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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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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!


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!


Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 (1987)

The Twelve Slays of Christmas 2013

For the eighth slay of Christmas, this genre gave to me, 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!

After taking a day to recover from the seventh slay of Christmas — the horror that was Santa vs. The Zombies, bourbon, and an open mic — the list has returned with the Yuletide Schlock Classic that is Silent Night, Deadly Night 2!

Silent-Night-Deadly-Night-2

If you haven’t seen the first Silent Night, Deadly Night film, don’t fret, because the first 40 minutes of this sequel recaps the entire previous movie. All of the kills. Both psycho Santas. The gratuitous sexy bits. All of the gore and none of the goodness! It really is quite amazing how they were able to include just about everything of importance from the first movie — minus the crazy grandpa and the working-at-a-toy-store montage. Then there is another 40 minutes or so of new stuff that is less rushed, less focused, and more crazy than everything from the previous film. (There is an excellent write-up on FEARnet that tells how the producers actually just wanted the editor/director Lee Harry to recut the first movie into something entirely new and different, but fortunately for us fans of terrible cinema, they were able to add some new stuff into the mix.

I won’t go into everything that Psycho Billy did in SNDN1, but I will say that Psycho Ricky tops anything his brother did in his night of mayhem, simply due to actor Eric Freeman’s outrageous portrayal. The story is like this: Ricky has followed in the genetic footsteps of his brother, and like his grandfather, has ended up in some sort of mental hospital for the criminally insane. On Christmas Eve, he is visited by a psychiatrist to be interviewed about his past transgressions. After retelling Billy’s story, Ricky gets into it about how he was adopted by a nice Jewish couple — from a Catholic orphanage — who seemingly shielded him from the horrors of Santa during his childhood. This doesn’t last too long however, as a chance encounter with two nuns and a thick red cloth set off all of his old memories. From this time forward, he gets set off whenever he encounters a tense situation along with the color red.

His first kill is to a would-be rapist, who he runs over with a red Jeep. Later, after growing up a bit, he kills an extortionist in a back-alley (with an umbrella through the belly) because he had a red handkerchief and needed to be punished. He kills an annoying guy wearing a red shirt in the world’s most brightly lit movie theater. He kills his girlfriend’s ex with a car battery jumper cable to the tongue. You guessed it — the car was red. Unfortunately, this is the tipping point for young Ricky, because he then proceeds to kill everyone else in the nearby vicinity. His girlfriend gets it, because she freaked out about her ex’s death and also needed to be punished. This probably wasn’t the reaction Ricky was expecting since the woman whose attempted raper he killed thanked Ricky.

sndn2_cop

He then kills Barney Fife whose firearm lets Ricky continue his shooting spree, killing a football player, a poor soul casually taking out his garbage (despite gunshots in the neighborhood), and an explosion-prone red car. However, he does not kill the little girl with a red bow in her hair riding her tricycle around an urban warzone. She wasn’t naughty enough. The most senseless of these kills — the man acting out a simple garbage day routine — has since been immortalized in this oft seen clip:

The viewer get a bit of Eric Freeman’s dancing eyebrows in that clip as well!

Eventually the cops — better armed and less idiotic than before — catch up to Ricky, but they are more concerned about him foolishly throwing his life away with the revolver at his temple than trying to put down this spree killer. Afterwards Ricky ends up behind bars where doctor #13 has just finished with his interview. He’s finished also finished with his life, as Ricky has claimed another victim by strangling the doctor with his own audio tape. After making an off-screen escape through the orderlies, Ricky finds and kills a Santa Claus, relieving the poor guy of his suit, and makes after Old Mother Superior.

sndn2_mothersuperior

Ricky sets off to finish what his older brother couldn’t accomplish. While Ricky goes after the old wicked nun, the nun accompanying the police, Sister Mary, informs them that Mother Superior has retired, lives alone, and has had a stroke. Judging by her face, she must have had that stroke next to an open fireplace. Ricky easily finds her, and the cat-and-mouse games begin between the Psycho Santa Brother and the world’s strongest nun confined to a wheelchair.

I don’t want to spoil things if you haven’t already seen it, but suffice it to say, you’ll hear some great lines before the closing credits start. Here are some of my other favorites from Silent Night, Deadly Night 2:

I DON’T SLEEP! — Ricky, when asked if he has nightmares

You’re good Doc, but I know all the moves. I could squash you like a bug. — Ricky to the Doc

Fuck this! I’m getting a beer. But I’ll be back! — Attempted Rapist to woman after being kicked in the balls

Red car! Good point! — Ricky to the Doc after he writes this in his girly handwritten notebook

Sounded like some squirrel getting his nuts squeezed. — Ricky about a man being harassed by an extortionist

I’m really MAD now! — Ricky, after getting his axe stuck in Mother Superior’s wheelchair

Overall, Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 is not as good as the first one, but most slasher sequels aren’t. This film was less serious than the original, and much more fun overall. It is oozing with camp, and the first 40 minute recap can be pretty boring if you’ve recently watched part one. In terms of my list so far, this movie is miles ahead of Santa vs. the Zombies, but not quite as enjoyable as Santa’s Slay. Technically though, it is a fine film as the editing and music are both strong. Sadly, the atrocious acting (and those damn dancing eyebrows) puts this out of the realm of scary. This film is like that hideously designed, itchy sweater your great aunt made you that your mom makes you wear to the extended family X-mas get-together.

Until tomorrow, keep squirming in that sweater, and keep those eyebrows dancing!

 

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Santa Claus Versus the Zombies (2010)

The Twelve Slays of Christmas 2013

On the seventh day of Christmas, this genre gave to me, 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!

My my my. I guess I was naughty this year, because this lump of coal has arrived in my stocking. I don’t know quite frankly if I can do this film any due justice at the moment. Maybe I need some time to process. I’m not sure. Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus. And yes, zombies do make a cameo appearance. And tucked inside this low budget ‘family-friendly’ zombie film, there is a story about the President of the United States staving off a coup from a top military general. Actually, that’s what most of the film is about. The majority of the film is spent in a bunker with the president and his advisers, while Santa is stuck in a house with a family and some elves. All the while, there are zombies (unseen of course) keeping them indoors. Ay yie yie. I cant’ do this. There’s no way way I can write out any more about this . . .

I GAVE UP on trying to WRITE my thoughts about this movie, so LISTEN to my drunken ramblings:

OR, if you’d like some more coherent and sober thoughts on Santa vs. the Zombies, click HERE!

ALSO, for screenshots of this movie, you can amaze your eyeballs HERE!


Nackles by Donald Westlake

The Twelve Slays of Christmas 2013

 

For the sixth slay of Christmas, this genre gave to me, the anti-Santa Nackles, BILL GOLDBERG!, four creepy songs, Tales from the Crypt, enslaved demon Krampus, and a scream queen hanging free!

 

 

Today we are getting literary again with another short story based on a Santa-like construct that punishes the naughty. Nackles is the anti-Santa Claus, and he originates in Donald Westlake’s (writing under the pseudonym Curt Clark) story “Nackles” published in 1964. The evil Santa in this story is a bit different than what we’ve encountered before. While Krampus is a black-hearted demon enslaved by the righteous and more powerful Saint Nick, Nackles is an entity of equal power driven by an opposite motive. Also, whereas Goldberg plays his Santa-as-really-a-demon to comedic effect, Nackles is much more cerebral and mysterious.

 

Nackles is the evil alternative of Santa being not just an angelic being, but a godly one. This is a story that questions what Christmas has become in our modern society, with Santa as “a god of giving, of merchandising, and of consumption.” It also explores where the tenacious ideas of god and religion come from in the very first line: “Did God create men, or does Man create gods?

 

Nackles may be a more modern antithesis to Santa Claus than Krampus, but he is no less outwardly grotesque. He is “very very tall and very very thin. Dressed all in black, with a gaunt gray face and deep black eyes. He travels through an intricate series of tunnels under the earth, in a black chariot on rails, pulled by an octet of dead-white goats.” From this description, Nackles seems almost to be a holiday version of Slenderman!

 

flickr / Chris Isherwood
He sees you when you’re sleeping . . .

 

The story of Nackles was at one time being developed by George R. R. Martin and Harlan Ellison as a holiday episode of the 1980s Twilight Zone reboot. Unfortunately, it never came to fruition. Nackles is the perfect entity to exist in the Twilight Zone, as he is a fantastical creation brought to life (?) by the power of imagination. Millions of people believe that Santa Claus is real, and those of us enlightened folks (adults) go along with the whole schtick too. So, if we give lip service to a Santa, why not a Nackles?

 

You can read Donald Westlake’s “Nackles” in its entirety by clicking here.

You can read more about the Nackles Twilight Zone debacle by clicking here.

I’ll be back with another Slay of Christmas real soon. Until then, don’t be naughty!


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!

santa's-slay

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?’

goldberg-whos-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!