Holiday Horrors: Santa Claus and the Ice Cream Bunny

Continuing the fabled tradition begun all the way back in 2009, Scratchbomb presents Holiday Horrors and Holiday Triumphs: an advent calendar of some of the more hideous aspects of this most stressful time of year–with a few bits of awesomeness sprinkled in.

santa&icbunny.jpgA few years ago, three gentlemen associated with Mystery Science Theater 3000 (Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett) started an online business closely related to their former endeavor called Rifftrax. They record audio tracks that you can download and play along with the hideous movie of your choice. This skirts one of MST3K’s biggest stumbling blocks: usage rights. Getting the rights to a movie like Avatar so it can be mocked in an MST3K-esque format is impossible, but nobody can prevent you from creating a commentary track for it.

Until very recently, I had not enjoyed any of Rifftrax’s products beyond a few YouTube clips. I knew they existed, I just hadn’t sought them out. I’d gone to see Cinematic Titanic–another group of bad movie riffers made up of MST3K alumni–live, but that’s because that group includes Joel Hodgson, and I would do his jail time if he asked me. Apart from that, I’ve stayed away from most of their post-MST3K endeavors, figuring they would pale in comparison with the originals.

However, within the last week or so, all of the Rifftrax guys tweeted about how they’d just released a full-length work, video and all, on an obscure holiday movie called Santa Claus and the Ice Cream Bunny. Each of them described it in nigh-apocalyptic terms and shuddered with the memory of how punishing it was to watch this film.

Now, this is nothing new. I recall reading in some retrospective MST3K article that the cast, immersed in hideous cinema, would often protest that each week’s offering was the worst they’d ever seen. But then, I saw many tweets from several folks who watched this film and were stunned by its badness. So I gave myself an early Christmas present, purchased the Rifftrax disc, downloaded, and began to watch.

Look: We all know that Manos: The Hands of Fate is the worst movie ever made. It’s like the Bad Movie Speed of Light–a constant that can never be approached, let alone equaled. Only hypothetically can something achieve even a significant fraction of Manos‘ hideousness.

Well, it’s hypothetical no longer, because Santa Claus and the Ice Cream Bunny is very, very close to Manos levels of WTFitude. I’d say it travels at about 95 percent the crazy-speed of Manos, a hitherto unheard of percentage.

I don’t want to ruin the experience of watching this movie by revealing too much, but then again, I don’t think I can. First of all, though I’ve watched the entire film, I can only recall it in terrifying fits and starts, like a nightmare.

And in any case, telling you what “happens” in this film does not prepare you for watching it. Nothing I can write in the English language, or any other, can approximate the feeling this movie will give you. It’s something between pure unadulterated dread, dementia, and food poisoning. Much like Manos, you can not imagine that this movie was filmed on the same planet as you.

To make this worse, it was a movie intended for children. It was apparently produced to be a “matinee” movie, something that would play at the local mall cineplex while parents did some shopping. The resulting product is so insane and disturbing, that I think the director had never met an actual child before making it. If it’s possible to commit a hate crime against all children everywhere, this film is it.

Santa Claus and the Ice Cream Bunny begins with Santa’s elves wondering where he’s gone, the wondering being done in song form. Actually, it sounds more like an experimental tone poem, with each kid-elf singing lyrics in the fashion of his choosing while miked in the worst way possible. If enjoy this style of singing, you’re in luck, because you’re gonna hear it used again and again! The sound in the entire film sounds like it was recorded in a coffee can, then accidentally dropped in the toilet.

It turns out Santa’s not at the North Pole because his sleigh is stuck in the sand on a beach in Florida. He croaks out a tune about how his “predicament lacks its usual cheer”–and as bizarre as this line is, it’s not even close to the weirdest one in the movie. Using his hypnotic powers, Santa summons a group of kids to help him (and Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, because 505 ERROR).

The kids try to help Santa out of his plight by hitching various animals to his sled, which get progressively smaller because kids are stupid. Santa helps out by sitting completely motionless in his sled and being obscenely drunk. Seriously. The film made little effort to hide just how hammered Kris Kringle was during the entire shooting schedule. Which, it turns out, was literally a weekend at an amusement park called Pirate’s World. Knowing this explains the methods, but not the madness.

The kids are dejected by their failure, so Santa tries to cheer them up by telling them a story. The “story” is actually a previously produced adaptation of “Thumbelina”, shoved into the middle of this movie. And this curious document actually presents Thumbelina’s story as being observed by a teenage girl watching it at an amusement park, thus giving this film layers of framing devices and narrative that make Inception look like Go Dog Do.

And just in case anyone thought this movie wasn’t disturbing enough already, the gir watching Thumbelina is doing so in a room full of balsa wood frames and virtually nothing else. It looks an exhibit in an Eastern bloc nation’s museum of farming and war.

In this “Thumbelina,” all characters but the titular one sound like they just pulled off the Cross Bronx Expressway to ask for directions. The camera lingers over shots of people in clumsy animal costumes struggle to move and get out of chairs as if the director was trying to pass some kind of meaningless footage endurance test.

Through strange mishaps and shenanigans, Thumbelina winds up with a mole for a mother, one who’s very insistent she get married to an older, wealthy mole (Mr. Digger) who can take care of her. This where the film gets straight up creepy, especially when you consider the director–Barry Mahon–was best known for his work in porn. When you also consider the girl’s vacant, sub-Russ Meyers-level demeanor, her mico-miniskirt, and her aggressively braless fashion sense, you get the feeling that some awful, sordid scene of girl-on-mole action is going to burst forth at any second. Ick.

Thumbelina escapes thanks to a bird she nurses back to health, who takes her to the land of the flower children. She is immediately crowned queen and belts out an ear-shattering song to celebrate her new regime. Then the girl who was watching Thumbelina leaves her North Korean prison, I mean exhibit, and joins her boyfriend to leave the grounds of beautiful Pirates World. THE END, say the credits.

Oh, did we say the end? We meant there’s more movie with Santa. He says the story of Thumbelina should teach us all to have faith! Except that the kids almost immediately abandon him, which kind of defeats his argument. Santa, beaten down by the hot Florida sun (and gin), decides to take off some of his many layers of clothing, and to do it with several nauseating grunts. (As Corbett notes, “If Werner Herzog had invented strip-o-grams, this is exactly what they’d be like.”)

But all is not lost! The day is saved by The Ice Cream Bunny, as he drives toward Santa in his old-timey fire engine overloaded with kids, his siren wailing the whole time. Thrill as he drives through Pirates World! And more of Pirates World! And a small dirt road leading out of Pirates World! And then a another bumpy dirt road leading to the beach! Yes, any second now, Santa will be saved!

It takes a full five minutes for The Ice Cream Bunny to reach Santa. On paper, that may not look like a lot, but in a film, it is an eternity. And that eternity is lengthened by another song from the kids, one which repurposes the “his predicament lacks the usual cheer” line from earlier, because you don’t want to let a gem like that go to waste by just using it once.

Oh, I almost forgot to describe the Ice Cream Bunny. Actually, I didn’t forget so much as avoid it as long as possible. Naturally, he’s a big lummox in a huge, ill-fitting rabbit costume. But there’s something about his mute, soulless face that makes him menacing. It should be telling that Nelson describes him by paraphrasing Quint’s shark speech from Jaws.

The Ice Cream Bunny speeds Santa back to the North Pole using his magic fire truck jalopy, abandoning an entire crowd of kids in a fetid Florida swamp in the process. Who was The Ice Cream Bunny? How could he help Santa when no one else could? The answers to those questions have been taken to the grave, kids!

You owe it to yourself to see this film at least once, but I would heartily recommend you NOT watch it without benefit of the Rifftrax folks. That wold be unnecessarily masochistic and dangerous, like smoking unfiltered Lucky Strikes with your nostrils.

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