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Don’t Open Till Christmas is an unfairly forgotten entry into the small Christmas horror subgenre. You could almost say that it gets a bad wrap.

The plot is pretty simple, like most slashers. Someone is going around London, giddy London, killing guys in Santa costumes. But not the real Santa, of course. Just the guys who dress up as him, the ones my mama used to call his helpers. Obviously the real Santa is too busy to hang out at the mall, plus he’s magic. (I add this caveat in case there are any little kids reading this). So anyway, some guy is running around killing Santa’s helpers in Santa suits, and he’s pretty nasty about it. He’s definitely going to get a lump of coal in his stocking and a bundle of switches, if he lives until Christmas.

While nobody could say this is a great movie, it does get major points from me for its originality. First of all, I had a hard time figuring out who the killer was right up until the end, partly because there’s no cliched opening sequence showing us why the killer is offing people who resemble someone who once wronged him. It comes towards the end of the film, so it’s much less formulaic. Also making my couchside sleuthing more challenging is the fact that there are as many red herrings as there are red suits. It might be Inspector Harris (Edmund Purdom, aka the killer from Pieces). It could be the first victim’s daughter, Kate (Belinda Mayne). Other suspects include the reporter, Giles (Alan Lake), Kate’s boyfriend Cliff (Gerry Sundquist), his sleazy pornographer friend, the inspector’s housekeeper, and several weird cops who aren’t very good at their jobs.

What probably appealed most to me in terms of plot originality is that for once the killer wasn’t targeting young attractive women with normal sexual appetites. It’s not that I prefer to see men getting killed, and I remind you that slashers aren’t even my favorite genre by far as I’d rather see some supernatural action than human-on-human violence, but the misogyny inherent in the slasher idiom does tend to wear on me after a while. Two of the women who escape the killer could even be described as sex workers, one of whom comes off as rather slutty (not that there’s anything wrong with that). The concept of the final girl is even twisted a bit here, as you’re not sure who she’s going to be until late in the picture.

Obviously, since I found Don’t Open Till Christmas on a Mill Creek 50 pack, it has some problems. Edmund Purdom was originally the director as well as the star, and if I’ve learned anything from my odyssey through the world of this blog it is that problems at the helm almost always equal a flop. In fact, the writer, Derek Ford, took over for two days before being fired, and then the picture was finished by Ray Selfe. There were also re-writes and re-shoots. It’s pretty much a Frankenmovie, technically, although I’ve seen so much worse when it comes to Frankenmovies. There was a plot hole that bothered me involving an insane asylum visitor, but complaining about plot holes in a B-movie is like complaining that it’s hot while you’re on your tropical vacation.

I also have to admit that there are a few long stretches where not much happens. But dang it, I enjoyed the movie anyway. The parts where things do happen are appropriately audacious, because, as you know, anything can happen in Bad Movie Land. It’s a grimy, scrappy little picture. You can’t forget what happens to the mall Santa, or the stalking scene in the London Dungeon. And who doesn’t enjoy British accents? The only way I could have liked this movie any more is if Jack Taylor had showed up.

P.S. If you see a DVD of this that gives the gorgeous genre favorite Caroline Munro top billing, don’t be fooled, because she is only in one scene, playing herself. She does sing a song, though. You can see her scene here:

P.P.S. You may be able to watch this in its entirety on a certain wildly popular site where people sometimes upload videos.

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