Another Christmas clunker. John Russo at the nadir of his directing career with SANTA CLAWS. Proof once more that Romero was the guy responsible for NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD’s classic status.
Debbie Rochon is best known for her work for Lloyd Kaufman in Troma films, but she’s also got a connection with another independent filmmaker, John Russo. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD’s co-writer took a shine to the scream queen and cast her in a number of his films, including his bungled re-edit 30th anniversary edition of NOTLD. The catalogue of their projects together also includes films with such lurid titles as SCREAM QUEENS’ NAKED CHRISTMAS, SALOONATICS, and the subject of today’s review, the holiday special SANTA CLAWS. Bringing lame gore, bad filmmaking and yuletide cheer to the screen, Russo proves that even Debbie Rochon naked can’t save a John Russo film.
There’s not much of a plot here. A low budget film starring Rochon as Raven Quinn falls prey to her obsessive stalker. That’s about it. But hey, there’s even a subplot! Raven’s marriage is falling apart, so we get scenes of her husband discussing the matter with his family. We also get the obligatory scenes explaining why the stalker has become obsessed, and shots of him sitting alone on his couch, discussing his love of Raven with himself. Some poorly executed kill scenes and a prolonged final battle for Raven’s life round out the film.
This movie is awful in almost every aspect. The acting is well south of the Quality Equator, as Russo once again jams in a bunch of relatives and friends. John Mowod of Bill Hinzman’s FLESH EATER is decent as the distraught husband, and Debbie Rochon delivers exactly what you would expect from Debbie Rochon: a beautiful face and body, and a good performance given her limited range. The real shame is seeing some old faces from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD tarnishing their legacy. Watching a much older Karl Hardman run around a ridiculously phony studio as a madman hunts him down with a three-pronged garden claw is embarrassing. Marilyn Eastman portrays Raven’s mother-in-law with little enthusiasm, and Hinzman plays the film-within-a-film’s director… who’s not a Cemetery Ghoul. Surprise! And of course, Russo plugs himself in as a detective, proving he can neither write, direct, nor act.
As for the rest, the dialogue, editing, lighting and sound are all dreadful. Russo’s entire career after NOTLD serves as proof that he has very little talent as a filmmaker, and that George Romero was the true force behind their seminal classic. But at least MIDNIGHT didn’t look like a glorified home movie, and had the acting talents of John Amplas. Given her connection with him, Rochon obviously sees something in Russo that I do not. SANTA CLAWS is the absolute nadir of Russo’s career. And that’s saying something.
The only reason to watch SANTA CLAWS is if you’re a Debbie Rochon completist. Or if you’re a John Russo fan. Wait, I’ll try to contain my laughter.