Slaughter Claus and Bi-Polar Elf #19 as portrayed by David Hawkins and Nelson Oliver respectively.
Visit Charles E. Cullen's website to purchase Slaughter Claus and other DVDs.
Directed by Charles E. Cullen
Runtime 73 minutes
3.5 Stars (out of 4)
[Slaughter Claus premieres Thursday, December 8th 9:30PM at The Grandin Theater in Roanoke, Virginia]
I've been trying to think of a clever way to describe Slaughter Claus without making it sound so bad. I can't. It's the most atrocious, worthless piece of crap I've ever seen. Also, I loved every minute. If you've never seen a film by Charles E. Cullen before, then you can't really grasp the concept. It's like low-budget sketch comedy that middle-schoolers would post to youtube, except not as good.
The brilliance of Cullen's films is that they disregard any traditional notion of what makes a film good or bad. Accordingly, his films force the viewer to abandon their traditional notions of film-making. Acclaimed film critic Roger Ebert often talks about the way Hollywood trains its viewers. In the 1950's directors were largely prohibited from having homosexual characters. Audiences became trained to spot those characters by their subtleties. For instance, Peter Lorre's character in "The Maltese Falcon" was perceived to be gay by the audience of the time. These days an audience wouldn't notice the perfumed handkerchief found in Lorre's pocket. A simpler example comes form horror movies. When a character opens their medicine cabinet, you know there will be someone in the mirror when they close the cabinet. You've been brainwashed. You are the unwitting subject in Hollywood's big experiment. Don't worry though, Charles E. Cullen has the cure. He successfully manages to skewer those clichéd techniques while at the same time forcing us to redefine the way we watch films.
Now let me get into Slaughter Claus specifically. In the Chicken Man's previous films there was usually a traditional narrative with a beginning, middle and end. Slaughter Claus is more like a collection of short stories. The only two recurring characters are the titular Slaughter Claus and the Bi-Polar Elf. Each section of the film starts by establishing characters so that they can be viciously killed (and usually humiliated) by Slaughter Claus. There's no prologue for the angry old elf and no motive is ever mentioned. That being said, I never found myself longing for an explanation to Claus' violence. Why burden the viewer with needless character development when you could be filming kill scenes?
An early scene in the movie features a little girl having a fire-poker shoved into her brain. To the uninitiated that may sound pretty harsh. Personally, I have a burning hatred for the distasteful portrayal of violence towards children. I think Cullen understands that sentiment. He's had violence towards children in many of his films, but those scenes are made in such a ridiculous manner that you can't help but to laugh. In his movie "Night of The Bums", a couple of bum-zombies eat an infant. The infant is torn in half and is shown "crawling" across the road without its legs and lower torso. Again this is uncalled for, but how can you be offended when its an obvious plastic doll being pulled along with fishing string?
My favorite scene in the movie doesn't feature a death at all. It takes place in a bar where Cullen himself makes an appearance. It's a grand entrance. The camera starts with a close up of boots and slowly pans upward to reveal a mysterious cowboy. Like every good cowboy he sits at the bar and orders a beer. A long conversation takes place that leads to the cowboy being booted (pun intended) out of the bar. What makes the scene special is that it contains hardly any dialogue. The entire conversation plays out in a brilliant series of subtext and body language. It's scenes like these that make me wonder what the Chicken Man could do with a Michael Bay budget and some top-notch actors.
My least favorite scene in the movie takes place in a kitchen. It features a wife who makes cookies for her husband and then pukes from eating too much cookie dough. I summed it up in one sentence but it feels like an hour long segment in the film. Most of the time is spent with lingering shots of bizarre smiles on the faces of the couple. The puking scene is hilarious though. If you've ever seen "Team America: World Police", just imagine Gary's puke scene done with live actors. But even this nightmarish segment is destined for redemption. It's so bad that you can't wait for Slaughter Claus to appear and destroy everyone. I wonder now if that wasn't the point all along.
Now imagine this in live action.
There are two things in this movie which are always constant. The first being if an object is on screen longer than 5 seconds, it will be used to kill someone. Secondly, wherever Slaughter Claus goes his Bi-Polar Elf will be close behind. Officially, the character is credited as Bi-Polar Elf #19, I'm scared for what might have happened to the first 18. Let me confess, I know the actor playing this elf. His name is Nelson Oliver and I worked with him for about 2 years. He's a talented and experienced magician who proves in this film that his performing skills carry over quite nicely. That being said, he doesn't have any lines at all. His only job is to encourage Slaughter Claus with obnoxious high-pitched laughing while clapping like a school-girl who just had her first kiss. He does manage to participate in a couple of kills but he's mostly around for moral support. The elf costume consists of some jester pants, fake ears and a fake nose. No shirt, no shoes? No problem apparently. Given the fact that Slaughter Claus and his elf don't have any other friends, it seems obvious that there is a homosexual relationship between the two. It's not touched on in the movie, you'll just have to trust me. It's a far less subtle nod than Peter Lorre's handkerchief. But who can blame Slaughter Claus when his elf dresses so provocatively? Not me, that's for sure.
David Hawkins has a good performance as Slaughter Claus. He delivers lines that are filled with both hillbilly and sarcasm. He's like a poor-man's Larry the Cable Guy except wittier and more genuine. When you're dealing with local talent, the most important thing is that they actually enjoy performing. You can tell that David Hawkins was having a great time playing this part.
In conclusion, this may not be the best Cullen film you've ever seen but it's certainly a worthy edition to the series. I watched this film alone, in the dark while my family slept. I had nightmares, but not a scene went by where I didn't laugh at least once.