*. I began my notes on Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) by talking about the controversy it generated with its depiction of a psycho-slasher Santa Claus. I thought the outrage a bit overdone, but it underlined what has proven to be an abiding problem. Assuming you want to make an “adult” Christmas movie — and I can think of few good reasons why you would — you’re likely going to find it’s not an easy task.
*. If anything, the Christmas horror Better Watch Out (2016) was even worse than Silent Night, Deadly Night, in large part because of its inability to settle on a consistent tone. At least Silent Night, Deadly Night, much like Black Christmas (which wasn’t really a Christmas movie at all) knew what it was about. Better Watch Out was a disgusting travesty, or as I put it in my notes, “a complete piece of shit.”
*. Fatman is another complete piece of shit, mainly for its own slightly different mangling of tone. I’ve heard it described as a “dark comedy,” which I guess is something different (darker?) than a black comedy. The plot has to do with a grizzled Chris Cringle (Mel Gibson), fueled by booze and cookies, running his Santa operation out of a farm in Alaska. Times are tough though, and the federal government is going to pull Santa’s subsidies unless he gets his workshop producing fighter jets (real ones, not toys) for Uncle Sam. He reluctantly agrees. Meanwhile, a bratty rich kid who once got a lump of coal for Christmas hires a hitman (Walton Goggins), who has his own issues with the Fatman, to kill Santa.
*. Does this sound funny? Well, it isn’t. Does it even sound like a movie you’d want to watch? Apparently the writing-directing team of Ian and Eshom Nelms shopped the script around for over 10 years before getting someone to greenlight it. Normally I’d admire this persistence and belief in the value of one’s work, but in this case I think they might have taken it as a hint that the whole concept was garbage.
*. I guess the hook here was that they were playing the concept straight. So that while there are obviously absurd moments, Goggins and the bratty kid are genuinely cruel and repellent figures, and we see people being shot and beaten in realistic ways. I don’t think I have to point out that none of this is funny. Nor is it dramatic in any way. It’s just painful to watch.
*. A special lack of distinction award goes to the U.S. military, who aren’t just portrayed as exploitive and soulless bureaucrats of the military-industrial complex, but also totally incompetent as fighting men. A lone gunman simply blasts his way into their high-security compound and kills all of them, leaving Santa, his wife, and his elves to take the killer down.
*. Totally unsatisfying, even with Mel’s final appearance as Odin to put a little scare into the murderous shit who started all this. Probably the worst movie I saw all year and one I nearly pulled out of the DVD player after twenty minutes. Let this be a warning to you not to even feel tempted to check this one out. Leave it alone and look for happier holiday fare.