“Christmas Bloody Christmas is an enjoyable but ultimately disposable festive flick that delivers on the endless bloodletting but fails on the festivities,” says Phil Roberts in his review
Christmas is getting a mature makeover this year. Last week delivered a new Christmas classic in David Harbour’s Violent Night, a Die Hard meets Home Alone mash-up for the modern era. And this week, Joe Begos is dragging us down a new kind of rabbit hole with his angry, almost anti-Christmas slasher Christmas Bloody Christmas. The movie is a unique take on James Cameron’s classic The Terminator. Only this time, the murderous cyborg is dressed as Santa Claus and has a penchant for axes! But can Begos deliver a new Christmas classic destined to be added to the yearly watchlist? Or is Christmas Bloody Christmas the unwelcome piece of coal in our stocking?
It’s Christmas Eve and fiery record store owner Tori Tooms just wants to get drunk and party, until the robotic Santa Claus at a nearby toy store goes haywire and makes her night more than a little complicated. Santa Claus begins a rampant killing spree through the neon drenched snowscape against a backdrop of drugs, sex, metal and violence, ultimately forcing Tori into a blood splattered battle for survival against the ruthless heavy metal Saint Nick himself.
So…Christmas Bloody Christmas isn’t abysmal. Nor will it win any Oscars. But what Joe Begos has delivered here is an original, overly angry festive flick that takes all the tropes of the festive period and throws them out of the window. If you were hoping for an uplifting festive flick, look away now. This is not the movie for you. Instead, Begos has delivered an overly intense, neon-soaked grunge, sex, and drugs fuelled riot that doesn’t quite hit the mark.
The plot is pretty simple. A robotic department store Santa Claus packed to the brim with military-grade technology becomes the victim of a widespread malfunction and is recalled by its designers. However, on Christmas Eve, the bug kicks in and sends Robo-Santa off on an axe-wielding murderous rampage. Why? Who knows! Unfortunately for Tori Tooms (Riley Dandy), a slightly seedy punk stoner, Santa’s rampage begins adjacent to her music store and she quickly finds herself in Santa’s laser sights! What follows is an angry, overly loud, and aggressive slaughter fest that pushes the boundaries of the traditional slasher fare.
From the off, we are introduced to the characters that will carry this bold slasher forwards. The aforementioned Tori isn’t the stereotypical protagonist we can root for. Instead, she is presented as a Christmas-hating stoner whose only concern is for her next joint and bottle of hooch. And sadly, it’s not an endearing look. In fact, her sole focus from the outset is closing up for Christmas and heading off for a night of frivolous lovemaking with a random guy she met on one of the infamous dating apps. Sadly, her co-worker Robbie (Sam Delich) doesn’t fair any better.
To his credit, Delich attempts to add layers to his character. But in the end, Robbie is little more than a drunken foil to encourage Tori’s drunken antics. These are far from the role models found in traditional Christmas fare. And by the time the axe falls, we aren’t anywhere near as invested in their story as we should be.
With so much iconography to choose from, it is a bizarre experience to see the tropes and trappings of the festive season discarded so frivolously. Moreover, aside from the overpowering neon lights, falling snow, and Robo-Santa, there isn’t enough festive substance to latch onto. And sadly, the flick underwhelms in that sense. This approach was clearly by design. Begos is ultimately trying to carve his own niche and avoid the tried and tested formula we’ve seen dozens of times before. But the result is a half-baked spin on the genre that is geared more toward aimless sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll, and pointless axe murders.
The same can be said about the tone of the movie. If cinematographer Brian Sowell set out to deliver the grimiest festive flick to date he succeeded. The film radiates a dirty quality that feels like it’s been pulled straight from a ’70s video library. And the overly saturated neon Christmas lights are a constant hindrance to our enjoyment. The decision to go down this route was obviously by design and given the rustic approach to the finished film, it was arguably the best artistic choice. But it leaves a lot to be desired. Even with its thrifty 89-minute run time.
Having watched the trailer, I expected Robo-Santa, played by Abraham Benrubi to cement himself as the new Terminator. And to a degree, it hits the mark. His murderous rampage often delivers some deliciously enjoyable kills and when the blood begins to flow it’s relentless. Heads explode, limbs are severed, and bones are broken with glee which will give true horror fans plenty to digest. And when all is said and done, his cold and lifeless performance is a joy to watch. Even when the film reaches its crescendo, the over-the-top action never lets up. And Tori finds herself facing off against a truly unstoppable killing machine.
Where James Cameron knew where to draw the line, Begos pushes past the tried and tested climax recipe and adds new elements that seem to go on forever. Just when you think the tale has reached its end, Begos twists the knife a little more and ekes out one more drop of blood from the tale. Which is a bold choice. After a while, it drags its heels and overstays its welcome, but not in a way that overly detracts from our enjoyment. But Santa would give Arnie a run for his money in the “I’ll be back” stakes.
Overall, Christmas Bloody Christmas is an enjoyable but altogether disposable festive flick that just about delivers on its remit of endless bloodletting. Yes, the Robo-Santa is cool. Yes, the murders are gruesome. And yes, it pushes the boundaries of the contemporary slasher flick. But sadly, when all is said and done, it fails to deliver anything more than a trivial watch. The characters are bland, the overly saturated neon glow is distracting, and the aggressively heavy soundtrack is overpowering. And sadly, it’s far from the festive flick, many have come to expect.
Instead, we can chalk this one up as a project that boasts a visionary writer that had a terrific idea, but couldn’t quite translate it onto the screen. Truth be told, I’m convinced there is a fantastic film in there somewhere. But with its divisive artistic choices, grungy cinematography, and seedy, underwhelming characters Christmas Bloody Christmas doesn’t quite stick the landing. Instead, Joe Begos has delivered a truly unique take on the slasher genre that delivers on the bloodletting but fails on the festivities.
Christmas Bloody Christmas is streaming on Shudder from December 9th.
Phil Roberts is the Owner, Daily Content Manager, and Editor-In-Chief of The Future of the Force. He is passionate about Star Wars, Batman, DC, Marvel, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, King Kong, and the Ray Harryhausen movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force and babbles frequently!