Santa’s Slay (2005)

Rating: B-

Dir: David Steiman
Star: Douglas Smith, Emilie de Ravin, Bill Goldberg, Robert Culp

As a way to sign off the Christmas season, this was a pleasant surprise, a tongue-in-cheek tale which is based on the idea that Santa Claus (Goldberg – who is, of course, Jewish) was actually a son of Satan, tricked by an angel into a bet. When he lost, Santa was bound by the terms to be nice to children for the next thousand years. That millennium is now up, and he is free to spread Yuletide fear round Hell township. The only person who knows what’s going on is Grandpa (Culp), who has a book detailing the true origins of Santa, and a local reputation as a kook. Initially, his grandson Nick (Smith) and his work colleague Mary (de Ravin) lean towards the latter.

But as the bodies in the town continue to hit the floor – dispatched in grisly, if festive, fashion, they eventually realize that Grandpa was spot on. The young couple have two options: hide until the killing spree is over, or go on the offensive and try to send Santa back to where he came from, with the help of the local gun nuts. It’s clear where this is going from the opening, where a Xmas party of surprisingly high-profile names are offed by bad Santa [I’ll not name them and spoil the fun there – curiously, a lot of whom are also Jewish]. The aim is clearly low, from the moment Claus goes into a strip-club and says, “Ho-ho, hos,” but is none the less generally effective for it.

Former WCW and WWE star Goldberg has the physical presence to make it work – though I have to say, him speaking Norwegian and playing curling, definitely both appear on the list of things I never thought I’d see. There are certainly some moments of lameness, certain plot elements don’t work (like the whole time-zone thing) and neither of the young leads has any presence to speak of. However, the opening scene alone buys the movie quite a lot of latitude, and there are enough moments thereafter to ensure that the 78 minutes are much more of a pleasure than a chore.