Think bloody Terminator Christmas special, and you’ll be in the right state of mind for Joe Begos’ latest.
We take our love of horror films seriously around these parts, and that includes all its various forms, tones, and subgenres. On that last point, we have a particular interest in Christmas horror movies — we even ranked over a hundred of them as a gift from us to you! Each year sees new entries, and while most are forgettable direct-to-video movies (The Mean One, Curse of Jack Frost) and the one wide theatrical release is arguably not even horror (Violent Night), there’s still a clear winner for 2022’s holiday season. Modern day grindhouse auteur Joe Begos delivers his best film yet with Christmas Bloody Christmas, a relentlessly aggressive tale of a robot santa with its wires crossed. Bad for the residents of a small town, absolutely fucking great for fans of holiday horror.
It’s Christmas Eve in a small, snowy town, and while most people are warm and cozy in bed, a few stragglers are still out and about. Tori (Riley Dandy) and her coworker Robbie (Sam Delich) close their record shop for the night and chase it with some fleshy shenanigans, but things take a turn when she sees a different kind of naughtiness next door. It seems the RoboSanta Plus — a military-grade robot repurposed to replace degenerate mall santas this holiday season — is in need of a recall. The one stationed at the town’s toy store has come to life with a singular purpose, and it doesn’t bode well for anyone hoping to still be breathing come Christmas morning.
Begos’ love of neon lighting finds the perfect setting in a small town dressed for Christmas — an absolute get for a micro-budgeted horror film, so kudos to all involved (including art director Elliott Gilbert and production designer Adam Dietrich. It’s both fitting and looks fantastic as the empty stores, quiet homes, and snowy, night time streets are drenched in reds, greens, purples, and more. Even better for the Christmas horror subgenre, the bulbs and set-dressing are all onscreen ensuring Christmas Bloody Christmas is slathered in holiday spirit with every frame. The blend of neon colors and lo-fi filmmaking make for a gritty, Christmas Eve sleigh ride that wastes no time getting to the good stuff.
Real talk, this thing cooks. We know all we need to know about the Robo Santa in the first couple of minutes, we’re introduced to the small ensemble in fast fashion, and soon enough our killer santa is cleaving someone in half with an axe. Heads are smashed and splashed, faces are violated to murderous degrees, and bodies are tossed through the air with careless abandon. This is no low-key slasher, though, as Begos maximizes his minimal budget to pair the bloody violence with unexpected action set-pieces and stunts.
Christmas Bloody Christmas is the Terminator holiday special you didn’t know you needed. RoboSanta’s human facade (Abraham Benrubi) takes a beating thanks in part to Tori’s angry determination, and soon the metal skeleton and neon wiring (of course!) start peaking through. The eventual animatronics find satisfying life through minor robotics and smart angles/editing, and they allow this bad santa to keep on trucking long after a mere mortal would have called it quits.
To be fair, Tori is no mere mortal either. Well, she is, but good gravy does she take a beating in her war on Christmas. Dandy makes for one hell of a final girl and does the genre proud as a micro-budgeted Sarah Connor. She also shines even before the shit hits the fan showcasing sharp comic delivery and a fun-loving, R-rated charisma. If this low-budget horror career doesn’t work out for Begos, he might actually have a future in romantic comedies for adults.
Begos’ script — he also produced, cameos as a poor sap who gets his head split, and animates the film’s credits — has fun with fast-talking banter and movie thoughts (including a solid Blumhouse slam). Christmas Bloody Christmas even makes time to join the #acab fray with its mix of clueless cops (Jeff Daniel Phillips, Jeremy Gardner) who treat Tori unfairly in the heat of the moment. Once things kick off, Begos is smart enough to keep dialogue to a minimum and simply let the action and carnage flow to great effect.
Christmas Bloody Christmas is an aggressively fun time. It may be light on fancy frills, but there’s no shortage of true thrills here for fans of bloody action. Begos delivers a lot on his tiny budget thanks to talents both onscreen and off — Steve Moore‘s killer synth score and Brian Sowell‘s handheld cinematography add to the film’s attractively raw but stylish vibe — with the result being a fast and fun slice of Christmas horror done right.
Related Topics: Christmas horror, Horror