With just more sleep until Christmas, our 12 Days of Christmas digs up another obscure little Christmas horror movie. Like Silent Night, Deadly Night, British slasher Don’t Open Till Christmas saw a limited theatrical release. It’s also a slice of B-movie exploitation horror filmed on a shoestring budget. Unlike the Christmas horror classic, this British slasher isn’t about a Killer Santa – someone’s randomly killing people dressed as Santa Claus. It also never achieved the same level of cult status. Little critical consensus exists aside from the bottom line that this one’s quite terrible.
It’s Christmastime but the festive mood in London, England, is on hold. A masked psychopath is stalking and murdering Santa Claus impersonators across the city. When the same killer murders her father at a Christmas party, Kate Briosky turns to Chief Inspector Ian Harris to help track down the killer.
Don’t Open Till Christmas a Random, Scuzzy Looking Slasher
From its opening scene, Don’t Open Till Christmas tells us exactly what kind of movie it is. Set in a poorly lit back alley, we’re treated to a shaky killer’s POV shot as they stalk and kill a Santa impersonator making out with a woman in a car. Awkwardly staged, poorly lit, and cheap looking, it sums up the remainder of the viewing experience. And if the killer hates Santa, why kill a random woman? The answer is simple – Don’t Open Till Christmas aims for a body count. Two writers – Derek Ford and Alan Birkinshaw – penned the screenplay. But the British slasher lacks much of a coherent story. Almost all the kills here feel completely random. One gets the impression that the creative team were emulating the trashy Italian slasher Pieces.
Awkwardly staged, poorly lit, and cheap looking, it sums up the remainder of the viewing experience.
Certainly, Don’t Open Till Christmas checks off many of the same boxes as Pieces. In addition to its loose and random story, the British slasher looks ultra-cheap and grimy. It also boasts a handful of sleazy kills including a gruesome restroom castration scene. Unless you’ve never watched a movie before, you should have no trouble identifying the killer. It’s telegraphed the moment they appear on the screen. Something of a twist works its way into the story. Of course, it only makes sense with tacked on exposition. And it taps into the same pseudo-psychoanalysis that defined the killer’s motivations in many 70s and early 80s slasher movies.
Don’t Open Till Christmas Has Actors … But It’s Missing Characters
In spite of its lack of a coherent story and random killings, a handful of characters do populate Don’t Open Till Christmas. Edmund Purdom (Pieces) – who directed some of the movie – pops in and out of the thriller as Inspector Ian Harris. Behind the scenes, Purdom exited and then returned to the movie. As a result, Purdom’s Inspector Harris disappears for stretches of time. This might not be a huge problem if the character didn’t inevitably factor into the movie’s finale and killer reveal. Maybe it should make the conclusion underwhelming, but it kind of works in favour of the thriller’s overall cheap exploitation vibe.
…Mayne’s character suffers a repeated unintentional joke throughout the movie – no one seems to care that she saw a spear plunged into the back of her father’s head.
Technically, the story revolves around Belinda Mayne’s (Krull) ‘Kate Briosky’ who tries to find her father’s killer. In addition to lacking much in the way of any defining traits, Mayne’s character suffers a repeated unintentional joke throughout the movie – no one seems to care that she saw a spear plunged into the back of her father’s head. When her boyfriend Cliff – played by Gerry Sundquist – complains that she needs to move mere hours after the death, one has to wonder from what dimension the screenwriters hail. And it’s Sundquist who provides much of the unintentional humor. Clearly, he’s intended to be a red herring except Don’t Open Till Christmas never bothers to develop that thread.
Don’t Open Till Christmas’ Appeal Limited to Only Diehard Exploitation Film Buffs
Don’t Open Till Christmas is pure sleaze-ploitation that scrapes the bottom of the barrel. Or maybe the bottom of the stocking. With only the barest semblance of story holding together what’s essentially a series of random killings, Don’t Open Till Christmas is a weirdly disjointed movie. Throw in paper-thin characters who evidence head-scratching logic and it’s not hard to believe the movie suffered from production problems. At least there’s something of a midnight movie vibe to the proceedings along with a couple of shocking kills. Fans of scuzzy exploitation flicks may enjoy this one; everyone can take a pass.