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Psycho Santa
2003 - NR - 72 Mins.
Director: Peter Keir
Producer: Renee Riordan
Written By: Peter Keir
Starring: Jeff Samford, Michelle Samford, Jason Barnes, Eric Spudic, Krystal Stevenson
Review by: James O'Ehley
You see, Sub Rosa are these distributors of independently-produced movies on video and DVD. “The leader in cult movie production, sales, promotion, entertainment and distribution,” their web site (the aptly-named proclaims.

Of course, “cult movie” in this case means cheaply made horror movies. How cheap? Let’s put this way: if you and your college pals ever decided over a few beers to borrow your dad’s Sony camcorder and make your own zombie or slasher pic, then the chances are pretty good that Sub Rosa will put it on DVD and distribute it for you.

Think I’m kidding? One of Sub Rosa’s recent releases was titled THE CHRISTMAS SEASON MASSACRE (anything to cash in on that yuletide spending frenzy I suppose). It obviously boasted a slasher killing off a variety of victims in a predictably gory fashion. The only problem being that they couldn’t afford a snow machine (it being December in the northern hemisphere and all that) and thus overcame the problem by setting the movie in subtropical surroundings resembling the Florida everglades . . .

Come to think of it, they couldn’t even afford a decent Santa costume for the serial killer so they just opted for a shirtless guy (sensible considering the humid setting) with an eye patch and a Santa hat!

There isn’t a flurry of snow to be found either in PSYCHO SANTA, one of Sub Rosa’s recent releases (it’s bundled as a double bill on DVD with the 1996 SATAN CLAUS).

Needless to say, PSYCHO SANTA is a slasher pic featuring a deranged serial killer dressed up as . . . Santa Claus. (Just what were you expecting with a title like that?)

The movie kicks off with a married couple (one assumes they’re married because they bicker in the caustic and tired manner only long-wedded couples do) on their way to some friends. Along the way, the guy tells his wife about a lunatic who escaped from a mental asylum when it burned down under mysterious circumstances. The horribly disfigured mental patient (named Chris – are you scared yet?) somehow managed to find his way to the house of some family members (a man and his wife) who took pity on him and took him in.

Thus, Chris (scary moniker, dude) is kept locked up and hidden away in his room for the next ten years until a pair of burglars break in one night in what must be one of the most drawn-out burglary scenes ever committed to celluloid, I mean, videotape. Dig those endless meaningful glances they exchange! Check out how determinedly they scale the garden wall! Marvel at how they slowly walk through the garden!

And so on. The burglars end up killing the woman – which is a bizarre thing to do since she is blind and unlikely to have pointed them out at any identity parade. Inadvertently the burglars fall victim to Chris (heh-heh) who escapes to the outside world, promptly killing a street Santa and taking his costume.

Why Chris (be afraid . . .) does this is never quite explained – I suppose it was a case of the poor Santa a being the first person to have crossed Chris’ path – a bit like those bikers and muggers that got it when Arnie’s TERMINATOR needed clothes.

The rest of the movie chronicles Chris’ (ooh…I’m so scared) murderous . . . and rather pointless . . . killing spree. Luckily for him his victims are the types you only find in movies – you know, serial killer victims who are completely oblivious to their surroundings despite the serial killer’s labored breathing, loud footsteps on dry leaves, etc.

Finally Chris (ho-ho) stalks a brother and sister who gets lost in the woods after their car broke down and we get the one funny line in the movie (no, I’m not going to give it away here).

Unlike most of Sub Rosa’s releases, PSYCHO SANTA at least feels like a movie instead of someone’s home movie.

For starters, the film is shot on digital camera and the image is crisp and clear – or at least when compared to SATAN CLAUS, which was shot on analogue video. Also, the sound is reasonably clear as well. The sound in some Sub Rosa features is quite muffled. In fact, it would be a good idea to view SATAN CLAUS on the DVD before viewing this movie – PSYCHO SANTA only looks good in comparison, which is perhaps why the reason the two movies were bundled together. (Or rather don’t: SATAN CLAUS is bad, very bad.)

Also, the acting while not good is at least moderately competent at a very basic level.

Okay, so PSYCHO SANTA isn’t too shabby as far as the zero budget film world of Sub Rosa goes – but otherwise?

Well, we get that one funny line (hint: it involves forest fires) and the movie does seem to have its priorities right. Fifteen minutes into PSYCHO SANTA and we’re treated to an extended (a bit like the burglary scene) shower scene replete with full nudity and loving close-ups. A bit later on, there’s a sexy dance in revealing lingerie. Still later, there’re some more (albeit brief) naked breast shots. Personally I believe that a slasher pic isn’t a slasher pic unless there is some gratuitous nudity.

The extended shower scene plays like part titillation, part homage to Hitchcock’s PSYCHO (there’s a homicidal maniac named Chris out there you know!) and part padding up the movie’s running time. Two women arrive at a deserted cabin for a slumber party (read: probable lesbian orgy) and one takes a shower while the other one goes searching for the third member of their party who were supposed to have been there already. (Technically she was: our serial killer has chopped her up into various bits and made them up as them as gifts underneath the Christmas tree.)

Unfortunately the wrong woman is going for the walk. And thus the wrong one is taking the shower. (I honestly didn’t know it was possible to have all those body piercings at all those places – is this why she also agreed to do the scene? To show off all her body piercings? It couldn’t have been the money - I can’t imagine the budget being big enough . . .)

OK, there is another black-humouredly funny scene involving a long drawn scene involving a woman victim crawling to a phone after being stabbed.

So the final tally is some nudity, one humorous scene and one funny line of dialogue. All of which isn’t too bad I suppose for a zero budget slasher flick. Maybe one day someone will do a bigger budget remake and pick up the pace a bit and then PSYCHO SANTA might make a decent rental.

In the meantime it’s the ideal movie to show on Christmas Eve to permanently drive away unwelcome guests and family members . . .
Movie Guru Rating
Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better. Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better.
  2 out of 5 stars

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