Ho ho howdy folkses! Welcome to the Eighth Day of our second annual The Twelve Days of Shitmas celebration. Things took a welcome turn towards sweet nostalgia in our last review, with a special that managed to be charming, warm and friendly, full of homespun sentiments and hokey fun. Today's offering has none of those things, but it just about corners the market on awkward ineptitude, dubious moral messaging and baffling uncanny-valley unpleasantness. In fact my placing it here at Day Eight instead of at the apex of Shitmas misery on Day Twelve is something I can't fully justify, even to myself. What can I say? I'm just a capricious little shit sometimes...and that's why you love me.

Good thing we hoarded all that toilet paper.

We're posting a brand new review of a Christmas Special every other day, culminating in what we consider the worst of the bunch on Christmas morning...a highly scientific determination involving theoretical calculus, high-level probability sampling, quantum entanglement and a punishing twelve-hour rock-paper-scissors marathon.

Our feature today is one of the most disagreeable things of any kind I've ever seen, and that includes a laparoscopic video of my 1992 hernia mesh surgery and a gargantuan protest shit Intern Tizwin did under my bed last week when I refused to sign off on his latest expense report.

I don't always shit under the bed, but when I do I scratch at the spot for three hours, even after it's already been cleaned up.

The Christmas Tree also has the ignominious distinction of having the lowest IMDb rating of anything I have ever reviewed for Million Monkey Theater, edging out last year"s Tenth Day of Shitmas offering Magic Christmas Tree (1964) by just 9/10ths of a percent. It's appropriate in a way because it just barely missed the cut last year in favor of that other equally obscure holiday abomination.

It was produced and directed by the fabulously-named Flamarion Ferreira, previously a background artist for such diverse and influential animated projects as Scooby Doo and Scrappy Doo (1979), The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang (1980-81) and She-Ra: Princess of Power (1985-87). This special was produced in Fierreira's native Brazil, with dialog recorded in the United States by the finest voice actors $5 and a lunch voucher at a Rax's fast food restaurant could buy.

It aired once, on December 14th, 1991 on the USA Network, with a simultaneous home video release that promptly sank into the dank, pizza sauce-encrusted abyss of used VHS dollar-bin oblivion. Notorious bargain-basement outfit GoodTimes Entertainment released a DVD in 2003, but sales were poor and an ongoing financial decline led to the company's closure two years later. There's no direct evidence that A Christmas Tree was responsible for the company's bankruptcy and subsequent dissolution, but once you've seen it you really can't help but wonder.

The special opens with some truly awful midi music, with faux-horns, faux-piano and tinkling faux-percussion, on a cozy parlor with a roaring fire and a big, lush Christmas tree.

A narrator tells us that that "there are many, many stories about this special holiday named Christmas," and we zoom in on a big storybook sitting under the tree, which opens as the narrator begins a marathon three and a half-minute recitation...wherein it is revealed:

The story takes place in an orphanage; The lady who runs the orphanage is a greedy, grasping harridan named Mrs. Mavilda who fleeces the town's mayor for donations and then gambles them away; the whiny, sap-eyed foundlings at the orphanage never get new clothes, toys or enough to eat; the orphans have an illicit stray dog named Licorice they sometimes let in their room; there's a big pine tree in the yard the kids have named "Mrs. Hopewell," which they think is magic and pretend is their mother; a new family has just moved into town "to start a new life"; the woman and her two kids will be staying at the orphanage at the Mayor's request while her husband goes off to work at a lumber mill somewhere in the northern woodlands, many miles away from town.

The Bad Bitch.

The Orphans.

The Good Bitch.

The Tree.

The New Family.

Phew! That's an awful lot of needless exposition we could easily have gleaned for ourselves in a more organic and satisfying way later on...if only the filmmakers had any confidence in their story or rudimentary understanding basic narrative structure.

The narrator delivers his lines in weirdly inflected fits and starts, with odd cadences and queasy diction. It's jarring and discomfiting, as if spliced together randomly without any regard to tonal or logical coherence. One line, for example, might have been recorded on a wax cylinder in a corrugated steel shack outside of Sao Paulo while high on mescaline, and the next might be from a late 70's Radio Shack cassette recorder with a dying battery and recorded in an old refrigerator box at the corner of Linden and Rialto near Venice Beach during an extended bath salts bender.

It's like the surreal and disunited murmur of nonsensical thoughts that bubble and seep through a fever-addled brain in the sinister twilight between sleeping and waking during an extended illness. It's such a bewildering, disjointed mess it makes at least one bad Christmas special reviewer question what exactly the fuck he's doing with his life.

So the narrator finally takes a rest to go score some heroin or peyote or K2, or whatever the hell else he's self-medicating with this week, and we see the new family walk up and ring the bell at the Orphanage. Mrs. Mavilda answers the door and says "Oh, it's you," and any hopes that the character dialog will be any better than the narration are immediately dashed by her comically sneering screech that sounds like something deemed too grating and unfunny even for an early 80's Saturday Night Live sketch.

The Husband declares sleepily "We come from the Mayor's," and Mavilda impatiently shouts "I know! I Know. The Mayor just called." He turns to his wife and says "I'd better go," and that's the last we'll see of him for the next forty minutes.

"So are we Amish or Mennonite or what?"

As soon as the Husband leaves Mavilda says "Can we go now?" Like she's anxious to leave for a trip, and I'm not really sure what the hell she's talking about since they're not leaving, they're just going inside the house...and I'm already over-thinking this aren't I?

Mavilda shows wife Judy to an old, dirty garret with a single bed and some dusty pots and boxes and other junk stacked up on shelves on the floor. Judy points to an old mattress folded on top of a pile of boxes and says it's all cool, she can just put that on the floor for her own kids, but Mavilda says they won't be getting any special treatment and can sleep down in the barracks with the Orphans. She then rattles off a bunch of duties Judy will be expected to perform, including making breakfast, feeding the orphans, cleaning and washing, making dinner and putting everyone to bed by 7:30 pm. She graciously allows her some time alone with her own kids, but no more than half an hour and only if she's finished her chores.

I just can't stop staring at her dangly flaccid penis nose.

Mavilda takes Judy's kids down to stay with the Orphans...and we need to talk about the character design for a minute here. The adults are a wildly mixed bag, with some drawn relatively realistically and others as grotesque caricatures, but all with weird, angular eyebrows and heavy, grotesque eyelids. The orphans are mostly child-shaped but everyone is kind of lumpy-headed and mis-proportioned, and absolutely everyone has weird, creepy eyes, with big black irises and milky translucent pupils that look like cataracts.

Perhaps the Mayor could spring for a trip to the opthalmologist.

This is some pretty strong uncanny valley stuff here. Clearly the animators were going for the big head/big eyes formula Disney so often employs to accentuate cutesy facial features, but somewhere along the way it just went entirely to shit and instead we've gotten a bunch of not-quite-human-looking, plastic body-snatched replicants. It's tough to muster up any warmth or sympathy for them because they're just so damn uncomfortable to look at.

So the two new kids are left in the barracks with the rest of the riff-raff, and there's a long, awkward pause as they sit on the bed with the others staring at them, no one quite knowing what to say. The girl, Lily has a little teddy bear that only has one arm, and she asks the other children if they'd like to hold it. This breaks the ice, and the Orphans all smile and take turns holding the toy.

Lily's brother's name is Pappy, by the way, and all I can think of every single time he appears on-screen is Poopdeck Pappy from the old Popeye comics.

"I don't likes relic'tives!"

We get a montage now of Judy washing dishes and doing laundry, cleaning windows and ironing. She brings some clean linens into the children's room and Lily calls her over to the window to see Mrs. Hopewell, whom you'll recall from the opening narration is a fucking tree. The Orphans explain how Mrs. Hopewell takes care of them, with one saying he likes to imagine she's holding him in her branches like they're her arms, and another saying she wishes she could read so she could tell her a story from an old book she found and inexplicably carries with her everywhere.

"It used to be Mrs. Mavilda's. I think it's called "Fifty Shades of Grey."

Lily and Pappy are voiced by actual children, and the upside of this is that they actually sound like kids. The downside is that these particular kids can't recite their dialog any more convincingly than the narrator or anyone else providing voices for this thing. The Orphans, on the other hand are all voiced by a couple of adults pretending they're children, with one kid's voice modulated electronically to increase the pitch and sounding like a castrated Smurf on helium. To make things worse and even more confusing than it already is to tell the various moppets apart they sometimes use the wrong voice on the wrong kids.

The children introduce Judy to Licorice and she says "I didn't know we had a dog!" They explain that Licorice is contraband, and if Mrs. Mavilda finds out about him they'll all be in big trouble. At first Judy tells them that if the dog is not allowed then he shouldn't be there, but one of the Orphans says "I knew we shouldn't have told you, adults always ruin everything," which sad-sack-guilt-trips her into letting the mutt stay.

She promises she won't tell and will just have to pretend she doesn't know the dog is there, but then she immediately goes outside and gives the thing a bath in a big wooden tub, out by Mrs. Hopewell and in full view of the orphanage house where Mrs. Mavilda could just casually glance out a window and catch sight of them at any moment.

Way to be discrete there, lady.

Thankfully Mavilda is off somewhere being drunk and profligate so Judy and the kids get away with their clumsy subterfuge.

Now Judy decides to make Mrs Hopewell "more fun to be around." She spots some planks of wood piled up near the house and without asking Mavilda's permission she uses them to build a slide and a swing. We're given no word on where she found the saw, hammer and nails, or how she managed to do it all in one afternoon, ostensibly in a mere couple of hours.

No word, either on how she plans to remove all the splinters that woodedn slide is gonna plant in those kids' asses.

Now we see Mavilda, looking displeased and dyspeptic at an upstairs window and finally noticing what's going on outside. She calls Judy up to her office and gives her a dressing down, telling her she has no time for such shenanigans with all the other work she has to do around the place.

Why are they hiding their crotches from each other?

Judy explains that she built the playground in her spare time, after doing all her regular chores, including cooking and cleaning up from the day's meals, washing all the windows, doing all the laundry and even waxing the floor, which is pretty goddamn impressive, since if I get even one of those things done in an entire weekend I'm ready to throw myself a fucking party.

"I cleaned the toilet! Let's have some champagne!"

So day follows day and Judy and the Orphans get closer and closer, and Mavilda watches from her window and becomes more and more bitter because she's a miserable shrew who just can't stomach anyone else being happy.

The Mayor drives past one day to find Judy and the Orphans out under Mrs. Hopewell. As he nods approvingly and mutters something about what a fine woman she is to take such good care of the children, I can't help but notice that in every other scene, where the Mayor doesn't need to be able to see Mrs. Hopewell easily from his car for sketchy plot purposes, the tree has been way out behind the building on the crest of a hill, but now it's only about ten yards from the house and no more than fifty feet from the road.

Funny how Mrs. Hopewell can move around the yard on her own like that. I guess she is magical.

Our illicit substance-compromised narrator returns to tell us that "Judy learned about how important that tree was for the children," and "they really developed a special feeling towards [her]"...and now we really need to talk about this dialog.

It's incredibly awkward and unnatural. For one thing the characters only very rarely use any contractions, so instead of saying "I'll be back" or "We'll be fine," they'll say "I will be back" or "I will be fine." It's stilted and formal and not at all how real human, non-robot people actually talk, and when someone actually does use a more conversational tone or idiom it seems so out of place with the rest of what they're saying it's like an 80 year-old Jewish grandpa quoting the Wu-Tang Clan. Some of the phrasing is also oddly clinical, sounding like excerpts from a statistical manual or a set of furniture assembly directions translated into English from another language, and owing to the special's Brazillian roots it's possible that it actually was translated by someone for whom English was a second language.

Time passes and we find ourselves in winter and close to Christmas. There's a brief montage of the snowy town and its good, hardy folk getting ready for the holiday, then the Mayor stops by the orphanage with another cash donation, in two big green money bags like something out of a Scrooge McDuck cartoon.

Ledgers? Bank accounts? Who needs 'em? I got cash money, bitches!

He says one bag is to buy the Orphans new clothes and the other is to buy them Christmas presents. Just as he's about to leave Judy arrives and he repeats to her what he'd just told Mavilda, and since he's noticed how fond all the kids are of her he asks if she'd help pick out the clothes and presents for them.

The Mayor has a voice like Adam Sandler when he does that whiny, nails-on-a-chalk-board, adenoidal man-child thing people seem to think is so fucking hilarious. I can't stand Adam Sandler.

He's the David Spade of Pauley Shores.

So the Mayor runs off to go do some Mayorin' and Judy runs off to tell the Orphans about the presents and clothes and Mrs. Mavilda calls up her sketchy, good-time pals for another all-night poker party so she can gamble away the money she's just been handed...and now, folks we need to talk about the oddly static, glitchy animation.

Nothing moves properly, in any kind of smooth or believable way, and zero effort has been made to synch up any of the words with the characters' mouths. It's kind of like the limited frame animation you see in particularly cheap TV anime, but it's even less fluid with lots of weird, jerky-wobbly artifacts. The tempo of the dialog speeds up and slows down, as if they filmed the animation first without considering how much time the lines of the script might take to deliver, then had to rush or stretch them to fit whatever space they already had on film.

Now we have a scene where Judy and the Orphans have the inevitable talk about the wonders of Christmas. It's a sequence full of thread-worn banalities and tired bromides, spoken with all the vim, energy and intrinsic appeal of a municipal worker uncloging a fatberg from a sewage tunnel.

She's so excited she just can't hide it. She's about to lose control and she thinks she likes it.

Judy says Christmas is a "pretty and happy time of the year." She tells them it's a time when people get together--especially children with their parents and grandparents--and apparently she nuzzled so deeply inside her own nostalgic navel-gazing that she forgot she was talking to a bunch of fucking orphans who have no parents, grandparents or families of their own. The kids just sit there silently and lazy-eyed like little zombies, giving no indication they're taking any of it in.

I think the girl on the left is having some kind of seizure.

Judy explains to the Orphans about stockings and Christmas trees and Santa Claus, and Judy encourages each of them to make a Christmas wish to the mythical jolly fat man they've only just now learned about. Lily wishes for a new arm for her teddy bear, one boy wishes for a bike, and the girl who just had a seizure wants a doll with a pink bow. We are not privy to what the others want. We are unworthy of their confidence.

Meanwhile Mavilda is drinking wine and playing poker with her pals, and eventually she just pushes the two big bags of cash to center of the table and loses her whole wad in one shot.

This woman needs an intervention.

Mavilda wakes up the next morning and the first thing out of her mouth is "What a hangover!" because that'll appeal to all the tots and their parents watching this special in abject horror at home. As her hazy memories of the previous night return she begins to panic, realizing Judy will soon be there and that they're both supposed to go shopping for clothing and toys using the money she gambled away the previous night.

I've been trying to figure out who the producers thought would be their target audience and I think I've finally got it sussed: if you hear the words "heartwarming family entertainment" and immediately think "drinking, gambling and embezzlement," then this special was made just for you. Also you should probably get some counselling.

So Mavilda lies in bed and has an externalized internal monologue about losing the money and what the fuck she's going to do about it. When Judy comes in she decides to just shout her problems away, telling Judy they're not going shopping or buying anything for the Orphans at all, and when Judy asks why she shouts "Because I said so, that's why!"

Judy is understandably angry and disappointed, and as she grasps for a response Mavilda hears the kids playing outside. She orders that the Children are no longer to go outside to play but must be kept inside the building at all times. Judy correctly surmises that Mavilda doesn't want the Mayor to happen by and see that the kids are still in their old tattered rags and she says so to her, sending the larcenous old hag into an apoplectic rage.

At least I think that's what happened. That penis on her face makes it kinda hard to concentrate.

Now Malvida openly admits that the money is gone and tells Judy she'd better just go ahead and compound a felony for her by keeping her mouth shut and helping to cover it up.

Next we see Judy at her snowy Garret window looking out at the children as they play with Mrs. Hopewell one last time, impotently bemoaning the cruelty of Malvilda's schemes instead of grabbing her coat and heading to the nearest neighbor's house to blow the whistle on her by calling up the Mayor and maybe even the local newspaper. She's nominally presented as the "hero" of A Christmas Tree but she's just a meek, passive little wallflower, craven and spineless, utterly lacking the strength to follow through on her alleged convictions.

You could end this all right now, Judy and I for one would thank you for it.

Judy calls the children in and gives them the bad news about the clothes and gifts and being locked inside. They whine about how unfair it is, and Judy, paragon of virtue and selflessness says "Please children, don't make it more difficult for me."

We cut back to Mavilda in her bed, wearing her little muffin-top sleeping cap, nursing her hangover and realizing that she's in pretty deep shit. She decides she's going to have to somehow get rid of Judy and comes up with a plan to make her look like a thief "just like I did to the girl who worked with me before!"

We really didn't need to see that thing this close.

She calls up one of her sleazy gambling buddies and hatches the following plot: She'll send Judy out to his house to pick up some kind of red-herring package and while she's there the guy will "slip something valuable" into her pocket. After she leaves he'll "notice it missing" and call the police, who will then show up at the orphanage and find it in Judy's coat.

I'm not sure this guy has anything valuable in his house beyond about 12 years worth of empties he hasn't yet turned in to get his nickels back.

Seizure Girl happens to be snooping around outside in the hallway and hears all of this. She also hears her scheme to have the same guy come over and chop down Mrs. Hopewell so the Orphans won't be tempted to sneak ouside and play.

Next we cut to Mavilda handing Judy the car keys and a paper with the address where's she's going to pick up the package, and I can't help thinking what a hare-brained and transparent scheme this frame-up is. No cop in the country would buy the pretenses Mavilda was setting up, and once Judy spilled the beans and a few of the kids were interviewed to confirm it the truth would out anyway and the sorry old hag would be dragged off to jail by her phallus proboscis.

Anyway Seizure Girl comes down and says she has something she needs to tell Judy, but Mavilda shuffles Judy out the door before the tot can spill the beans. As soon as she's gone she interrogates the poor kid, who doesn't exactly crack, but whose shifty manner and lame excuses make Mavilda suspect she might have overheard her scheming on the phone.

Seizure Girl runs up to tell the rest of the children what she overheard, and as she's talking Mavilda shows up behind them in the open doorway.'s even worse from this angle.

Mavilda lays down her New World Order on how things are gonna be at the place now that Judy won't be around to pamper them. There'll be no more good times, no more playing and she even sends them all to bed without any dinner just as an extra added reminder that she can and will do absolutely anything to keep them miserable and subjugated. As a parting shot she gleefully tells them that she's cutting Mrs. Hopewell down for firewood. Which Seizure girl had already told them, but whatever. Mavilda's still a bitch.

After Mavilda leaves the kids all gather at the window overlooking the tree and discuss what they might be able to do to thwart the oncoming disaster. The Castrated Smurf says to Pappy "I'm worried about your mother, she's awful in danger!" Pappy shrugs it off, saying his mother knows how to defend herself.

Mommy knows Kung-Fu fighting.

They all decide that Pappy should go to the Mayor's office, but when Licorice shows up at the window for the scraps they usually save for him they all realize how late it is and that the Mayor would have already gone home and probably won't be back until after Christmas.

The kids re-litigate everything we already know about their dilemma in a desperate feedback loop until finally Lily gets the shits of it and goes over to the window. She looks up at the sky and says "Santa, if you're listening I wish that my Christmas wish can be changed..." She then wishes to have Santa somehow save Mrs. Hopewell instead. The kid with the cheese plate cover on his head insists that Santa can't hear her, that nobody can hear her and nobody is going to help and they're all completely fucked.

Not very helpful Cheese Plate Cover Kid. Not very helpful at all.

Pappy says that his mother told him that if you wish real hard on a star your wish will come true, because "stars are the messengers of Christmas wishes." I can't vouch for this, personally. Wishing on a star never got me any of the admittedly coarse and degenerate things I've ever wished for, but hey, maybe that was my fault for being such a coarse and degenerate reprobate.

A kid with patches on his elbows buys into this last-ditch fantasy, however and decides to go to the window and change his Christmas wish, too. Instead of the bicycle he'd asked for he wishes that Judy might be saved from Mavilda's duplicitous sheme.

At least he's got his priorities straight.

I sure hope this scene isn't as tedious to read about as it is to watch. Holy Christmas balls, it seems interminable already, but it's still not over. Now Pappy, who a moment ago was cheerleading for stars and Santa and Christmas wishes, posits that it's probably too late to change those wishes now anyway since it's already the day before Christmas Eve and everything is futile and they're all back to being completely fucked. Then he perks back up and has the bright idea that since they're already so far north one of them should just grab a sled and head to the North Pole to tell Santa their troubles personally. I'm concerned that Pappy might have an undiagnosed bipolar disorder.

The only problem, aside from every single goddamn thing about all of that, is that they don't know how to get there. Licorice hears them say this and barks, and Lily somehow interprets this as the dog telling them that he knows the way.

"WTF, you're Caesar fucking Milan now?"

There's a spurious bit of manufactured tension now where Mrs. Mavilda shows up and Licorice has to hide beneath one of the beds, but otherwise all of their preparations go smoothly, and within the hour Pappy and Licorice are on their way to find Santa.

The quest to reach the North Pole took 300 years and dozens of lives. I don't really fancy Pappy's chances with a couple of blankets, a street dog and a sled made from an orange crate.

We jump cut to a nasty-looking road accident involving a truck on a snowy bridge somewhere outside of town, with a couple of guys standing around looking pretty grim like maybe somebody died.

Is that blood on the windshield? Jesus, Ferriera!

Judy is at the tail end of a long line of backed-up traffic, because up here above the Arctic Circle, within spitting distance of the North Pole and late at night on the day before Christmas Eve it's apparently rush hour. A cop tells her there's no way forward and the accident isn't going to be cleared anytime soon, so she should just turn around and go back to town, and if this is the pitiless manner in which a savage Santa Claus fulfils Christmas wishes I'm actually really glad I didn't get that remote-controlled, vibrating egg-shaped butt plug and glitter-lube kit I asked for last year.

I'm kidding! I actually wished for folks to stop being such assholes to each other all the time, but sadly I didn't get that either...says the guy who viciously trashes other people's movies all day.

We now join Pappy's North Pole quest, already in progress. Day breaks as Pappy just misses seeing his mom drive past him on her way back to the orphanage, and as he heads off into the uncharted wilderness he sees something move beneath the blankets in the sled. It turns out Lily has smuggled herself aboard as a stowaway.

Pappy is pretty angry at first, but then Lily shows him a picnic basket full of sandwiches she nicked from the Orphanage kitchen while the others were getting the sled ready, and suddenly he's all about the extra company.

"I've got edibles, smokables and THC-infused oil."

After stopping for lunch and a visit with "Uncle Bud," they continue on and are delighted to see a candy-striped pole with a big wooden arrow conveniently marked "North Pole."

Unfortunately they are not alone.

"Well it's the bear necessities, the simple bear necessities..."

There is a desperate chase. Licorice pulls with all his might, but the bear gains on them. Lily throws the picnic basket at the bear's head, but it just pisses him off and he redoubles his efforts. Eventually they get cornered at the edge of a cliff with a steep, snowy decline on one side and a sheer drop on the other. As the dog fights off the ursine invader, Lily slips and ends up hanging on over the slope.

"Remind me again whose idea this was, Pappy?"

Meanwhile the bear knocks Licorice away and walks over to scarf up the two toothsome little morsels dangling at his feet.

"I'll have the girl with a California pinot grigio and the boy with a vintage Beaujolais."

Just as it looks like the siblings' goose is well and truly cooked Licorice shakes himself off and leaps onto the bear's back. Unfortunately Pappy can't keep his grip on his sister's hand and Lily slides away down the steep grade and into the misty ravine below. The bear fares even worse, though, as Licorice trips him up and sends him over the sheer cliff face on the other side of the ledge.

Darn that pesky Road Runner!

Pappy and Licorice putz around looking for Lily until nightfall, but it's clearly no use. Pappy sits in the snow, puts his face in his hands and cries.

Back at the orphanage the children tell Judy about Pappy and Lily going off to the North Pole to find Santa, which you'd think would send her into a panic, but she just stands like a stump and listens calmly as the children explain that Mrs. Mavilda is going to chop down the tree and is planning to do "something mean" to get rid of her. Instead of immediately hopping in the car and alerting the authorities that her kids have run off alone into the frigid and unforgiving wilderness she squanders precious minutes slowly moseying upstairs to talk it over with Mavilda, who predictably gives absolutely zero fucks about Pappy and Lily and instead blames Judy for the entire debacle.

Judy once again folds like a napkin, then kinda-sorta asks Mavilda to maybe help her find her kids, if it's not too much trouble and if she doesn't have anything better to do. Mavilda responds by telling her she's fired and ordering her to immediately pack up and leave. Even this final outrage isn't enough to stir up any kind of resistance or fortitude in her, as she just meekly slinks away to do as she's told.

As Popeye once said to his pappy, "I yam disgustipated wit' ya."

As soon as Judy is gone Mavilda calls up another of her gambling pals and asks if he still has a chainsaw. It seems that with a couple of children missing, her schemes collapsing and the imminent danger of her misdeeds being revealed to the outside world, she's decided that the best use of her time and resources right now is to immediately go outside and chop down the fucking tree.

Judy, meanwhile is still not lifting a finger to get any help in finding her kids, but instead goes up to the garret and packs up her things like Mavilda told her to. She spots Lily's one-armed teddy bear on the bed and embraces it in what Flamarian Ferriera apparently thought was a poignant image of a mother's pain but what is actually just a self-indulgent pity party by a weak-willed wilting lily who crumbles when faced with the slightest bit of danger, resistance or adversity and who shows not a jot of maternal outrage or protectiveness for her own children.

"Easy come, easy go. We can always make more."

While she's standing there being utterly useless she sees Mavilda out by Mrs. Hopewell, with the Orphans in a little clutch near the tree and a man with a chainsaw ready to cut it down, and I can't help but notice that it's the same guy we saw sitting in front of his TV earlier. You remember. The guy Judy was driving for hours to go see to get the all-important package so he could frame her for theft, the guy who lives somewhere way out beyond the now-impassable bridge that's part of the only road out of town. Now he's here back at the orphanage within five minutes of Mavilda's phone call.

Even Ferierra clearly knew how bad this looked because he gives the guy a different voice and Mavilda calls him "Frank" instead of "Mel."

This, finally is the straw that breaks Judy's camel's back. Not Mavilda's theft and extortion, not the fact that she'd tried to frame and have her arrested, not the loss of her own goddamn children. It's Mavilda trying to cut down a fucking tree.

Judy storms out and gets the Children to join her in forming a human chain around Mrs. Hopewell, like a bunch of environmental activists trying to keep loggers out of a rainforest, and I'm not at all surprised to see that the slide and the swing are gone despite that no one could have had time to dismantle and remove them.

I'm so donewith this special...if only it were done with me.

Saving that tree ain't gonna bring your kids back, Judy but calling the fucking police might.

Judy defiantly declares that nobody is going to cut down Mrs. Hopewell until she talks to the Mayor. Mavilda orders "Frank" to go ahead and cut down the tree anyway, so he starts his chainsaw and begins walking threateningly towards Judy and the Orphans.

By an amazing stroke of unbelievable luck the Mayor himself drives up at this very moment, with Judy's husband in the back seat of the car. As the Mayor ambles up the hill, expressing his confusion at these unorthodox Christmas Eve Shenanigans, Pappy and Licorice return, and Judy suddenly remembers that, oh yeah, she has children that had been missing all night! Daddy is a little more on the ball about it, apparently because as soon as he pokes his face into frame he asks where the hell Lily is.

Pappy tells his parents "She fell off a cliff Mommy Daddy! All the way down!"

I think Daddy needs to get his liver checked.

Judy cries "My baby!" Then immediately goes back to being an emotionless automaton. The Mayor, however sends his driver off to do what she should have done like an hour ago: alert the goddamn police and send out a fucking search party.

Meanwhile the Mayor would like some answers, and when the Orphans begin to explain about Mavilda cutting down Mrs. Hopewell he gets confused and asks Judy to please tell him what exactly they're talking about.

She gives a formal oration, as if to a Lion's Club branch or perhaps a psychiatric hospital advisory board about the importance of the tree to these children from a developmental and psychological perspective, how they were lonely without a grown-up around to care for them, and how they made Mrs. Hopewell an imaginary friend to listen to their problems and be the parental figure they did not have in reality to fulfill their emotional needs. It's like a case study or a term paper, read flatly and with barely a hint of inflection, and certainly with no indication that she'd just been informed that her daughter fell off a cliff and probably froze to death.

Now the Mayor finally notices that the kids are all wearing their same old rags "like they haven't had new clothing in years," and asks what happened to the money he'd given Mrs. Mavilda. Judy says only Mavilda herself can answer that. The Mayor shouts out to her to be at his office first thing in the morning, but she's nowhere in sight.

Elbow Patch Kid asks the Mayor to please tell her not to cut down the tree and he tells the kid not to worry, he won't let anything happen to their precious fucking tree, because that's clearly everyone's top priority right now.

Here's just another gentle reminder that Lily fell off a fucking cliff and absolutely no one seems to care.

Suddenly Mavilda appears and grabs the chainsaw out of "Frank's" hands. She revs it up and heads towards the tree with it, swinging it threateningly back and forth at the gathering crowd to keep them from interfering with what has become the only thing left that matters to her.

Maybe she should use it to circumcise the penis on her face instead. Sorry, I'll stop now.

Just as she's about to land the fatal blow on poor Mrs. Hopewells bark-clad gams, a bright, twinkling light appears in the uppermost branches of the tree, and suddenly:

I'll freely admit I did not see this coming.

Somebody in the crowd asks "What just happened?" Which to be fair is a question we'd all like answered at this point, and we cut to some lady we've never seen before who shouts with absurd, over-the-top astonishment and the ummistakable vocal intonation of an aging valley girl "I don't know! She got struck by lightning!"

I laughed so hard I almost peed myself, as did the two sinister shadow people directly behind her.

Now we hear distant bells and Santa appears in his sleigh in the distance. As he flies over he drops a little spakly magic dust on Mrs. Hopewell, causing a wild lightshow that probably took up half of the already meager budget and turning her into the biggest, most luscious, shiny Christmas Tree a third-rate animator with dwindling resources could muster.

She's moved back out to her remote hill again, I see.

Judy and Dad and the kids and some random dowager-aunt-looking lady watch in joyous wonder as the tree transforms into a vision of holiday cheer.

Lily, of course, isn't there to enjoy it with them...

...or is she? Santa lands his sleigh and who should hop out but little Lily herself, miraculously rescued through his jolly red largesse. She runs to the bosom of her family, delivered from a horrible, lonely death, and they marginally rejoice at her safe return.

"Did you miss me mommy?"

"Yeah sure. Whatever."

Judy pulls out the teddy bear to hand it to Lily and we get a couple of weird paste-in shots of a completely static, grinning Santa, who without so much as a muscle twitch magically makes the bears missing arm reappear.

Stop looking at me like that. You're creeping me right the hell out.

As Santa departs to continue his appointed rounds he shoots a little mystical fireball at the children, giving them the new outfits Mavilda was supposed to buy for them.

What a bunch of berks.

As everyone smiles and waves and watches Santa fly off, bunches of presents on little parachutes fall from the sleigh and into the townsfolk's chimneys.

Once Santa has disappeared the Mayor stands at the base of Mrs. Hopewell and calls for everyone's attention. He announces that by order of his declaration, and under the legally settled principal of Eminent Domain, Mrs. Hopewell will now be considered protected public property, that she will remain unmolested as long as she shall live, and that she shall henceforth in perpetuum be considered the town's official Christmas tree.

He also tells Judy that he would like her to take over the running of the orphanage. She says she would be honored to accept, but Dad speaks up now and says that they should just adopt all the kids instead, which should render the orphanage superfluous and put her out of a job, right? Well, no. Apparently there's some kind of loophole there, because the Mayor doesn't rescind the offer, and it seems that they're going to be paid by the community just to raise a mess of kids as their own.

"Nice work if you can get it!"

Meanwhile Mavilda comes wandering out from behind the house in a semi-catatonic daze, and Judy offers to take her on at the orphanage, which the town no longer technically needs, as an assistant they should not possibly want after all of her amoral and clearly criminal behavior. Honestly I don't know what these people are thinking.

"Who's my penis-faced angel? I just can't stay mad at you."

So the creepy narrator comes back for one last slurred peroration and tells us all the ways in which this was just the happiest of happy endings and the bestest of all the best Christmasses. He concludes by addressing the elephant in the room which is what the fuck is up with Mavilda and that glassy stare. Apparently "She's good now. She learned that you always win when you are good."

Bullshit. She's learned nothing. She's been rendered incapable of independent thought and left without any sensation in her extrmeities due to neurological damage from the lightning strike.

The End.

If this article is a bit longer than the other Shitmas reviews I've posted so far this year it's because there was an awful lot to unpack in it. I suspect this was a passion project of sorts for Ferriera and company, and it was probably meant to have been a full feature rather than the 45-minute television special it ultimately became, which would certainly explain some, but by not all, of its copious non-sequitors and continuity problems. I can only hope that you can appreciate the daunting challenge I faced in wrenching a coherent article out of source material that's so inherently incoherent.

The Christmas Tree is hella bad, and it more than deserves its dismal 1.3/10 rating on IMdB. To be honest, having now watched it twice and a half-ish, even that score seems generous to me, but I suppose there are a few cinematic masochists out there even more hard-core than myself who may possibly have gotten some manner of perverse enjoyment from it. I'll be very pleased to never have to watch it again.

Merry Christmas, folkses.

Next Installment: December 19th!

As always, Cheers and thanks for reading!

Written by Bradley Lyndon in December, 2020.

Questions? Comments? Expressions of disgust? Why not skip the middleman and complain to me directly?

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