Jarv’s Schlock Vault: Don’t Open Till Christmas
Jarv’s Rating: 1.5 Changs- a car crash, but reasonably entertaining.
This film is, and there’s no other description that I can possibly use for it, a shambles. It was Britain’s attempt to cash in on the slasher phase of the early 80’s and is such a ridiculously botched job that it really should be a source of national embarrassment. We really aren’t good at cashing in on things- it’s just not cricket. Don’t Open Till Christmas is a strange and sleazy little film. It tries hard to be something it isn’t (a proper slasher) and you can tell that it really suffered from the revolving door of directors (they went through 3). What I really want to ask everyone involved is: Was this really worth 2 years of your time?
If I attempt to distill the plot, then it will give me a massive headache, and you, the reader, will be left in a state of complete confusion. Basically, in a nutshell, this is a depressingly stupid hybrid of slasher films and a murder mystery. Although mystery is possibly the wrong word for this as it’s flamingly obvious who the killer is. It’s (and this is important) 3 days before Christmas, and a knife wielding nutter has, for blazingly unsubtle Freudian reasons, taken it on himself to knock off as many Santa’s as he can. Over the next five days, culminating on Christmas day itself, he kills a variety of different Santas- Pervy Santa, Drunken Santa and so forth- kidnaps a stripper for no apparent reason and torments Scotland Yard. No, that wasn’t a mistake about the 5 days before Christmas thing. It’s just an example of the many bewildering continuity cock-ups that appear in this effort.
The acting is utterly terrible across the board, but I’m going to single out two of the cast for particular vilification: Firstly, Allan Lake as Giles. He’s rubbish. I appreciate that this is the most physical role in the film, and so therefore they probably shouldn’t have cast someone with a broken back in the part, but this is a performance that combines weird earnestness and breathtaking incompetence into some sort of moronic masterpiece. He must have been doing it on purpose. I have to say, given that he killed himself shortly after this was released, that I do feel slightly bad picking on him for this, but nonetheless, he stinks like a month old kipper. Secondly, Kelly Baker is truly dreadful as “The Experience Girl”. She is, to begin with, the least attractive stripper in London, her line in filthy banter is plainly embarrassing for her, and her “ohmigodsomebodykilledsanta” face looks roughly similar to how I picture her face during a smear test. She’s rubbish.
However, as bad as the acting is (and it is terrible) it is a beacon of competence compared to the direction. For some inexplicable reason they went through 3 of them, and this may, to a certain extent, explain the absolutely glaring continuity errors. To begin with, the film CLEARLY takes place over 5 days. This is obvious. It also CLEARLY ends on Christmas day. This is also obvious. However, they also state clearly that the film opens on the 22nd December. Now, maths was never my strong suit, but even I can work out that if that is the case then the climax of the film should be on the 27th December. So which is it? Secondly, and this is a bit of a spoiler, but I can’t imagine that anyone particularly cares, The Experience Girl is kidnapped by Santakiller. She clobbers him over the head with a lead pipe to escape before realising that the door is locked. He then appears behind her holding the key. She clobbers him again with a chain, although to no great effect. Then the film cuts to a scene where bugger all happens, before cutting back to the Experience Girl chubbily running up a flight of stairs away from Santakiller. How the fuck did she get out?
The score is a weird electro-synthy thing that is the kind of atonal mess that suggests that about 50 different people wrote one note each, and the cinematography is unremarkable. There aren’t a lot of nice things I can say about this film.
I’m making this sound absolutely painful to watch, and I’m not meaning to. It’s kind of entertaining in a dopey way, and although completely incoherent, there are some sequences that are downright amusing. There’s also an impressive dedication to gratuitous nudity (part of which forms another continuity error), and a downright hilarious scene of Santa porking the young killer’s mother. It’s also got a commendable dedication to wiping out the entire cast. The murders themselves are reasonably gory and amusing, but there’s nothing that hasn’t been done far better elsewhere. There’s also a strange and inappropriate cameo from Caroline Munro (famous for being the first woman ever killed by James Bond) performing a song called “I’m coming to kill you” or some such nonsense that feels weirdly tacked on. She at least has the decency to look confused and ashamed to be here.
Really though, the problem with this film is that it’s just hopelessly confused. It wants to be a murder mystery, but there’s no mystery to speak of. If you accept the convention that the killer has to be one of the characters then you’ve only really got 3 or 4 to choose from- it blatantly can’t be one of them, another is out of the film in seconds, so you’ve got a choice of 2. They attempt a red herring, but fuck it up completely (as everyone involved is a talentless cunt) and thereby make it completely fucking obvious who the nutter is. Aside from not knowing what it is, there’s also a huge amount of scenes that just start, go nowhere, and fail to add anything to the film before stopping and cutting to another scene. Is the trip to the porn photographer’s really necessary? And do we honestly need hundreds of shots of that revolving triangle thing outside Scotland Yard?
Overall, this is a bad film. It’s a confused mess that has many glaring continuity errors, and is just a frankly inexplicable shambles. Nevertheless, it’s kind of fun. There’s something enjoyable about watching a pervert in a Santa costume attempt to negotiate “extras” off a stripper before being gutted, and there’s something mildly amusing about watching a clueless plod fail to solve the obvious mystery. Even Inspector fucking Clouseau could work this one out. If I’m entirely honest then I have to say it isn’t a film I’d recommend, but it is one that I guiltily enjoyed- it’s simply too inept to be considered good.
Until next time,