Christmas Evil

Christmas Evil ★★★★

John Waters has been quoted as saying You Better Watch Out a.k.a. Christmas Evil is the greatest Christmas movie of all time. After seeing this hidden gem, I can totally see why. In many ways, this is the John Waters movie John Waters never made.

The story starts when young Harry Stadling stays up late on Christmas Eve in hopes of getting a glimpse of the man in red. What he gets instead is the kind of friendliness between Mommy and Santa that he just can't wrap his six-year-old mind around. Flash-forward a few decades and Harry is pushing a pencil at a small toy factory. He spends his off-hours keeping track of his co-workers and neighbor's activities and then keeps notes in his large "Naughty" and "Nice" journals. Finally, forces combine to press all of the wrong buttons, and Harry decides to make himself a Santa suit and go save the spirit of Christmas by himself. Things don't go entirely as well as planned.

This movie is super funny, tacky and best of all, sincere in a weird way. The closest comparison I can think of is John Waters' own Serial Mom - another story about a mild-mannered "normal" person who just has that one little taboo subject that'll send them over the edge.

It isn't just the gags that make this movie a delight, there's some genuine artistry on display. There are plenty of great examples of tricky camera work. The performances are not trying to be funny (one of the first tenants of screen-comedy), and the dialogue is naturalistic.

The movie's biggest strength though is in the excellent performance by Brandon Maggart as the adult Harry Stadling. The character actor worked for over four decades, but rarely found vehicles that could showcase his talents. Unfortunately, he didn't get many more chances to star as this holiday-horror received scathing reviews and savage warnings from the "Moral Majority". Now, in his 80's Maggart's biggest contribution to pop culture isn't one of his movies, but by being the biological father of Fiona Apple. (Weird, right?)

I don't know if I'd call You Better Watch Out my new favorite yuletide flick, but I'm already planning to work it into the annual holiday rotation.

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