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Satan Claus (1996) Review

Yes, Christmas is over for another year. But the screener for Satan Claus didn’t arrive until the 26th. So rather than considering this a late review, I’m looking at it as getting an early start on next year’s holiday horrors.

A figure in a Santa suit (Robert Cummings not Cummins as IMDB says), is driving around while we see badly inserted footage of what we’ll later find out is New York City through the windshield. Elsewhere, a masked figure with a distorted voice is performing some kind of ritual. It’s really hard to tell exactly what they’re doing because they’re dressed all in black and this scene, like most of Satan Claus, is horribly under lit.

Eventually Santa, errr, Satan Claus pulls a hatchet out of his sack and decapitates a woman, not seeming to care about the screaming witness standing nearby. As it so happens, his victim happens to be the wife of Captain George Ardison (Barie Snider, People Like Me) of the NYPD. So the department, all three of them, Ardison, Lieutenant Lisa Red (Daisy Vel) and Sergeant Todd Miller (John Romanelli) pull out all the stops to find the culprit.

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Aspiring actor Steve (Robert Hector, The Vampire Project, Fear House) has a conversation with his voodoo practising (adoptive?) mother Maman (Lauretta Ali) before heading out to do charity work dressed as Santa. She warns him great evil is on the loose, as if that’s something unusual in NYC. She warns him great evil is on the loose, as if that’s something unusual in NYC.

She’s right though because shortly after Sandra (Jodie Rafty) and her boyfriend Jeff (Nick Van Eeden, Hellinger) stop to talk to Steve, Jeff becomes the Satan Claus’s second victim. And that is basically what we get for most of Satan Claus’ sixty-one minute running time. Our red suited slasher roams the streets killing random people and taunting the police. As he’s doing this, Steve and Lisa, who apparently are a couple, try to track him down.

With its short running time, Satan Claus could, and should have, been an enjoyably nasty holiday treat. Writer Simonetta Mostarda has a few neat ideas, like the killer hanging his victim’s body parts on a Christmas tree. Unfortunately, though, they also gave the film one of the most ridiculous endings in history. Not only is the explanation of what’s been happening jaw dropingly stupid, if you’ve been paying attention to the film, you’ll realize things couldn’t have happened as explained.

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Since this was Mostarda’s first, and only, credit, it’s not so surprising that Satan Claus’ script has issues. Director Massimiliano Cerchi (Mayday, The Penthouse) however should have known better. Under his own name, and as Alvaro Passeri he’d already directed a couple of films including the wonderfully messed up Plankton aka Creatures from the Abyss and worked behind the scenes on some other grindhouse favourites.

Here, though, his direction is flat, and the film just wanders from random kill to random kill. They’re mostly all exteriors, except for one where we follow the victim back to her apartment so she can shower and give the film some exploitable nudity. Steve’s run in with some vigilantes who look like they stepped out of a low budget Deliverance rip-off leads to one of the least convincing beatdowns I’ve ever seen. Honestly, it’s like he wasn’t even trying to do anything more than get an hour’s worth of footage, no matter how bad it looked.

There’s also the question of why he shot so many scenes with little or no lighting. Much of Satan Claus is dark to the point that it’s hard to tell what’s happening. Surprisingly, several of the scenes involving severed body parts are well lit. Unfortunately, that only makes it very clear they used mannequin parts rather than actual props. The severed head that goes atop the tree is outright laughable. Those were the scenes that should have been dark.

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I’m glad that TetroVideo is resurrecting older titles, even if, out of the ones I’ve seen, only Blood Massacre has aged well. I can also understand them wanting to give a fellow Italian’s film a boost. But why this one? Hunt up a copy of The Mummy Theme Park, which he filmed as Al Passeri. It’s batshit insane, and I don’t think it ever had a proper release.

Satan Clause is available from TetroVideo as a standard DVD and a limited edition. You can check their Facebook page for more details. I couldn’t find a trailer for this, but somebody did post the scene with the head on the Christmas tree I mentioned.

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