I have been watching “Xmas” films last few days. Not sure if I will review them all but I will be posting thoughts on some....
A lot of people told me this was a really great movie, but I just don't see it.
I know that the kind of films I've been watching this Christmas require a certain level of “going with it” and there are some cool things in this movie that I felt did work. Still, overall this is a Creep Show story that takes ½ and episode... not a feature length film. As a film, it just runs out of stuff to do. Way way before the end. Resulting in some bafflingly long sequences. I mean we are not talking the fight scene in They Live but we are talking that kind of thing.
Like I said though the film has some good stuff in it. The cast is surprisingly awesome in this one, and surprising because of the type of movie it is. Usually these sort of films are pretty low bar, but there are some actors with serious comedy chops in this and they are funny much of the time. I think it is the considerable charm of these actors that is inflating this films rep. Also this film has some really neat practical effects. I particularly liked the spooky teddy bear which reminds me, in a good way, of Critters (a film I deeply love), and the entire “lost in the blizzard” bit near the start is a great example of doing so much with so little.
The problem with this movie is the film maker didn't follow the “Jaws” principle. Krampus looks awesome, but not after he is in full shot for 15 mins. Some sneaker camera angles to hide him, bit of smoke or something, would have really elevated the ending of this movie. I know it is low budget, but check out Errementari : The Devils Blacksmith for how creative thinking can make an outstanding over the top ending without needing Disney to fund you. This film wanted an out there ending but imo failed, as we basically have a shot of a bunch of muppets standing around a pot.
The real issue I had with this film is that I wanted to like it. My viewing experience suffered from expectations. It didn't help that people have been trying to get me to watch it every Xmas for years now and kept telling me how great it was.
This is another one of those movies that I feel is just missing the mark. These films can be bad, these films can take themselves seriously, but a comedy horror christmas film, imo, needs to be fun. That is the key element missing here. I was just bored by the end.
Violent Night (2022)
This film is close to being great, but fails to lean into what it is. It is tonally warped and lacks that kind of self awareness required to pull off it's concept.
Santa is great in this movie. I mean serious good. This actor seems to be great in everything. Still, the problem I have with this movie is that it just doesn't commit to the idea of a badass Santa. Like Wolverine Origins the best part of the film is in these tiny flash backs to his past before he became Santa. Remember how in Origins there is this montage of Wolverine and Sabertooth going through time fighting side by side in all the wars throughout history... where was that film. Violent Night is similar as in the best thing about this movie, the reason we are watching, is; Santa. Santa. That is why we are here. and those tiny flecks of his past and lore are so much more interesting than the film itself.
The film also fails to really deliver on the gore as promised. I mean do not get me wrong it is violent but the violence is contained in nearly a single scene. So the majority of the film isn't violent. I paid to see Santa fucking people up and I got that for exactly one scene. Also, putting Santa fighting with a juxtaposed musical christmas song is just not good enough, it is cliche even. I mean Silent Night, Deadly Night was doing that back in the 80s. I just don't get it. Santa is basically a pagan Demi-God. There is so much cool shit they could have done alla Highlander and they even had the starting point of him being a germaic barbarian or viking or w/e.
Instead we get told in the 1st few minuets what this film is going to be... a gorier version of Home Alone. In fact the fact this is less a “Die Hard Santa” and more a “Gory Home Alone” makes me think that this film might have originally started as a Home Alone-like pitch.
I think this film has some good things, like the performances but lacks the writing to pull it off. Pro-Tip from a guy that watches a lot of media.. if you are going to have hardcore bad guys,.. make them hardcore. The 5th time they fail to carry out a threat makes them look lame. I lost count of the times they walked into the room yelled and shot up the ceiling only to be made fun of by their hostages. How about shooting one of them the face or something? Also if you have evil rich snob arseholes in a violent santa film.. how about they get a christmas coal if you know what I mean.
This movie just dose not know what lane it wants to be in, something Krampus understood completely. Splitting the movie between Die Hard and Home Alone was a mistake as well.
I think what makes this film not really work for me is that the “Santa” angle is completely irrelevant to the movie. It is just a hook they can put in the trailer. There is really nothing about Santa in this movie and the entire film would be identical (apart from one kill) if he was security guard or a christmas caroler who dropped by or a mall santa or something. The entire Santa angle was just weak and mostly superfluous to the movie, which begs the question.. what was the fucking point of making him Santa? Nothing. There was no point in him being santa as far as the story is concerned. Nothing beyond being a artificial hook.
Christmas Bloody Christmas (2022)
There is no doubt this is more the kind of movie I was looking for when I spent the night watching christmas films.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Shudder is low-key one of the best streaming services around. They do not over stretch and they know what they are selling. They service a smaller niche clientele and they stick to that niche's interests. It is a truly self aware service that understands the content they provide and more importantly understands their viewers, as in me. They seem to understand exactly what I most probably will like.
This is a super low budget slasher film with some truly atrocious acting. The thing is I believe in judging a film by what it is, not what it isn't. Is it fair to judge Fast and the Furious with the same bar you used for Barry Lyndon? No. Even Krampus and Violent Night by their very ambition invites stronger criticism than this film. They both might well be “better” films, but did I enjoy them more? Did they actually “work”. Is Christmas Bloody Christmas a film that achieves, in my eyes, what I believe the creators set out to do?
Short answer : yes, with a but.
This is a movie about a malfunctioning robotic Santa that murders everyone it comes across. It is a real throw back to the films of the 80s and early 90s and I found it to be quite charming in a nostalgic kind of way.
The movie starts pretty poorly imo. Basically we have this long and frustrating introduction to the characters where they basically argue about pop culture. bands, movies and the like while drinking. The thing is this isn't a 5 min scene in a Tarantino film. It goes on for what feels like forever. I think this extended period despite the delivery being decently handled by the cast had the opposite effect on me. I think all this chat and joke telling and stuff is supposed to endear the main character to us, but it had the opposite effect. I mean what a bunch of pretentious snobby arseholes. Loud drunk obnoxious arseholes at that. It isn't a good sign when you dislike the main character.
That being said, once the film gets into the robotic santa rampage it really picks up. By the end I defiantly had come around to out hero through some cool badarse-ery.
And this is where this film works. It, like its streaming service, knows exactly what it is, and then delivers on that. It is not trying to be something it is not, nor is it trying to over reach and be more ambitious than it can achieve. Absolutely horrendous acting, like the cops, in a way enhance this film. For this film is about a kind of viewing experience rather than the movie itself. If you are watching this alone and not Mystery Science Theater style with a vase of beer and a bunch of movie buddies, you are doing it wrong, and in that aspect this film is a rounding success, and I think it is pretty much the exact movie it was supposed to be.
So yeah.. Robotic Santa kills ½ a small town with a fire axe. You ALREADY know if you will like this movie before you ever hit play.
The Order of Awesome
- Violent Night (2022)
- Christmas Bloody Christmas (2022)
- Krampus (2015)