Santa's Slay

Certificate: 15
Running time: 78 mins
Director: David Steiman
Starring:  Bill Goldberg, Robert Culp, Emilie de Ravin, Douglas Smith, Dave Thomas
Genre: Horror/Comedy
Format: DVD
Country: USA/Canada

It’s Christmas time and so begins the festive film onslaught with a difference.  First up is Santa’s Slay starring former WCW wrestler Bill Goldberg.  It’s Christmas 2000 and a one thousand year wager has come to an end unleashing a terror unlike any other.

Santa’s Slay works off a pseudo pagan history of Christmas that states during the course of human history there have been two immaculate conceptions.  The first being that of Mary and the birth of Jesus to the Holy Father, the second was the son of Satan…his name is Santa (Goldberg).  Santa laid waste to humanity every December 25th until 1000 AD where he lost a bet with a Guardian Angel and was forced to spend the next millennium being the Santa Claus we all know and love.  Now he’s back to his old ways and the sleepy town of Hell is now under siege by the King of the naughty list.

There’s plenty of room for the Christmas horror crossover genre, which will be elaborated on closer to the big day, and the smart thing to do with these narratives is to ground it in some form of understanding that our Christian holiday has been co-opted from the pagan calendar.  This is not a well kept secret and gives the films involved a genuine weight of logic.  Though they’ve eluded to a semblance of pagan bastardisation it’s rather simplistic.  The narrative's legend seems to rely on the fact that Santa is an anagram of Satan, something I’m sure has blown the mind of all involved when it was pointed out to them (probably by an 8 year old).  The film starts off promisingly enough, it’s Christmas eve and the broadly drawn obnoxious family you love to hate (containing James Caan, Fran Drescher, Rebecca Gayheart and Chris Kattan) are sitting down to dinner they despise being at with people they don’t like but prefer to poor people.  Enter Santa and a orgy of violence that leads to the death of all, Drescher and Caan being especially enjoyable.  This is, however, the high point of the film as it descends into little more than a succession of predictably choreographed wrestling sequences that when you imagine them you think can never tire…but they can…they do.

Goldberg (as Santa) is terrible, his delivery is somewhere between a low budget pornstar who's used to working out of the back of a GMC van and Animal Planet as he chews up and spits out every line of dialogue in the most unbelievable monotone way imaginable.  Physically he flexes and shuffles in and out of scenes and is awkward.  Julianne Moore playing a pornstar in Boogie Nights delivers a masterclass on how to play physically awkward on camera, she is intentional, Goldberg just doesn’t know how to occupy his limbs when he’s not throwing people through things.  It’s probably the worst acting performance by a lead in years by someone that isn't Paul Walker.  Robert Culp (as Grandpa) is a surprise piece of casting but worthwhile.  He’s a quality actor with many years of high calibre performances behind him (The Greatest American Hero, The Great Scout & Cathouse Thursday) and there are moments in Santa’s Slay in which he manages to transform the sub par writing into something much greater.  In his hands there are moments of genuine humour, heartache and emotion.  It’s his timing, he has the most amazing timing and his relationship with Nicolas (Douglas Smith) and Mac (Emilia de Ravin) is great and beautifully dysfunctional.  Both Nicolas and Emilia have genuine talent but they are absolutely wasted in this.  The film was obviously filmed before she got the role of Claire in Lost and she was probably more than happy for it not to see the light of day.  Dave Thomas (as Pastor Timmons) like Culp is a real coup with regards to casting but is given nothing to do.

The soundtrack had the potential to be great, the logic is so simple, rock versions of Christmas tracks and in the beginning it works really well but the longer the film goes on the less appeal it has.  With each change of scene from peaceful scenic Christmas to blood filled gore comes an abrupt break into “jingle rock” that slowly but surely begins to grate on the audience and does little to add to the production value of the film.

The problem with the film is it’s overly simplistic take on everything, the script has one draft worth of writing in it, each plot point is clearly marked for greater importance later in the film, the cinematography lacks any real depth and the central casting is woeful.  Bill Goldberg was a good wrestler in WCW, when it came to step up into the WWE he was clearly outclassed and pushed to the sidelines.  This is a perfect example of whatever acting career he is considering.  You have Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson who has range, more than one tone and if his performance next year as Charley Pride is as good as it promises to be maybe even a couple of important awards, then you have Bill Goldberg who’s out of his depth in the simplest of movies.  Director Steiman worked alongside Brett Ratner (as his assistant) on several films, he has clearly paid little to no attention on how to make a movie.  It’s a real shame as the Santa Slasher is a genre that has room for real growth…Santa’s Slay is like eating a poorly prepared Christmas dinner, not recommended and will leave you feeling empty.


Ty said...

Good review! Loved the beginning, wished it kept up that energy throughout.

John Baxter said...

Cheers man, yeah it had such promise and enjoyment in the beginning. True shame

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