A Collection of Caliginous Choppings

Aural Fixations

Christmas Evil (1980)

The Twelve Slays of Christmas 2013

For the eleventh Slay of Christmas, this genre gave to me, sleigh-vans-a-flying, ten vids-a-streaming, Santa’s assassin, crazy dancing eyebrows, Santa vs. Zombies, the anti-Santa Nackles, BILL GOLDBERG!, four creepy songs, Tales from the Crypt, Santa’s demon Krampus, and a scream queen hanging free!

 

Christmas-Evil-Variety-Print-Ad-1982

Welcome back to the holiday horror list that I’ve been checking twice. Today’s pick is 1980’s Christmas Evil starring Brandon Maggart (note the misspelling in the print ad above) as the quintessential disturbed man in love with Christmas. Harry Stralding is a man with a fragile psyche. He’s been that way ever since Christmas Eve 1947 when he walked in on his mom and Santa Claus in the midst of some uncharacteristically festive activities. Although the film has established that Santa is just their father in costume (Harry disbelieves this when told by his younger brother Philip, later played by Jeffrey DeMunn), Harry’s glimpse of this encounter causes him to snap. He breaks a snowglobe and in a fit of rage uses it to cut a gash into his hand.

Years later, Harry is still a man with a rather fragile psyche. He works as a middle-manager of a toy factory, but feels dismayed when his coworkers don’t share his same admiration for the Christmas Spirit. Harry lives and breathes Santa Claus — his apartment is packed with red-and-white memorabilia, and he playfully gives himself a white shaving cream beard before shaving in the morning. This is all well and good, but his obsession has a much more sinister manifestation: he’s been spying on the children in his neighborhood. He’s been taking notes in his books of nice and naughty little boys and girls. Harry is pleased to see one boy taking out the garbage for his family, but another perusing a Penthouse magazine only takes Harry one step closer to the edge.

Where will his murderous rampage take him when he finally breaks and decides it is time to punish the bad people of the world? You’ll have to check out my guest appearance on The Phantom Erik‘s 100 Years of Horror podcast to find out!

The 100 Years of Horror is one of the finest horror film podcasts out their as Erik always thoroughly researches his films and covers each picture’s place in the history of the horror genre. Listen in as we discuss, not just the plot of Christmas Evil, but also how it relates to the battle between consumerism vs. traditionalism, what it says about the role of family and mental health issues, and where this film falls in the ranks of other holiday horrors such as Silent Night, Deadly Night, Santa’s Slay, and Santa vs. the Zombies (bleeeh . . .). We also manage to compare it to It’s a Wonderful Life, Psycho, and Maniac! Please have a listen to this excellent podcast by clicking HERE.

sleigh van flying

Christmas Evil, directed by Lewis Jackson, unfairly gets lumped into the slasher flick pantheon of the 1980s. Truthfully though, this is a character study of a man brought to (and past) his breaking point. This ain’t a body-count film, but it is a well-crafted picture portraying one man’s mental breakdown. Or, a closer inspection may reveal that Harry Stradling, vehemently clinging to the lovely essence of Christmas, is sane, while all of us, disregarding peace on earth and good will towards men, are the crazy ones.

Merry Christmas Eve! I’ll be back tomorrow for one last goodie, but until then, feast your eyes on these posters.

Terror in Toyland VHS Box christmas_evil_posterchristmas-evil-polishDamn, Polish is an absolutely terrifying looking language.

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Unbelief by Michael Marshall Smith

The Twelve Slays of Christmas 2013

For the ninth Slay of Christmas, this genre gave to me, Santa’s assassin, crazy dancing eyebrows, Santa vs. Zombies, the anti-Santa Nackles, BILL GOLDBERG!, four creepy songs, Tales from the Crypt, Santa’s demon Krampus, and a scream queen hanging free!

 

 

Welcome back to the list espouse all of the ho ho horror this holiday season. Today’s pick sees a return to the realm of audio fiction as the latest episode of Drabblecast contains a short story featuring Santa Claus squaring off against a hitman. In Michael Marshall Smith‘s Unbelief the naughtiest of acts is commissioned for a professional assassin. This self-proclaimed family man killer has been hired by a syndicate to off Jolly Old Saint Nick, but outside of the money, he says that it is personal. What is the horror he holds from his childhood that makes him despise Santa so? In a surprisingly tense story, this cold-hearted man struggles with what he claims to be the arbitrary moral codes upheld by the mythical Kris Kringle. In this story, he faces up to the true meaning of Christmas, and how his profession has left him cold and dead inside.

This is an excellent piece and quite a dark departure from the cheesy stuff elsewhere exhibited in this list. Drabblecast is a podcast that delivers strange stories, by strange authors, for strange listeners. If you’ve enjoyed the rest of the stuff in my list of X-mas Slays, then you’re sure to enjoy Drabblecast. Check out the latest episode by clicking HERE.

 

 

In addition to Michael Marshall Smith’s story, the host of Drabblecast, Norm Sherman, chats about the 13 trolls of Christmas, the Yule Lads of Icelandic lore. The Yule Lads are riffs of the traditional Santa Claus, but with much weirder names, such as Meat-Hook, Spoon-Licker, and Window Peeper. These guys don’t have the same demonic bent as Krampus, but they are definitely strange, as if you are a naughty child, then you’ll be left a rotten potato as a gift. In the Drabblecast, Mr. Sherman sings a familiar holiday tune with updated Yule Lad lyrics. It’s hilarious! So, if you’ll looking for a piece of darkness that is both grim and gelastic, check out the Drabblecast.

Until tomorrow, look out for rotten potatoes in your stockings!


Creepy Christmas Tunes

The Twelve Slays of Christmas 2013

 

For the fourth slay of Christmas, this genre gave to me, four creepy songs, an Amicus anthology, Santa’s Demon Krampus, and a scream queen hanging free!

 

 

There’s that familiar chill in the air. A fresh dusting of snow on the ground. Folks bundled up tightly on their shopping excursions. Children out in their yards building snowmen or forts. In the midst of it all, your axe-wielding author dashes to and fro in hopes of avoiding that one most dreaded yuletide custom. Christmas music! It is a terrifying assault on the senses, and too much of it can turn even the most cheerful and saintly among us into old, curmudgeonly Scrooges.

 

I’ll be honest, I haven’t reached that tipping point yet this holiday season, although I can only hear singing chipmunks a few times before I finally snap. In light of the holiday close approaching, I thought I’d dig up some X-mas tunes a little more weird than the mainstream fare, and decidedly less grating to boot. Although, like any aesthetic opinion, these are all subject to my personal peculiar tastes. (My all-time favorite holiday song is Tim Minchin’s “White Wine in the Sun,” that, although consummately secular, is neither dark nor especially weird.)

So, for my fourth slay of Christmas 2013, I present four songs to add to your Christmas playlists!

 

The first tune on the Pieces of Darkness Holiday Playlist is this haunting rendition of “Carol of the Bells” by Cast in Bronze.

 

 

 

“Carol of the Bells” is one of the least annoying traditional Christmas songs since it lacks lyrics. When played on a carillon — a giant set of bells weighing over four tons — it sounds especially chilling. An antiquated instrument, coupled with the musician — Frank DellaPenna — wearing a strange golden bird mask and dressed head to toe in black,  makes the tune downright eerie. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this character were to pop up in an Argento film, as this entire act is one scarred face away from turning into the Phantom of the Opera.

 

The second tune for tonight is “Sled Zepplin” by Bob Rivers. It is a Christmas parody of Led Zepplin’s “D’yer M’aker,” and although the song itself is not terribly dark, the mellow beat played over clips of crazy Santa Clauses is a thing of beauty.

If you’ve been following my previous Slays of Christmas, you’ll note that two of these Psychotic Santas have already been featured in the list. Crazy Billy from Silent Night, Deadly Night, and the old mental institution escapee from Tales from the Crypt have had their day in the low winter sun, but be on the look out for Harry Stadling in 1980’s Christmas Evil to pop up sometime before Christmas day!

 

Kate Bush’s “Misty” is the next song on our holiday playlist. On its own this song is sad and evocative, but with the claymation video depicting a fatal tryst between a woman and a snowman, it becomes especially creepy.

 

 

If compared to Wham’s “Last Christmas,” about a lover being completely over their ex who left them on December 26th, this song shows the flip-side of the coin: an unhealthily bitter jilted lover. Or maybe it is about the remorse one feels for killing their ex in a crime of passion during the holiday season. It can’t simply be a cautionary tale about what happens when a hot blooded woman has a steamy night of love with a snowman, can it?

 

The last song to add to your X-mas playlist is a perennial childhood favorite of mine — Weird Al Yankovic’s “The Night Santa Went Crazy.” As the title indicates, this song is about Santa Claus going postal at the North Pole, gunning down elves and reindeer aplenty.

 

 

This parody of Soul Asylum’s “Black Gold” has an extra gorier alternative ending. The final verse goes like this:

Yes Virginia, now Santa Claus is dead.

Some guy from the SWAT team, blew a hole through his head.

Yes little friend now, there’s his brains on the floor.

I guess they won’t have the fat guy, to kick around anymore!

But now there’s no more presents, for the children’s enjoyment.

And the elves gotta stand in line to file for unemployment.

And they say Mrs Claus, she’s on the phone every night,

with the lawyers, negotiating the, movie rights!

 

So next time you get sick of incessantly hearing “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” or “Jingle Bells,” just put on this song, pour yourself a great big glass of spiked eggnog, and sit back and enjoy the sounds of Old Saint Nick being crazy violent dick.

See ya tomorrow folks!


St. Nicholas’ Helper by D.K. Thompson

The Twelve Slays of Christmas 2013

For the second slay of Christmas, this genre gave to me, Santa’s Demon Krampus, and a scream queen hanging free!

Meet Kramus!

“I’ll feast on the flesh of children tonight until the snow is stained red with their blood.”

— D.K. Thompson

 

Welcome back to the list that keeps on giving, Pieces of Darkness’s Twelve Slays of Christmas! Yesterday I explored a film all about the balancing the gift giving for good children with the punishment of the naughty ones with Silent Night, Deadly Night. Today I’m taking a stab at Santa’s own personal enslaved demon Krampus.

 

If you know nothing about this wooden faced, cloven hoofed, hairy beast, then allow me to enlighten you, with a little help from Wikipedia:

Krampus is a beast-like creature from the folklore of Alpine countries thought to punish children during the Yule season who had misbehaved, in contrast with Saint Nicholas, who rewards well-behaved ones with gifts. Krampus is said to capture particularly naughty children in his sack and carry them away to his lair.

What the opening paragraph fails to mention, is that soon after being hauled away to Krampus’s lair, these children would be dismembered and eaten by the demon. That makes getting coal in your stocking a pretty enticing gift afterall doesn’t it? Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and a Demon Claus too!

Krampus has his origins in pre-Christian pagan times, but eventually made his way into the Christmas traditions of central Europe. He suffered a bit of anti-propaganda from the Austrian government in the 1950s, but today seems to be rising in popularity and has been embraced by as a darker part of the Christmas tradition. There are even bachannalian Krampus Runs where participants dress up like this horned beast, get drunk, and trounce through the snow. (The consumption of child flesh is presumably kept to a minimum.)

 

Or, you could consume delicious chocolatey Krampus. Turn about is fair play demon!

 

Traditionally, Krampus stalked after children on December 6th, as that is The Feast of St. Nicholas, and the one day each year that Santa Claus releases Kramups from his chains. This is the case in D.K. Thompson’s short story St. Nicholas’ Helper. In it, two young girls have disobeyed their mother, and gone out on the Demon Night after their lost cat. Predictably, they are captured by Krampus, shoved into his great child-holding sack, and taken back to his lair.

“Don’t be scared, you’ve been good right?’

“I tried . . . but how good did I need to be?”

What is unexpected is the gory detail that the author uses to describe their fate, and the superb way it digs into your mind conveyed through the medium of audio fiction. Suffice it to say, the fate of the children is grim, especially when considering that all of the barrels stocked in Krampus’s lair are filled with his previous captures — “curing, so their flesh could be sold off as ham.” Also, we get more than a mere glimpse of Krampus, we get to smell him — “wet putrid fur, like an old forgotten carcass picked at by scavenging rats.” And we can almost hear the wet smack of organs tearing free as “Krampus pulled something long and twisted, like crimson serpents . . . and put them in an open barrel.”

The story comes down to a battle between a older, lither, Saint Nick, and his contemptuous demon, but I won’t spoil the outcome for you here. Listen for yourself, but bundle up, as it’s one to chill the blood.

St. Nicholas’ Helper by D.K. Thompson was ‘published’ in Pseudopod — one of the best horror fiction podcasts out there — in December of 2011. It was read by Marie Brennan. Check it out by clicking here! Also, be sure to check back tomorrow for the third slay of Christmas!