Santa’s Slay (2005)

Starring Bill Goldberg, Emilie de Ravin, Douglas Smith, Robert Culp, Dave Thomas, Saul Rubinek

Written & Directed by David Steiman

The opening, pre-title sequence of Santa’s Slay pretty much sets the tone for everything to come. You have some recognizable actors (James Caan, Fran Drescher, Chris Kattan, Rebecca Gayheart) reciting bad sitcom one-liners until evil Santa suddenly bursts in and proceeds to kill them in ways that barely register as mildly amusing. It’s a completely random sequence that serves no purpose to the plot. By the halfway point of the movie it had become abundantly clear that while writer-director David Steiman may have come up with an amusing idea for a Christmas-themed horror comedy, he had absolutely no clue what to do with it. As a comedy it isn’t funny. As a horror movie it isn’t scary. As a slasher movie it really doesn’t have any decent kills. It isn’t even good at being bad. No wonder this film sat on a shelf gathering dust for the past two years, it’s nothing more than a whole lot of humbug.

I really wanted to like Santa’s Slay, I really did. But the film is just flat out lame. Santa is the son of Satan who was challenged to a game of curling by an angel disguised as a human with the condition being that if Santa lost he would have to spend the next thousand years spreading joy throughout the world on the day that we would come to know as Christmas. Now the thousand years is up and Santa arrives in the quaint snowy community inexplicably named Hell Township on Christmas to raise some hell and settle and old score. Goofy as it may be, that premise holds plenty of camp potential. Unfortunately, outside of that basic premise, the novelty casting of 6’6″, 280 lbs ex-wrestler Bill Goldberg as Santa, and the winter sport of curling being used to settle biblical wagers, there really isn’t much more imagination to the story. Great concept but, boy, is it squandered badly.

Nothing characters are introduced just long enough for Santa to show up and murder them in ways that aren’t particularly gruesome or comical or even creative. This is all really just filler while teenage Nicholas Yuleson engages in dimwitted banter with his crazy inventor Grandpa who doesn’t like celebrating Christmas because he knows the real truth behind Santa’s origins. In between invention exchanges unworthy of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” and stuff involving an ancient tome Grandpa possesses that explains the film’s backstory, boring Nicholas also has to deal with his boring girlfriend Mary, played by “Lost” star Emilie de Ravin, who probably wishes this movie had been lost on a tropical island.

Most of the scenes involving Nicholas, Grandpa, and Mary tend to feel like pointless filler being used in between the seemingly random scenes of Santa’s rampage that also comes across as pointless filler. It’s like there’re two separate interconnecting story arcs going on that are waiting for the other to start going somewhere so that they can interconnect. The plot doesn’t progress at all until the third act and by then it’s long past too late.

All this randomness might have been tolerable if what was happening had been either scary or witty. Most of the film’s humor has about as much wit as a Trix cereal commercial. “Who’s your daddy? Father Christmas,” is a sample of the kind of dialogue Santa utters when stalking Nicholas and Mary. Even the bloopers and outtakes shown during the closing credits are so unfunny you have to wonder why they even bothered including them.

The writing and direction is so sloppy and amateurish here it’s hard to imagine that Santa’s Slay was ever at any time being considered for a theatrical release. In addition to all the other problems I’ve listed, the whole look of the film has a made-for-CBS telefilm quality to it too.

This evil Santa isn’t even a good villain. Sure, he looks like a hulking, Viking-like Santa Claus and he gets around in a rocket-powered sleigh lead by his Hell Deer named Berserker (actually a gray buffalo), but his actions consist of little more than growling out some one-liners that put a witless twist on some familiar Christmas rhymes before murdering people in an unmemorable fashion. A Jewish man getting impaled with a Menorah is about as imaginative as it gets. That’s really pathetic when you consider that even the Leprechaun and Jack Frost films have managed to come up with some creative death scenes. The concept of an evil Santa on a reign of terror can’t help but bring to mind the “Futurama” Xmas episodes dealing with the evil robot Santa, which did the concept a billion times better.

The film’s best scene is an animated recounting of the backstory that’s animated in the same style as “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” and other classic Rankin-Bass Christmas. There’s also one other brief moment of imagination when Nicholas and Mary on a snowmobile are being chased by Santa flying in his sleigh while hurling exploding Christmas presents at them. If nothing else, at least that chase scene provides a few lively moments amid the rest of the film’s dead zone. I still couldn’t help but think those two scenes still weren’t nearly as good as they could have been with some better writing.

And worst of all, Santa’s Slay cheats you out of an ending. There is no resolution to the story. It just abruptly ends without Santa having been dealt with. In lieu of an actual conclusion we get a tacked on Animal House-style wrap-up telling us what’s become of the remaining characters. It’s painfully obvious that this was tacked on only just recently since Santa’s Slay was filmed two years ago and the on-screen text informing us of the fate of Emilie de Ravin’s character refers to her getting “lost.” Groan.

The very last frame of the closing credits informs us that Santa’s Slay was produced “with the participation of The Canadian Film or Video Production Services Tax Credit.” And to think people rag on Uwe Boll and his German tax loopholes.

Santa’s Slay only deserves a rating of one Blood Mug but since he does kill Chris Kattan in the movie I’m going to give it an extra half a Blood Mug because any film where Chris Kattan dies a violent death gets extra points in my book regardless of how lame it truly is.

1 ½ out of 5

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Jon Condit

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