Santa’s Slay ~ 2005, David Steiman
It’s December 2014, and things have changed. All celebrities now have sex tapes. Mountain Dew comes in no less than one hundred and thirty five flavors, The Learning Channel hasn’t shown anything educational in 15 years, and women are now so objectified that breast implants are no longer enough, indeed, anyone who’s anyone now has butt implants, as well. We’re all dumb as shit, isn’t it time we had a Santa Claus more reflective of our generation?
Enter Santa’s Slay, a 2005 horror comedy which casts professional wrestler Bill Goldberg as a foul mouthed, muscle bound Santa Claus who hates children and murders people constantly for no reason. Now you’re talkin’ my language! If that kindly, Jolly Old Saint Nick at the mall can no longer hold your interest after years of exposure to X-Box and Monster energy drinks, and if you demand a Santa who frequents strip clubs and spits fire balls at innocent people, then it sounds like Santa’s Slay is just the pick me up your Holiday season needs!
THE PLOT~ Nicolas Yulesen is our main character, and he totally sucks. He pretty much spends his days complaining and being emasculated by his girlfriend, Mac. Also, he lives with his bonkers ass grandfather, who mostly stays at home cooking up crackpot inventions and scroogin’ it hardcore with his aversion to the Christmas holiday. All the people in town think Nicolas’s Grandpa is nuts. Fact is, Grampa knows more than he’s letting on. As Nick comes to find out, his gramps is in possession of an ancient tome called The Book of Claus, which tells the true story of Santa, a centuries old antichrist type creature, born of an immaculate conception between Satan and a virgin woman. He’s totally evil and can breathe fucking fire balls. The only reason this Santa ever gave anybody anything that wasn’t straight lethal is because he was obligated to after losing a wager with an angel centuries ago. The conditions of this wager stated that Santa Claus must spare humans, act nice, and deliver presents for one thousand years- which, of course, pissed Santa off real bad, but he had to do it because of the demon honor code, or something, but guess what? Times up. Santa is now free to make up for lost time and really get back to slaughtering people super hard, as is his true heart’s true desire. Soon, he arrives in Hell Township (that’s where these fucking people live), and he’s aching for a Yuletide blood bath. It’s up to Nicolas, Grandpa, and Mac, to survive the night, and if possible, defeat Santa.
As mentioned above, this is a hard fightin’, killer Santa Claus for the new millennium. I can’t imagine why he doesn’t ride around in a Monster Truck blaring Metalica’s For Whom The Bell Tolls, but what he does do is ride is a sleigh pulled by a buffalo, which he calls a “hell deer,” and that’s also awesome. Goldberg does a good job portraying an enjoyable, likable killer, which is important in this era of horror cinema, because let’s face it, nobody goes to see Nightmare on Elm Street for the teenagers. Santa’s Slay has its problems, but none of them can be traced back to Goldberg’s performance, or his Santa character. They get a pass. Good job, dude.
The problems that stick a little harder stem from two sources. The first one we’ll talk about is budget; Santa’s Slay looks more like a high end made-for-TV movie than anything intended for theatrical release. The meager production quality might alienate mainstream movie-goers, but really, this movie wasn’t banking on bringing them on board anyway. Horror movies like Santa’s Slay come with a built in fan-base of hungry viewers who just want to see people get murdered by Goldberg, or Freddy, or whoever it may be, and they are more than accustomed to budget conscious production value. Hell, some of them even like that stuff.
One particularly heinous aspect of this cheap-o production, however, is the soundtrack. Damn, dude, it’s bad. It’s all weird Christmas pop, like something Brian Setzer would record with members of the All American Rejects, but would later be embarrassed about, and would never release. Most, or all, of these songs were probably recorded specifically for this movie; and they are a heavy burden for any film to bare. If I’m playing Devil’s advocate, I guess I can see how they don’t necessarily hinder the fun of watching Goldberg murder an entire police force, but it does limit the film’s potential. Santa’s Slay is fun, but it was never going to be a classic with horrible jams like this clogging up it’s screen time. Honestly, if they ever released a soundtrack to this movie, it would be a one way ticket into hell’s deepest pit.
Here’s something super crazy about this movie that I didn’t expect; the other problem with Santa’s Slay? It’s pretty damn racist! This may look like a cheesy Christmas slasher, and it is, but it’s also a biting criticism of Christians, Christianity, and Christmas, from a distinctly Jewish perspective. Seriously! It would be easy to ignore this subtext if subtext isn’t your thing, and I’m sure a big chunk of people eager to follow the cinematic career of professional wrestlers fall into that category, but seriously, this statement is in there if you look. Let’s break it down a bit:
Santa’s Slay doesn’t really have a hell of a lot of good things to say about Christmas, or Christians in general. In fact, the role of Jesus Christ in Christmas is utterly ignored in Santa’s Slay, something the film would like to suggest is accurate, given the current secular and commercialized nature of the holiday. I’ll give them that. Instead, the focus of Christmas is shifted more onto Santa Claus himself, who is pretty much the anti-Christ, thereby meaning that Christmas is a lot more misconception and a lot less immaculate conception (Budum-CHING!). Additionally, all identifiably Christian characters in Santa’s Slay are basically major pieces of shit… Most notably, Pastor Timmons, the town religious leader, played by the always excellent Dave Thomas (the Canadian one, not the square hamburgers one) who is a cowardly, lecherous, deceitful con man. Yep.
The opening scene is another good example, Santa’s Slay kicks it into high gear right out of the gate by opening with a multiple victim kill scene, which features Santa Claus butchering an entire family of wayward Christians. Santa get’s them all, but before they are slain, each of these characters takes a moment to establish to the audience that they are selfish, despicable, spiritually bankrupt pieces of trash. And the kicker? Most, possibly all, of these characters are played by well known Jewish actors, like James Caan, Chris Katan, and Fran Drescher. Hell, Santa Claus himself is played by Bill Goldberg, who is himself Jewish. It’s hard to imagine that this isn’t deliberate.
It’s not all Jewish actors portraying Christians, though, we also have some Jewish actors playing Jewish characters, such as Mr. Green, who runs the local deli where Nick works. Mr Green is portrayed in a way that is admittedly stereotypical, but also likable, and markedly positive. He comes off as an honorable, decent man, who goes out of his way to tolerate and accommodate the needs of various unruly gentiles which he can’t seem to escape, and he does so out of a inherent goodness that most of the film’s Christian characters flat out lack. Early in the film he is subjected to the intolerant ways of an elderly Christian woman, and Mr. Green takes it in stride and even wishes her a Merry Christmas when she balks at his initial, more P.C. offering of a “Happy Holidays.” The non-Jewish characters never display this sort of acceptance, or even awareness of others throughout this entire film. In Santa’s Slay, our good guys are good guys, but they’re not great guys, and in general, this movie is not very complimentary of Christians, or their most holy time of the year. It sort of feels like a large group of Jewish people in the entertainment industry converged and worked together to make a movie about all the things Christians do that piss them off, and that project is Santa’s Slay; a big, inside joke that we don’t quite pick up on.
I can deal with the anti-gentile sentiment, because whatever, dude, but the fact is; Santa’s Slay isn’t actually very tolerant of anyone else, either. Although the anti-Christian stuff actually forms the basis of the film, it’s still more covert. Much more readily apparent is the film’s small-minded and often bigoted attitude towards like, everybody. For instance;
The only black person I think you see in the entire movie: Nick walks up to the counter of a convenience store, and the figure behind the counter slowly and ominously turns to face him. The films plays with the suspense of not knowing who you’re about to see, letting you wonder if this is perhaps going to be Santa, or perhaps someone else equally threatening. Finally, the identity of this person is revealed, and it’s not Santa, its… A BLACK MAN?! Record scratch! Santa’s Slay makes an enormous, wildly offensive stink about this. Weird, electronic hip hop beats kick off, because, you know, he’s black, and he says “Whassup?” You know, like black people do. CRINGE. When Nick mentions to the clerk that he doesn’t recall ever seeing him before, the man behind the counter tells him something about moving here because it got too dangerous in “the hood.” Did a seventh grader write this scene? Really, this is just astoundingly tone deaf. Santa’s Slay plays off this exchange as a big joke, and the punch line is “Holy shit, that guys not white!!! Can you imagine?!” It’s the worst.
And it doesn’t end there! Later, Nick gets in trouble and meets the captain of the local police force, who is introduced in a similar fashion to the store clerk. His name? Captain Caulk, clearly enunciated as “Captain Cock.” Apparently, this character is gay, and although his sexual orientation in no way plays a role in the events of the film, they still go out of their way to point this fact out, for no real reason. Essentially, this character is exploited for what I assume is supposed to be comedic value. Was 2005 really that long ago? I feel like this sort of thing would never make it into a movie in this day and age unless it was deliberately trying to provoke outrage. Maybe we have come a long way after all.
The bigotry actually doesn’t feel especially malicious, if you can believe it. I know I’ve really called it out here, but it’s less glaring in the grand scheme of the movie. It really feels like this prejudice is more rooted in ignorance, than in hate, sort of like what you might hear from a high schooler who hasn’t really gotten a perspective on the real world yet. The bigotry in Santa’s Slay feels redeemable, like we could take Santa’s Slay, slap it in the face, and then make it hang out with gay people or black people for a weekend or two, and then it would maybe realize the error of it’s ways and step back in line with more socially progressive attitudes toward diversity. It does seem to be a little more adamant about looking down on Christians, but I wager that in the eyes of director David Steiman, all the black and gay stuff is seen more as a harmless joke than an expression of hate. This doesn’t excuse it, not by a long shot, but clearly, Santa’s Slay isn’t very smart, and neither is it’s writer/director. There’s just no reason to take anything this movie says seriously, and so you’ll only get as offended as you let yourself. If you’ve watched Family Guy or South Park, you’ve probably already seen much worse. The only difference is that what Santa’s Slay offers isn’t going to be as funny.
Still, all of that remains a hard pill to swallow… It’s really, really easy for me to forgive the aspects of Santa’s Slay that just plain suck, because dammit, this is a movie where Santa Claus lights Fran Drescher’s head on fire and murders her in the very first scene, and where the fate of humanity rests on the outcome of a curling match. Santa’s Slay had this one in the bag, and it really had to go out of it’s way to shake me. More pernicious is the bigotry woven in to the very fabric of the film, but as I mentioned above, these derogatory statements don’t carry much weight. When you saw the worlds “Brett Ratner’s Santa’s Slay, Starring Bill Goldberg,” were you expecting this to be a socially progressive experience? Santa’s Slay isn’t progressive in any way whatsoever. The movie still manages to be fun by virtue of premise alone, and the execution is passable, but if you’re sensitive to things like outrageous bigotry and anti-Christian sentiment, then you should probably pass on this one.
Also, Brett Ratner’s attachment to this film hurts it in a way more devastating than any racist content ever could. You suck, Brett Ratner