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Digging into the Short Film Christmas Pile

The Twelve Slays of Christmas 2013

For the tenth Slay of Christmas, this genre gave to me, 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!

Hopefully my previous slays have gotten you into the horror holiday mood, but if not you are in for a treat today. That’s right, this Axe-Wielding Santa is early for you good boys and girls and I come bearing the gifts of 10 short horrific films. Now, I’ve dug really deep into the pile this year to ensure that you don’t just get all of the same as previous seasonal holiday lists on other sites. But I will admit that there are a few chillers here that I found listed elsewhere that I didn’t want to leave off. Some of the flicks are animated. Some are claymation. Some are obviously amateurish (but still a good deal better than Santa vs. the Zombies, yeech). These yuletide treats were made with love, and I hope you enjoy them just as much as I do.

Honorable mention: there is an excellent 7 minute short film that served as the precursor to Rare Exports. I don’t want to spoil the movie for those that haven’t seen it, but I do want to say that this is a very respectable short that covers the exact same material from the film. If you’ve seen the full-length Rare Exports then the shorter version is interesting to view to see a much more condensed version of the idea!

#1 The Winter Stalker

(these are in a mostly arbitrary order)

The 1980 film Christmas Evil (come back tomorrow for a longer review) details just how creepy it is for a middle-aged man to spy on children (both nice and naughty). Here is a short film written and directed by Stephen Reedy that distills the idea of becoming the target of a Santa Claus stalker.

#2 My Name is Kris Kringle

This one takes things a step further from just stalking children, as Santa is hauled into the police station after hacking up a few naughties with a meat cleaver. It isn’t until after explaining that he is simply following the orders on his list, that the full enormity of the situation comes to light. This very dark tale was written and directed by Drew Daywalt.

#3 I Still Believe

In this claymation short we can see a despondent Santa inches away from simply giving up. He hasn’t wandered into creepy stalker/killer territory yet, but it is very clear that this Old Saint Nick is far from jolly. Then he gets a visit that is simply out of this world. Can extraterrestrials get Santa Claus back into the Christmas spirit? This short was animated by the artist Mr. Oz.

#4 Night of the Living Santa

This darkly humorous cartoon was made by Michael Friedman for aniBOOM. Again, we find a depressed Santa, and see exactly what happens when he gives up. This is probably the most funny pick on the list, as the elves use the Christmas Necronomicon to bring Kris Kringle back from the dead. As you can imagine, an undead Santa would prefer brains over cookies on Christmas Eve!

#5 Vampire Santa

Following the idea of a zombie Santa is this one where Santa Claus is a vampire (possibly?). This is an episode of a show called Boss Hospital by Raym Hensley, which appears to be a little know gem of comedic weirdness. It’s a 2 and a half minute strange non-sequitur, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t say I enjoyed this. Hopefully you will too as you find yourself repeating “Merry Christ’s Mass” in a few days time.

#6 Elf on the Shelf

Elf on the Shelf is a recent holiday tradition, but a strange one none-the-less. Santa has enlisted the help of these stone-faced smiling creeps the world over to watch over kids and ensure that they stay good during the holiday season. As Child’s Play, The Puppet Master, or more recently, The Conjuring, have shown us, dolls are inherently off-putting. But when imbued with magical powers they become all the more unsettling. There are several weird Elf on the Shelf videos online, but this one is the most effective.

#7 Christmas Morning

Here is an amateur film that has to be, technically speaking, one of the best. It doesn’t suffer from shaky cam, the special effects aren’t too bad, and the song featured is actually pretty funny. The girl lip-synching is a bit off at times, but that doesn’t take too much away from the video’s effectiveness. It was directed by Ryan Richardson and seemingly only featured his family members. I’d be interesting to see what he could put together with more of a budget.

#8 Little Cracker

Well, let’s say you’re a child, and your parents are murdered on Christmas. If you’re not lucky enough to have a grandma to live with, then probably you’d end up in an orphanage. Orphanages never seem to be especially happy places, but as Silent Night, Deadly Night, and this short film (and the following one) show us, they can really be deadly during the holidays. In Little Cracker, director Paul Mayers does a lot with very little to craft a story about an orphan boy who just isn’t right.

#9 The Bottleberry Orphans

This is a creepy poem about another deadly Christmas at the orphanage. The imagery used in the video is great, and the poem is off-putting. Lyrically it doesn’t rhyme, but that adds to its unsettling effectiveness. Unfortunately, this poem is not spoken, so you’ll have to read along with a spooky rendition of Silent Night, Holy Night in the background.

#10 976-Evil 2

My last pick for this holiday themed list of scary shorts comes from the full-length 976-Evil 2. The movie itself is largely unmemorable, but this mash-up of Night of the Living Dead and It’s a Wonderful Life is an excellent way to spice up that annual showing of Jimmy Stewart’s tale of angelic redemption. Just beware of Zuzu’s trowel.

So holiday horror hounds, cuddle up close to the fireplace and try to keep warm while watching these chillers!

Santa’s Slay (2005)

The Twelve Slays of Christmas 2013

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


Upon debuting in WCW, Bill Goldberg became arguably the first (or second, behind Stone Cold Steve Austin) most popular wrestler in the world. He went on an unprecedented streak of 173 victories and zero losses. In Santa’s Slay, as the demonic son of Satan, he continues this insane streak by killing upwards of 30 people in the span of 78 minutes. In the film’s opening sequence Goldberg Claus decimates the likes of Rebecca Gayheart, Chris Kattan, Fran Drescher, and James Caan!

Santa’s Slay is a film that surprised me very much; I went into it with very low expectations — Goldberg could never cut a decent promo in the ring, much less carry a film on his wide shoulders — but those expectations were completely shattered. This is an outrageous and fun flick — deliciously cheesy and filled with Christmas camp. You may roll your eyes at some of the sophomoric humor (GONAD, rather than NORAD as the sleigh tracker), but occasionally even those bits had me laughing out loud.

Why exactly is Santa so angry and murderous? Well, it turns out that he has always been this way. He was conceived as the son of the devil thousands of years in the past, and prior to becoming the jolly old gift-giver he is commonly known as, Santa was a violent bully. He derived pleasure out of torturing elves and generally went about causing destruction and mayhem wherever he roamed. Then one day an angel descended down from heaven. This angel and Santa had a curling competition. The angel wagered his eternal soul, while Santa bet that if he lost, he would be kind, jolly, and deliver presents to all the good children all over the world for the next 1000 years. In an animated sequence of the same style as the 1960s Rankin/Bass Frosty the Snowman or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer TV specials, we see a cocky Santa roll his curling stone right to the edge of a hole in the ice. The angel then wins the contest by bowling his stone into Santa’s, causing it to fall into the water. Thus is the beginning, against his will, of Jolly Old Saint Nick.

The film opens at the end of this 1000 years of kindness with Santa already on his rampage. A scene that start out as typical sitcom holiday special is turned into B-movie gold when Goldberg bursts through the chimney and kills an entire family with implements such as a turkey leg, the star topper of a Christmas tree, and a flaming mouthful of brandy. He even punts a pomeranian for good measure. Even if you have no desire to watch this film (the wrong choice to be sure), you should check out the hilarious opening sequence.

After the title credits which feature a variety of badass Santa pictures throughout the centuries, the movie properly opens in Hell Township on Christmas Eve. Nicholas Yulson (Douglas Smith) and his girlfriend, Mary ‘Mac’ McKenzie (Emilie de Ravin) get the night off early from their jobs at a Jewish deli. Mac drives Nicholas home where we are introduced to his crazy grandpa (Robert Culp). Grandpa is obviously paranoid with triplicate locks on the front door and a basement bunker that has several TVs of surveillance footage. Both Nicholas and Grandpa share a disdain for Christmas and the ability to read Norse. You can see where this is going right? Halfway through his reign of murderous mayhem, Santa targets Mac and Nicholas. Then the truth about Grandpa’s paranoia and an old Norse family connection to Santa Claus come out in the open.

Goldberg as Santa

The plot of this movie is fairly simplistic — run away from the Psycho Santa while he kills everyone around him. What keeps the viewer engaged are the inventive, but not really gory kills, and the fully comedic characters through-out. Santa shoves a candycane through the eye of a mugger. He lights fire to a strip club. He delivers exploding presents to potty-mouthed children on Christmas day. Also, his sleigh is drawn by a man-eating buffalo!

Some great characters to look out for in this are: an old lady who curses like a sailor and chain smokes while swerving all over the road, Dave Thomas as a sleazy pastor who steals from his church congregation to have spending cash at the strip club, and a brief cameo from wrestler/actor Tom “Tiny” Lister, Jr. (Zeus!). All in all, Goldberg and the two leads are the weakest actors in the film, but it doesn’t matter because there are so many great characters in the peripheral of the movie to make up for it.

Along with the acting, the writing is a bit spotty in places. This is more to do with the actors’ inability to handle the lines more than the the lines themselves. It is also a bit choppy because rather than pure dialogue, each character speaks in a series of one liners. Some are hilarious: ‘Don ye now your gay apparel’ said to the homosexual police captain in a Santa get-up. Some funny, but a bit mean: ‘I’m as happy as a make-a-wish kid.’ Some just fall flat: ‘We’re trapped in a closet on Christmas with Santa trying to murder us. How fucked up is that?’ Goldberg’s Santa Claus also speaks mainly in one liners: ‘unfortunately, you’re time is about to expire.’ Patient wrestling fans have to wait until after the credits to hear him drop his in-ring catch-phrase, ‘who’s next?’


Santa’s Slay was written and directed by David Steiman. Due to its high production values and campy humor, it has already muscled a permanent place in my holiday rotation. So, kick back with some hot cocoa, invite your friends over, and witness the greatest wrestler-turned-Santa since Hulk Hogan in Santa with Muscles. Only, this one is better, because heels are always cooler!

12 Options for Your Body once You’re Stiff

Mary Roach‘s Stiff is a very enjoyable and often humorous read about what happens to people who’ve donated their bodies to science. It’s an interesting take on the past, present, and future of cadaverous research that also takes funny diversions towards other morbid curiosities. Given the grim subject matter (death & body disposal) one assumes that this would likewise be a grim read. But one would be wrong. Roach is deft in her lighthearted tone, and she infuses the topic with levity while maintaining a certain respect for each deceased individual she encounters. To give you an overview of each chapter, as well as a tasty morsel of Roach’s writing, I’ve highlighted each of the book’s twelve chapters in this list of things that could happen to your body once you’re stiff.

1. Your head may be lopped off and used as a model for plastic surgery lessons.

Only they’ll leave the skin & flesh on.

skullsflickr / Pieter Cornelissen

The heads look like rubber Halloween masks. They also look like human heads, but my brain has no precedent for human heads on tables or in roasting pans or anywhere other than on top of human bodies . . . (p. 23)

2. While the history of using corpses for medical research is a long and sordid one, you need not worry about being snatched from the graves. Today’s researchers don’t dirty their hands with shovels, and the subdued decorum of a modern anatomy lab is much different than those of early predecessors.

Cruelty4wikimedia commons / The Reward of Cruelty by William Hogarth

Engravings by Thomas Rowlandson and William Hogarth of eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century dissecting rooms show cadavers’ intestines hanging like parade streamers off the sides of tables, skulls bobbing in boiling pots, organs strewn on the floor being eaten by dogs. In the background, crowds of men gawk and leer. (p. 47)

Evidently, compassion for cadavers wasn’t discovered until sometime in the early twentieth century.

PCOM_Archives_1908_Dissection_Labwikimedia commons / Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine 1908 Dissection Lab

3. You could go to the body farm behind the University of Tennessee Medical Center, where corpses are kept in varying states of decay (and varying states of undress, varying burial depths, etc.) to study how different disposal methods affect the body and aid the work of criminal forensic investigators.


wikimedia commons / Strickwerker

Scientist Grover Krantz spent part of his after life on the body farm. Clyde, his dog, however was buried in his yard.

“You want a vivid description of what’s going through my brain as I’m cutting through a liver and all these larvae are spilling out all over me and juice pops out of the intestines?” (p. 63) — forensic research professor Arpad Vass

4. Your corpse could be used in a car crash tests. While dummies are good for taking a licking and keeping on ticking, nothing demonstrates an automobile’s effect on humans like a dead human.

car-crashflickr / perthhdproductions

This never would have happened with someone living behind the wheel.

But let’s be rational. Why is it okay for someone to guide a table saw through Granddad’s thigh and then pack the leg up for shipment to a lab, where it will be suspended from a hook and impacted with a simulated car bumper, yet not okay to ship him and use him whole? What makes cutting his leg off first any less distasteful or disrespectful? (p. 105)

5. Cadavers were once thrown from planes to study the effect of plane crashes on the human body. While this wouldn’t happen to your corpse nowadays, aviation crash investigators do have a term for bodies found at a crash site — ‘human wreckage.’

plane-crashflickr / Tom (shock264)

As far as I know, there’s no special term for crop wreckage.

For unlike a wing or a piece of fuselage, a corpse will float to the water’s surface. By studying victims’ wounds — the type, the severity, which side of the body they’re on — an injury analyst can begin to piece together the horrible unfolding of events. (p. 114)

6. Perhaps you’d like to join the army! There has been a lot of work with cadavers in the field of military research. While some research is done to find more humane weapons than lead bullets (which expand on impact and destroy more flesh), most militaries want weapons with the maximum stopping power, i.e. most damaging / the least humane.

Gunshot_skull_civil_warwikimedia commons / Civil War Collection, National Museum of Health and Medicine

Ballistics studies are especially problematic. How do you decide it’s okay to cut off someone’s grandfather’s head and shoot it in the face? (p. 147)

7. Be glad that you’re not a French stiff from 80 years ago. In the 1930s, a doctor in France named Pierre Barbet crucified a corpse and several severed arms in an attempt to authenticate the Shroud of Turin.

Käsien_naulaus_copywikimedia commons / Johnny Hillerman

In the weeks that followed, Barbet went through twelve more arms in a quest to find a suitable point in the human wrist through which to hammer a ⅓-inch nail. This was not a good time for vigorous men with minor hand injuries to visit the offices of Dr. Pierre Barbet. (p. 160)

8. Despite persistent urban legends, there is no ‘cellular memory’ in the organs of the dead transplanted on or into the living. Fortunately, your personality won’t change if you get the parts of a madman. Unfortunately, your heart may still be beating in someone else, but it won’t be ‘your’ heart.

BodypartsposterParamount Pictures / poster for Body Parts

In light of recent facts, the believability of this film is further strained.

Mehmet Oz (YES, THAT DR. OZ), the transplant surgeon I spoke with, also got curious about the phenomenon of heart transplant patients’ claiming to experience memories belonging to their donors. “There was this one fellow,” he told me, “who said, ‘I know who gave me this heart.’ He gave me a detailed description of a young black woman who died in a car accident. ‘I see myself in the mirror with blood on my face and I taste French fries in my mouth. I see that I’m black and I was in this accident.’ It spooked me,” says Oz, “and so I went back and checked. The donor was an elderly white male.” Did he have other patients who claimed to experience their donors’ memories or to know something specific about their donor’s life? He did. “They’re all wrong.” (p. 191)

9. Research on just-guillotined criminals progressed to dogs and later monkeys. While a human head transplant has never been attempted, it is theoretically medically viable — although you’d still be ‘just a head on a pillow.’

the-brain-that-wouldnt-dieAmerican International Pictures / The Brain that Wouldn’t Die

By putting them — their heads — onto new bodies, you would buy them a decade or two of life, without, in their case, much altering their quality of life. High-level quadriplegics are paralyzed from the neck down and require respiration, but everything from the neck up works fine. Ditto the transplanted head. (p. 212-213)

Here is a video of neurosurgeon Dr. Robert White explaining the procedure:

10. Perhaps you’d like to be consumed upon death. Just about every part of a dead body has been used as ancient medicinal or folk remedy. Blood is especially popular, both for drinking and bathing.

bathing-in-bloodflickr / rachel a. k.

It was when the prescription called for bathing in the blood of infants, or the blood of virgins, that things began to turn ugly. The disease in question was most often leprosy, and the dosage was measured out in bathtubs rather than eyedroppers. . . . We see nothing distasteful in injections of human blood, yet the thought of soaking in it makes us cringe. (p. 226&9)

11. If burial or cremation bores you, then you may be interested in other ways a body can be disposed of after death. There is freeze-drying and composting, as well as the newly developed method of ‘water reduction,’ more grimly named ‘tissue digestion.’

coffeeflickr / Francisco Javier Argel

Just don’t accidentally drink Grandma.

In a few hours . . . [the] equipment can dissolve the tissues of a corpse and reduce it to 2 or 3 percent of its body weight. What remains is a pile of decollagenated bones that can be crumbled in one’s fingers. Everything else has been turned into . . . a sterile “coffee-colored” liquid. (p. 252-253)

12. Maybe you want your corpse to last 10,000 years. In that case plastination is the only surefire way to make sure your corpse stays fresh for millennia. All of the water in your body is sucked out during an acetone bath, which evaporates, and then is replaced by a liquid polymer.

plastinationflickr / Paul Stevenson

Is it a little chilly in here, or is it just me?

Like a guinea pig the size of a police dog, the concept of being plastinated is more unsettling than the reality. You just lie there, soaking and plastinating. Eventually, someone lifts you out and poses you, much as one poses a Gumby. A catalyst is then rubbed into your skin, and a two-day hardening process begins, working its way through your tissues, preserving you for all eternity in your freshly dead state. (p. 289)

While not everyone would like to be naked and skinless for thousands of years, perhaps you’ve found something to do with yourself after ‘yourself’ ceases to exist. In the meantime, go out and pick up a copy of Stiff by Mary Roach. This book is a fun and enlightening read filled with many more quips than I’ve excerpted here. It’s a shining bit of amusement among death’s pieces of darkness.


Click for more information on Tissue Digestion.

Click for more information about The Body Farm.

Click for more information about Dr. Pierre Barbet’s corpse crucifixion experiments.

Horror on Stage: Daegu Theatre Troupe’s Night of the Living (& Laughing) Dead

Zombies are alive and well — er rather, undead and sickly — in mainstream popular culture right now. That fact is evident from the immense popularity of The Walking Dead, as well as the numerous zombie walks, runs, and flash mobs across the world. This saturation of the living dead became clear to me with a recent theatrical version of Night of the Living Dead performed by the Daegu Theatre Troupe in Daegu, South Korea. This is a low-budget — made more for love than for money — theatre production put on by English speaking expatriates in the Asian country. A diverse cast of expats lent an international charm to the show, as it featured actors who were Koreans, Kiwis, South Africans, North American, and from the UK. This makes you wonder where exactly this mysterious farmhouse that shelters these seven folks could be, but this version was played more for fun than the unrelenting and depressing horror of George A. Romero’s original theatrical masterpiece. Thanks to the magic of the theatre, you can be swept away from the very intimate space (seating perhaps a few dozen audience members) to a post-apocalyptic zombie wasteland.
This staged version capitalized a bit more on the inherent cheesiness of dead people trying to eat the living. The actor playing Harry, in particular, had some very sarcastic lines and a deadpan delivery that made this viewer crack-up. Also funny were the special effects. While Romero used cuts of meat from a local butcher shop, here in Korea ramen was used as guts and rice was puked up in reaction to the grisly viscera of a pregnant zombie and the protruding newborn hanging from her belly. Just like in Romero’s films, here all of the zombies seemed to be real characters. One unfortunate ghoul was on a single roller skate, and the woman next to me did a great job of loudly chomping and groaning whenever one of the human characters would come nearby. That’s right, there were zombies planted in the audience, although they were difficult to differentiate from those overzealous fans who decided to get made-up in costumes before a night of Halloween partying!
There were some changes from the 45-year-old original film. First of all, the interior setting was split between the living room and basement areas of the house. Scenes ‘upstairs’ and ‘downstairs’ were differentiated with lighting, although (unfortunately) there was no extra exposition with the characters Harry, Helen, Tom, and Judy prior to joining Ben and Barbra upstairs. A large projection screen on the far wall played TV news reports and also recapped the beginning cemetery scene with Barbra and Johnny. Obviously, there was no truck explosion, but instead characters were graphically dispatched in a feasting of ramen guts and a plastic severed arm. This happened after a cheesy moment of love and lines (and music) mimicking Armageddon more than Night of the Living Dead. But the cheese that stole the show was the denouement of Sheriff McClelland and his posse saving the day. They still accidentally shot Ben, but they retained their lighthearted charm with their Reno 911 inspired hotpants and mirrored aviator sunglasses.
I was fortunate to sit in the splatter zone, and while there were no head squibs — ubiquitous to so many zombie films — there were catheters pumping copious amounts of red liquid onto the patrons. Another surprising bit of splatter came from the molotov cocktails — waterballoons — used to ward off the horde of the living dead. Overall, it was a very fun night of zombie chills and laughs. If you ever get a chance to see some live horror theatre, then go and watch — I highly recommend it!
(The show has finished its run, but check out this sweet trailer.)