Ho, ho, ho, get out of Santa’s way, bitch, because here comes Santa’s Slay! Every week, I take a look at a film at least ten years old that I’ve never seen and let you know if it’s an undiscovered gift, or a steaming lump of coal. This week, I take a look at one last killer Santa film for the year…
…Written/directed by David Steiman (his only feature), the 2005 film, Santa’s Slay, stars Bill Goldberg-yes, THAT Goldberg-as a murderous Santa that you don’t want to fuck with. In this scenario, Santa Claus is actually a buff demon that lost a bet with an angel a long time ago, forcing him to give presents to children every year. Now, with the bet finally over, Santa has come back to smash the faces of tots and adults alike, whether they’ve been naughty or nice!
Santa’s Slay is the sort of film that, when you really think about it, is a surprise that no writer had pulled this idea out of their stocking before. We had seen so many killer Santas before in films like Christmas Evil and Silent Night, Deadly Night, most of which treat the subject with a dark tone and characters facing a disturbing reality, so why not put a twist on it and just say screw it, let’s just have Santa fuck some shit up? If you’re at all skeptical of a Christmas horror film starring ex-wrestler Goldberg, the opening scene should immediately put your mind at ease, in which Santa literally smashes through a chimney to wreak havoc on a surprising cast of exceptional actors/actresses, all of whom sell the lunacy of Goldberg storming their dinner table like an acrobatic drunk.
As a kid that grew up watching Goldberg, one of my favorite wrestlers at the time, I have to ask where the hell I was when Santa’s Slay was unleashed upon the retinas of good little horror boys and girls at the time. Our heroes, Nicolas (Douglas Smith), Mary (Emilie de Ravin), and Nicolas’ grandpa (Robert Culp), all deliver enjoyable performances, in particular Culp, but it is really Goldberg that completely steals the show in virtually every scene. Goldberg is perfect as a gleeful, fireball spitting killer full of murderous cheer, who has no other purpose in life other than spreading yuletide terror. People often forget that wrestlers are also actors. It’s all a performance. So, it’s no surprise that Goldberg not only exceeds in entertaining viewers, but he relishes in it. Goldberg is clearly having a blast with every growl, every punch, every bit of back-breaking hurt that he puts on his victims, that Santa’s Slay could be nothing but Goldberg going from scene to scene using his finishing move, the Spear, on random victims, and I’d be fine with it. Which is essentially what Santa’s Slay is, anyway.
Steiman understands exactly what he wants his film to be, and so Santa’s Slay doesn’t waste its time trying to be “scary”. After all, it’s difficult to make an audience tremble in their winter boots when Santa is throwing actual gift bombs at a town like some yuletide terrorist as he soars overhead on his sleigh. No, instead Steiman treats the film like an extended Saturday Night Live skit featuring Goldberg on Christmas Eve. Santa’s Slay pays comedic homage to both horror and traditional Christmas films alike. Within the too short 77-minute runtime, we’re introduced to the “Book of Claus”, which has a vague Necronomicon vibe, and tells the ridiculous backstory of how Santa came to be the jolly fat guy in a suit we all think of him as. That bet he lost to an angel? It was a curling competition. Oh, but when you think the film can’t get more ridiculous, Steiman suddenly drops us into Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer style animation, and it is glorious. Santa’s Slay doesn’t care if the story is great, or if the performances are Oscar worthy. All Steiman wants to do with his film is make you laugh, and let me tell you, Santa’s Slay will make you laugh louder than the jolliest of jolly “ho-ho-hos” you’ve ever heard uttered by your local mall Santa.
Being a horror film, Steiman also makes sure to put all of his effort towards making sure that the kills are effective and entertaining. It’s common knowledge amongst filmmakers that when it comes to slasher films, it’s the kills that make or break the movie. Horror fans can forgive weak story and acting, as long as the film provides some riotous bloodshed, something which Santa’s Slay does quite well. Frankly, it’s not even the kills themselves which are necessarily brilliant. Clever, yes. Gory, sometimes. It’s the way in which they are shot, and in which Goldberg is allowed to go about it, that really makes them noteworthy. Again, Steiman doesn’t concern himself with attempting to make Goldberg a “scary” Santa, which allows him to have fun with the camera, and frees Goldberg to go as overboard as he desires. Which he does. Goldberg rampages through his victims like Godzilla in a red suit, resorting to blunt force and a mix of power-drives and other bone-crunching maneuvers. In fact, Goldberg is so utterly insane in the film, that I’m surprised Steiman and his team didn’t concoct more radical effects. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Goldberg rip someone’s spine out with his bare hands, but unfortunately, the gore never quite gets to that level of absurdity. Either way, you can scream “But I’ve been good” as Rebecca Gayheart does all you want, but it won’t matter. Goldberg Santa doesn’t give a shit if you’ve been naughty or nice. Consider this: Santa checks at least thirty people off of his list in this film. That’s, well, that’s a lot.
Of course, there are those who won’t appreciate all of the humor delivered in Santa’s Slay. Keep in mind, even though 2005 was only thirteen years ago, it feels like an eternity in terms of what is considered politically correct or socially acceptable. Santa’s Slay cares little of such things. Some of the religiously insensitive humor may not sit well with those of devout faith, but I say bring it on! I’ve written extensively on how utterly dark most killer Santa films are, and so it’s a breath of fresh, crisp winter air that Santa’s Slay works so harshly against those common themes of depravity and cheerlessness. Films like the classics I mentioned above are great, but sometimes, you just want to see Goldberg go all Rambo as a murderous St. Nick.
Sadly, Santa’s Slay is Steiman’s only film, and it never received the much-deserved sequel that was hinted at. We may never see Goldberg in such spectacular red-suited fashion again, but I can live happily knowing that Santa’s Slay will be waiting for me under my Christmas tree every year, ready to dash through Santa’s victims like mere snow.
Santa’s Slay is not streaming at this time, but can be found on most VOD services for three bucks, a price that’s well worth it.
Verdict: A Christmas horror gem.
By Matt Konopka