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December 21, 2013

Movie Review: Santa Claws (1996)

It’s Day 4 in the David Hayes 12 Days of Christmas Crap Review-a-Palooza and I think I’ve really hurt myself this time. Oh the humanity!
On the fourth day of Christmas, the Head Cheese gave to me… four migraine headaches (on top of one another).
What in the hell happened to John Russo? I mean, this guy was a legend. Screenwriter for Night of the Living Dead, novelist and screenwriter for Return of the Living Dead, The Booby Hatch… even shlock like The Majorettes is fun, but something happened. I think it was the 1990 remake of NOTLD (directed by Tom Savini). I think that broke John Russo like a twig. In all fairness, it broke most everyone that watched it like a twig.
It must get tough for John around the holidays, you know? People are happy and sharing good will. John tries to keep up, a smile plastered across his face, until he gets home. He probably sits in the dark, alone, trying not to think about the huge budgets and fanbase that George Romero has… for co-writing the same movie that launched an international, high-paying career as a director. John tries not to dwell on the holiday feast that George is sharing with the large and loving Romero family while he is bending back the top of a cat food can. But then inspiration can hit! After all, it’s 1996 and he knows someone with a video camera (that someone being long-time collaborator Bill Hinzman who most people know as the first zombie in NOTLD… from 1968). John knows the holidays are upon them and everyone loves a Christmas-themed horror movie. Turning to an ancient typewriter, John feels the burn of creation once more as he single-finger taps out the title of his newest epic, the one to launch him so far beyond George Romero that Georgie’s going to have to get double Coke-bottle lenses to see John now. Click, click, click and the world is changed forever. Well, at least my world.  John Russo just typed Santa Claws.
Buy Santa Claws on DVD!
There is so little to this film’s plot that it almost reads like I’m doing a book report from a comic, but here goes. A young man finds his mother having sex with a man in a Santa Claus hat and shoots them dead. Years later, all grown up, the man stalks and obsesses over adult film actress Raven (Debbie Rochon) and eventually kills all four of her friends/acquaintances/co-workers dressed as Santa. I know, right? Sounds a little like Pieces meets a Lifetime Movie. There are exactly two high points in this film and those are Debbie Rochon’s breasts (there are other ‘performers’ in various states of undress as well). Other than that, nothing happens, creepy Santa guy stalks, Raven attempts to shoot her latest big budget fiasco, cleverly titled, Scream Queen’s Naked Christmas… let me take a break here. We are supposed to believe that Raven is the best in the world and that her films make tons and tons of money. When we see them shoot her films, though, it looks like a snuff movie set except without the meth. This was, obviously, shot quickly and in whatever space was available. It looked more like a three day weekend with some creepy older guys and a video camera than an actual movie shoot… which I guess was the look that Hinzman and Russo were going for? If someone had asked me to describe the Christmas horror film that middle-aged perverts would make, I probably would have detailed the finery that is Santa Claws.

It gets better, though. Apparently not satisfied with simply making one of the worst films I’ve ever seen, Russo did one better. He pulled together the outtakes and additional nudie footage from Santa Claws and actually created Scream Queen’s Naked Christmas. No longer is it the stuff of myth and legend. No longer is the film merely a joke title in a bad slasher flick… it’s real. Dear God, it’s real. It’s also awful, but did you expect anything less? Hosted by the failed comedian/actor that played Santa Claws, this film is just another layer of fecal frosting on a Santa Claws gingerbread outhouse.
Rumor has it that Russo is getting back into the family business and is slated to write and direct Escape of the Living Dead for a 2011 release. Who knows, it may be good. Then again…

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