Movie Review: I BELIEVE IN SANTA CLAUS (J’ai rencontre’ le P’ere Noel)

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New World Pictures

From the dustbins of Obscure Christmas Movies Past comes the French holiday fantasy flick J’ai rencontre’ le P’ere Noel. Released in 1984, and known in English reissues as either Here Comes Santa Claus and I Believe In Santa Claus, the version I was tortured with is titled I Believe In Santa Claus, and thus the heading I’m going with for this review.

So, here we have a youngster named Simon, who’s bullied constantly by not only his fellow students, but also the janitor. Also, just as an extra kick in the chestnuts, Simon’s parents were kidnapped by an African warlord while on a trip there to provide aide. What part of Africa, you ask? Shhhhh, no need to worry about such trivial details, silly billy. So, wanting to get his wish to Santa–the safe return of his parents–he and an unwitting school chum hop a plane to the North Pole Lapland to visit Santa’s home. There, Santa and his Fairy Princess magically travel to Africa (just Africa) and manage to save Simon’s parents with the help of gun-toting children. Meanwhile, the kids are kidnapped by an ogre, who is planning on eating them, but not until they clean his house first. Fortunately, Santa and the Fairy Princess arrive back in time to save the two from the ogre, and the kids are rushed back to their homes just in time for Christmas Mass, where no one seems all that surprised that they’ve been gone for so long and then reappears. The end.

I Believe In Santa Claus was…bizarre. First off, this was French, so there’s not really a lot of a surprise there. In an attempt to add a bit of whimsy to the mix, this stars one Karen Cheryl, who, I’m told, was a French pop star at the time. She played both Simon’s schoolteacher, and the Fairy Princess. That song that she sings during the introduction to Santa’s workshop is something like audio herpes; long after the end credits rolled, it was that particular song that was stuck in my head for days. I can’t for the life of me tell you what that song title was, as they all seem to be all titled in French on the IMDB page. Also, I don’t care.

As Christmas movies go, I can honestly say that I’ve seen worse. I Believe In Santa Claus may be a bit more avant gard than most would expect from a Santa Claus movie, which in a way kind of makes me watch this every year now as my go-to Yuletide tradition. It’s no The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t, But Then Was and lacks any Christmas Hobgoblins, but obscure Europop singers and a completely bonkers premise is a good trade-off. Worth a look-see, especially the Rifftrax edition.

Movie Review: METALHEAD

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metalheadeOne Films

On a rural cow farm in Iceland Hera’s brother is killed in an accident and she blames herself for his death. In her grieve [sic] Hara finds solace in the dark music of heavy metal and dreams of becoming a rock star.

I first heard about the foreign film Metalhead on the Metal Sucks website that I frequent years ago. Back then, it was still making the rounds at the usual film festivals that go on in Europe. Of course, it had a title that guaranteed my attention.

The description intrigued me further: An Icelandic farm girl grows despondent after the tragic death of her older brother and turns to the Undisputed Music of Awesome–namely, \,,/METAL\,,/–to help cope. And embrace it she does: She not only wears her brother’s collection of vintage, drool-worthy band t-shirts and listens to it constantly within her room festooned with posters and magazine pin-ups, but she also composes her own music. But unfortunately, since she is a teenager, she also has a few additional forms of self-expression, most on the destructive shenanigans side of things–breaking into the neighbor’s houses in the middle of the night to drink their booze, stealing tractors for joyrides, setting their cows free, hijacking the PA system at the slaughterhouse and cranking \,,/METAL\,,/ through them, making passes at the new pastor of their church, things like that. Ah, memories. Anyway, after her childhood friend proposes to her, and her advances at the single pastor were rebuffed, she reacts in the only logical way she knows how: burning the local church down. This proves to be one step too far for the townsfolk, and she makes off for the hills (literally), where she nearly freezes to death, and sees a brief vision of her dead brother, and makes her way back to a forgiving village and accepts the marriage proposal of one of her childhood friends, assimilating into normal rural Icelandic routine. Of course, she’s absolutely soul-crushed, but what is there else to do? Nothing but play doting farmer’s wife…until a trio of Norwegian Black Metal musicians show up in her village looking for her, due to coming across a copy of her demo tape and totally wanting to join her band. So then she drops her metal-hating fiancĂ©e and joins up with the guys and plays a totally awesome set at the village’s community dinner-thing. The movie ends with the teenage girl and her two parents dancing to Megadeth’s “Symphony Of Destruction”.

Metalhead falls under the category of Coming-Of-Age Drama that utilizes a bit of pop culture as part of the context of the story, instead of Metalsploitation. I wasn’t really expecting Metalsploitation, mind you, but I would be lying if I said that the presence of \,,/METAL\,,/ wasn’t the sole reason for me buying the streaming version on my Google Play account. I wanted to see how well the \,,/METAL\,,/ references were worked in, regardless of how boring the movie might actually be.

Fortunately, even though it’s not one of the genres I usually glom to for my cinematic downtime, Metalhead turned out to be a rather good movie, well-shot and well-acted. Yes, it’s a foreign film, and yes it has English subtitles, but I found that the actors conveyed their characters very well, to where I probably didn’t really need the subtitles to read the dialog coming from their expressions and performance. The \,,/METAL\,,/ is used well as a good framing device, and not as an afterthought, which is refreshing, to say the least. And finally, we get a depiction of a Christian minister that not only not portrayed in the typical cinematic manner–i.e., judgmental, self-righteous and possibly psychotic–but actually had a history with \,,/METAL\,,/, and understood Hera’s interest in the music.

Overall, Metalhead was very much worth a watch. It’s a compelling drama that is refreshingly saccharine-free, and actually gets the whole \,,/METAL\,,/ part of things right. To say nothing of how awesome the soundtrack is. Definitely worth checking out.