“My father’s just been murdered! I can’t concentrate!” That’s an actual line from Don’t Open Till Christmas, a 1984 British slasher film that combines the polite reserve of the BBC drawing-room mystery with the creative impalings of American exploitation. While the London tabloids gush that there’s only “three more killing days ’til Christmas,” the city is being terrorized by a maniac who’s slaughtering men in Santa suits. Scotland Yard is perplexed. The chief Inspector (played by the movie’s director, Edmund Perdom) can’t find any clear pattern to the crimes beyond the fuzzy red suits worn by all the victims; meanwhile, he’s being driven to distraction by a scandalized public and creepy reporter Alan Lake. And then there’s the stripper who gets involved with the case when she witnesses a pervy Santa being gutted on the other side of her peepshow glass; and the woman from way back at the start of this paragraph, who’s frazzled because her dad got speared through back of the head while he was in the middle of playing Santa at an office Christmas party. Don’t Open Till Christmas seems to introduce new characters roughly every 10 minutes, none of whom assert themselves as the movie’s actual hero.
The Don’t Open Till Christmas DVD liner notes mention that veteran B-movie actor Perdom only agreed to star in the movie if he could also direct it, but he proved so inept that he was fired, and was replaced by another director, who was also fired. That may explain why Don’t Open feels like three incomplete movies happening simultaneously, all yoked together by the occasional Santacide (plus, inexplicably, a full musical number by horror-queen-turned-dance-pop-diva Caroline Munro). Even the initial warning that Christmas is only three days away falls by the wayside as new victims and new witnesses keep adding digressions for new directors to follow. The killer is revealed to the audience about two-thirds of the way through the film, but even that fails to drive the plot any closer to a conclusion. Instead, there’s more killing, and more harrumphing by the authorities and the citizenry alike. “Are you any nearer to solving these dreadful Santa Claus crimes?” someone politely asks at one point. It’s a question that remains damnably unanswered, even now.
Key features: An hourlong (!) making-of feature produced in the mid-’80s, and a new half-hour featurette about colorful sleaze-merchant Dick Randall.