It takes a special actor to really effectively pull off a slow-burn descent into insanity. Some just want to jump right to 11 and bring all the nuttiness out too quickly which can make things rather cartoonish. Obviously some of it is in the writing and directing as well. Director Lewis Jackson really taps into some dark areas with his script for YOU BETTER WATCH OUT (it was retitled CHRISTMAS EVIL, apparently not his choice). I gotta give credit to lead actor Brandon Maggart though. His portrayal Harry Stadling is one filled with subtle and frightening nuance. The little things he does, the gestures, the ticks and some of the way he interacts with others just carries a slow arc of madness pretty well. CHRISTMAS EVIL is not a film you'd likely seen made today. Harry might get flagged more quickly for his odd behavior a little sooner in a script written for 2014. But he plays pretty well in a film set in 1980 or thereabouts. Brandon Maggart just has this nice, put-upon guy look about him that is perfect for character. There is a melancholy and a sense of loneliness that he brings that is authentic is this quite believable way. Apparently this film was a decade in the making and Lewis Jackson had quite a singular vision for it. He even went so far as to storyboard every shot in the movie and went so far as to hire cinematographer Ricardo Aronovich (who had shot movies in France for Alain Resnais and Louis Malle). Jackson himself has said that the movie was meant to be a black comedy and was never intended to be taken completely seriously. I guess I believe this, however I must say that I myself don't find it too funny and this is mostly due to Brandon Maggart's performance which I find has a true humanity that I feel was certainly intentional. What Jackson has ultimately created is not what many might associate with the idea of a "Santa Slasher" along the lines of SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT and the like, but rather something of an art film. It may sound silly to call it such, but I really feel like that's more the category it falls into and that is part of the reason it was not received too well when it was released. It's a neat little film though and one that is clearly coming from a singular vision pretty much unlike any other movie in this genre.
Not only did Vinegar Syndrome go all-out with a new 4K transfer on this movie (which looks quite nice), but they've also compiled a plethora of supplemental goodies. First off, there are THREE commentary tracks here.
-A commentary with Director Lewis Jackson (Courtesy of Synapse Films).
-A commentary with Director Lewis Jackson & the film's star Brandon Maggart (Courtesy of Troma Entertainment).
-A commentary with Director Lewis Jackson & filmmaker John Waters (Courtesy of Synapse Films).
-Also included are separate on-camera Interviews with Lewis Jackson (7 mins), Brandon Maggart (7 mins), Audition tapes (25 mins) with Richard Bright, Carla Borelli, Larry Pine, JoBeth Williams, Brandon Maggart, Pat Hodges, Michael Beck & Lindsay Crouse, Jeffrey DeMunn & Lindsay Crouse, George Dzunda & Jeffrey DeMunn, and David Rasche & Ellen McElduff. PLUS: Deleted Scenes (7 mins), the original comment cards and also all of Lewis Jackson's storyboards.
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