Don’t Open Till Christmas

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Produced by the infamous Dick Randall and primarily directed by star Edmund Purdom, Don’t Open Till Christmas (1984) is a particularly grimy, sleazy and gory entry in the sub genre of Christmas slasher films. Don’t Open Till Christmas was famously mired by production issues and tragedies. Actor/director Purdom quit the film only to return and co-star Alan Lake committed suicide shortly before the film was released.

As in Christmas Evil (1980), the killer in Don’t Open Till Christmas is motivated by the childhood trauma of witnessing his father, dressed as Santa, engaged in a sexual act. In Don’t Open Till Christmas this sexual act is one of infidelity that also accompanies domestic physical abuse. But where Christmas Evil opens with this trauma in order to chart the psychological deterioration of the main character, Don’t Open Till Christmas opts to end the film with this revelation.

The similarities between Don’t Open Till Christmas and Christmas Evil also extend to the relationships between characters. Both films deal with the killer and his brother, each representing juxtaposing moral views. In Don’t Open Till Christmas the killer, Giles (Alan Lake), is pursued by his policeman brother, Det. Harris (Purdom). Although the two men never meet on screen, they are nonetheless obsessed with the activities of the other and the entire film hinges on their strained relationship.

But Don’t Open Till Christmas is not a successful film in terms of realizing both its plot and its themes. The film ebbs and flows in spasms due to the fact that production problems prompted so many re-writes and unusable scenes. Don’t Open Till Christmas is Purdom’s only credit as a feature film director (even though two other directors contributed in Purdom’s absence) and his style seems to be no style at all, just a hodgepodge of disparate ideas and images.

What Don’t Open Till Christmas can successfully offer audiences are depraved murders and lurid images. These sequences of murdered Santas may lack a coherent visual style but they make up for it in impact. Don’t Open Till Christmas is a film for the slasher completist or grindhouse junkie.