Tuesday, December 26, 2017

December to Dismember: YOU BETTER WATCH OUT! (2013)

Well, Christmas 2017 has come and gone. We hope you all got what you wanted and that it was a joyous occasion. And to all my Canadians out there, happy Boxing Day! Of course our gift to you was the resurrection of our December to Dismember reviews. So far this month we threw out nine reviews and that is more than the last year alone. Unfortunately, the score was one good movie out of those nine. Well, I’m certainly not about to break precedent with YOU BETTER WATCH OUT!

Not to be confused with the latest horror darling BETTER WATCH OUT (2016), this is a horror anthology from (according to the IMDb) “the dark and twisted imaginations of Jay Byrne and Michael Welch.” I stumbled upon this title while looking for Xmas horror fodder and figured I’d give it as a present to myself while placing an order on Amazon. Spoiler: I must really hate myself. Hey, I braved TALES FROM THE GRAVE 2: HAPPY HOLIDAYS (2005) so I can do this. So I sat down on Christmas night to take this one in. Another spoiler: I’m a fuckin’ idiot.

The plot centers on three friends (Rich, Steve and Lori) gathering at Rich’s house before a big Thanksgiving reunion party to tell each other scary stories they wrote. Wait...Thanksgiving? But this film is called YOU BETTER WATCH OUT!, which implies it is about Christmas. Ah, the twisted imaginations of Byrne and Welch have decided this will be a holiday themed horror. Jeez, did these guys see TALES FROM THE GRAVE 2 and think, “We can do better than this!” So what we get are stories about Halloween, Christmas and New Year’s. Before dissecting the Christmas entry, I’ll quickly sum up the first and third entries. Rich’s story is “All Hallow’s Eve” and focuses on two scumbag drug dealers who beat up a kid who doesn’t have their money. They decided to seek refuge in a creepy looking house, where they encounter some paranormal activity before being killed by a guy in a plaid shirt. Lori’s story is “Auld Lang Syne” and centers on Old Man New Year living his final days of the calendar year in New England with a bitchy landlord. He is pissed he is going to be replaced, but soon finds out blood gives him youth again.

The middle story is the one we’ll examine for its Christmas content. It belongs to Steve and is twistedly and imaginatively titled “Here Comes Santa Claus.” This opens with a priest (Tony Medeiros) being enlisted by the Catholic Church to do a hit for them. It seems the church is pissed that Christmas has become too commercial with less of an emphasis on Christ and it is one man’s fault. Yup, the priest is hired to snuff out Santa Claus. “The power of Christ compels you to be creative,” barks the church head on how to snag ol’ Saint Nick. Creative he is as he hires a prostitute to seduce Santa (co-creator Michael Welch) when he shows up at a house. We then get assaulted with some bad Christmas sex puns as she tries to suck on Santa’s “candy cane” and begs him to “put that Yule log in my nice, warm fire place.” The offer of something for free other than milk and cookies stuns the jolly one for enough time to allow the priest to emerge from a room and shoot Santa in the head. For good measure he also pays the prostitute by shooting her. Hey, that isn’t very Christian-like.

Anyway, our holy hitman is now taxed with getting rid of Santa’s body and this proves to be a rather difficult task. Santa wakes up while being dragged out and gets a cleaver in the head for his troubles. While being dragged in the snow to be buried he arises again and gets stabbed a whole bunch of times. Thrown into a car trunk, Santa is driven out to the woods and buried. He still isn’t dead though and appears before the hitman’s car. He drives into him (at a tire screeching 5 miles-per-hour) and then proceeds to run over him several times. Naturally, Santa pops to life again (haha, take that, Jesus!) and is shot a bunch more times. The killer then says screw it and leaves Santa’s body in the woods before heading back to the church to get his payment. While at home with his loot, Santa reappears again and explains he can’t die because the energy of the world’s belief in him keeps him alive. So it is like A NIGHTMARE ON ELM 34th STREET. Realizing the game is up, the hitman puts his gun in his mouth and shoots himself to end the pain (I’m envious). The segment ends with Santa putting the Catholic Church on his Naughty List.

Filmed in the wilds of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, YOU BETTER WATCH OUT! is another one of those indie horror efforts where you think more “how did this happen?” versus “how cool was that?” The wrap around makes little impact with the bad acting, terrible dialogue and lack of impactful twist (spoiler: the three storytellers are eventually killed by the plaid shirt guy from the first story). That said, I can lay praise where it is due and I think there are kernels of decent stories in the New Year’s and Christmas episodes. The New Year’s one, in particular, has a well thought out idea (the Old Year being jealous of the incoming New Year) but is never fully realized. This one is shot...err, presented in black & white, so you know it is serious. Alas, it is the Christmas episode we are concerned with here and I’d say it is the best of the bunch. Is it good? By conventional standards, no. But like I said there is a germ of a good idea in there. It is actually quite subversive with the idea that the Catholic Church would be pissed off at Santa Claus stealing their holiday clout. And the idea of Santa coming back jolly (and increasingly bloodied) again and again after being killed is hilarious and Welch is a decent Santa Claus. Unfortunately, it isn’t handled with the kind of panache it requires. Imagining it in the hands of someone like a mid-90s Alex de la Iglesia and you have a winner. As presented it is just kind of there. I will give the filmmakers props for actually filming in snow and trying to get a Christmas feeling in this segment. I also liked when Santa opens the priest’s briefcase with his payment (“I’ve always wondered what the going rate for killing me is.”) and finds it full of communion wafers. Oddly, in this segment only the filmmakers do comic book descriptive panels similar to CREEPSHOW (1982), but abandon it in the other segments. The DVD cover art (see above) is also great and caught my eye, but it created scenarios in my mind that were more exciting. In fact, I think the most entertainment I got from YOU BETTER WATCH OUT! was seeing the only review written on it on the IMDb was by one of the co-directors, Jay (Jason) Byrne. Not only does he pretend he isn’t the co-director, but he also gives his own film an 8 out of 10. See! Even he wasn’t totally impressed.

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