Christmas Evil – a seasonal exploration of mental illness

While Lewis Jackson’s Christmas Evil is often lumped together with its seasonal slasher counterparts Silent Night, Deadly Night and Black Christmas; it has more in common with a film such as Bill Lustig’s Maniac than the aforementioned films.

Here we have a character Harry, who has buried a childhood trauma of having Christmas and the mystery of Santa ruined, buried all of these years before society breaks him down to the point of homicide.

When we first meet Harry, in his adult form, he is jolly and ready for the day at work in the local toy factory, but his mood is soured after a work colleague basically forces him into another shift. He is mocked and teased and seems to have a shaky relationship with his only relative, his younger brother Philip.

Harry’s plan to become his town’s very own Santa Claus, after finding out the toy factory isn’t as green as they seem, goes awry when he finally snaps and kills three of his co-workers after they attend a church on Christmas Eve. This scene is quite shocking but you also get the feeling this has been boiling up inside Harry for years and even he is shocked by his horrendous actions.

Again he tries to do ‘good’ by delivering more presents to children, but following the murders the night before he is literally run out of town by a lynch mob. This is a mentally ill man with nowhere to go, no allies who could have used someone to talk to years before to prevent any of this from happening.

On the flip side, given his solitude perhaps Harry didn’t know how deep he had slid into mental health issues and his joy for the Christmas period simply masked this especially around the holidays.

Is his condition seasonal depression or something much more sinister?

When he tries to confront his brother he is discarded and almost choke to death, before escaping from all of his detractors. This is Jackson commenting how families are often estranged around Christmas, but in Christmas Evil this is much more sinister, given the crimes Harry has committed.

There is no doubt if he survived the truck crash at the end, the lynch mob or the authorities will have accosted him. On first watch I found the ‘fantastical’ ending quite cheesy, but given the film’s heightened reality I now kind of get it, as in Harry’s mind, this is the only way his story could have a happy ending.

This was my first watch of Christmas Evil in over 10 years, and ultimately it left me quite sad and feeling for Frank, a man clearly lost in his own head without any support for his burgeoning dark thoughts.

Christmas Evil is available now on Blu Ray from 88 Films.

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