before, but now, I think I outright hate it. Every Christmas from here on out has the potential to trigger flashbacks of watching this movie, and the thought of that scares the everloving crap out of me. Merry Christmas, assholes… and you’re welcome.