Christmas Blood ("Juleblod") (Norway, 2017)
Starring: Julianne Aga, Pernille Baggeranas, Ida Malene Smith Bakke
A gaggle of gal pals are taking a holiday trip to a small isolated village at Northern Norway and are determined to make the best of it despite the recent tragedy. Unbeknowst to them, a serial killer dressed up as Santa Claus has just escaped from solitary, nearly six years after a 13-year long killing spree, with plans on completing a monstrous bodycount. Hot on the trail are a pair of detectives hailing all the way down South in Oslo, racing against time to figure out where Ole' Sick Nick is heading to and stop the maniac once and for all.
Christmas Blood (2017) is a film of halved narratives intertwined with each another, one being your typical teen slasher with a Michael Myers-esque killer Santa and a whole lot of drama to build up characters, the other a cop thriller where we follow an investigative crew absorbingly putting the pieces together to where their perp is gonna strike next. I could say that the direction did had me watching intriguingly to what is unfolding in the plot and I find myself enjoying every step in the way, but that's only half the truth.
At most, the cop-centered set-pieces are tolerable and the emergence of rivalries, dark secrets, and sexual tension within the girls have their entertainingly cheesy moments, but the pacing for both is a chore to sit through for their slow burn attempt and the editing did make it hard to keep up with the story at times, especially given the fact that the slasher half of the movie takes place in far up North of Norway which is apparently dark 24/7. You couldn't really tell the time and day unless a character or two point it out, typed on screen or at least is implied through the procedural half of the plot.
On the plus side, the gore effects in this movie are brutal at its best despite most of it being axe murders. It can get repetitive, yes, but there are moments where the kills get a bit fun for being implausible and some of the better kills were directed to deserving people (like a pair of scummy hicks and a cheating couple), as well as one shocker of a victim which is tastefully done offcamera. Do wished we get to know more of our killer Santa here, though, as his motive, while admittedly impressive for the numbers alone, was never explained any deeper than what is simply a demented killing spree. We did get something of an answer at the near end, but all it did was raise more questions and maybe a chuckle or two for the absurdity of it.
Ending on a padded Halloween (1978) "He's still out there"-style finale with a side of mercy killing, Christmas Blood (2017) is everything you would expect from a familiar Santa slasher flick which is either a good or a bad thing depending on how well you take your yuletide bodycounting. Personally, the film's dragging pace killed most of the enjoyment, but the bloody kills made up a lot for the fun lost so not entirely a dreck, thankfully.
1 girl attacked, later seen hacked in half
1 male hacked on the head with an axe
1 male found murdered (flashback)
1 male found hacked on the face (flashback)
1 female hacked with an axe (flashback)
1 female gets a thrown axe to the back, hacked to death
1 male disemboweled, hacked on the head with an axe
1 male axed on the head and gut
1 female axed between the legs
1 male strangled, later seen with his spine getting ripped off
1 male decapitated offscreen, head seen placed on a snowman
1 female axed on the face
1 female axed on the gut
1 male found murdered
1 female hacked on the throat with an axe
1 male found gutted, shot
To be brutally honest? Considering the love/hate diversity within horror fans when it comes to Black Christmas (1974)'s first remake back at 2006 in which the film was re-envisioned as a gory splatter flick filled with cannibalism, incestuous rape and maniacal inbreeding, I'm quite surprised we are even getting this 2019 reboot. More concerning is the fact that whoever did the marketing for Black Christmas (2019) thought it was a great idea to reveal who or what is behind the killings in its trailer and tries to pull a last minute red herring on us by dishing out a dumb twist hinting something otherworldly. Yeah, uh, no. The amount of spoilers the trailer spilled overcomes any lame attempt to keep the rest of the movie's twists as fresh as a fucking daisy, so is there even anything worth seeing from this reboot I'm sure nobody really asked for?
I dunno. There's a random marble bust crying black goo for some reason. Does that count for anything?
Our movie begins around Hawthorne College's Christmas holiday break, where we see Riley, a student at the College's MKE sorority, still struggling around the matters that she's raped by AKO fraternity's president Brian Huntley and rightfully so seeing no one (save her closest friends) believes her, thus the case ending up more or less dismissed. In the midst of this, her friend Kris is also finding herself at the receiving end of the AKO frat's sourness as she petitioned to move the university's founder Caleb Hawthorne's bust away from the main building following the fact he was a notorious misogynist, as well as requesting a professor named Gelson to be fired due to his refusal to teach books that weren't penned by white men.
Undoubtedly, all of these spectacles irked someone bad enough to start a killing spree against sorority girls as the gals start to disappear one by one, snuffed out by a cloaked figure who seems to have mastered teleportation well enough to re-enact that jump scare-murder from Exorcist III: Legion (1990) with a length of fairy lights. As sorority sisters proceed to thin out, it'll be soon up to Riley and Kris to uncover and stop an unusual evil that's out for blood.
This being a PG-13 production, I wouldn't be surprised if Black Christmas (2019) took inspiration from the girl drama-centered horror reboots back at the early 2000s like When A Stranger Calls (2006) and Prom Night (2008) with its lacks of onscreen bloodshed and more focus on bittersweet teen talk. In here, though, it amplified gender politics and theatrics to the point that the movie's pretty much a feminism powerhouse that tries (Read: Tries) to paint its female characters more developed than your regular campus victim screamer both as an individual and as a group.
Now, blending feminism with slashers isn't exactly new as films such as The Slumber Party Massacre (1982) practically started out as a feminist satire of the bodycount sub-genre and the I Spit on Your Grave franchise roots for tortured women to empower themselves into either defending their lives or getting even against antagonistic men through an exploitative and gory manner. What Black Christmas (2019) contributes as a horror movie is an attempt to reach out to new age feminism, to be the woke movement fused with vengeful violence. This could have been a thought-provoking swing for what's basically a tamer variety of dead teen flicks, given that the scripting and characterization had more work put into it after all of that drama of female friends facing oppressive male egos. Instead, aside from a couple of girls getting slightly fleshed-up backstories, the rest of the casts are still relative trope fillers who fall into your usual slasher cliches, with the male characters interestingly getting the exaggerated end by being either useless dead weights or misogynistic white maniacs filled with toxic masculity, frightened that women nowadays are "stepping out of the line." (Save for one guy. He black and tried to be helpful adorkably)
Frankly, the "girl power" subtext is so far from subtle that I find it hard to take Black Christmas (2019)'s message all that seriously, but I could still commend it for putting some effort to it and despite the near absence of the gooey red and chunky latex flesh, the film still find ways to be a watchable B-flick. It looks good with its atmospheric winter shots, some of the kills were set-up nicely (Again, the Exorcist III tribute) and the crazed climax still holds up for me despite the trailer spoiling it, doubling down the fun absurdity with a surprise black magic lore, a brawl-out between final girls and an army of supposedly empowered killers, as well as the always welcome blazing inferno finale. The story does end with some plot holes and unanswered questions (Like how that black goo came to be and whether it can make a dancing toaster if we recite a different incantation to it), but seeing how lacking it is on many departments, I doubt we'll lose any sleep for it so it's still all good.
Far from being a new certified cult classic, nor does it come near deserving to be called a "remake" of a 70s proto-slasher classic (No, really, why bother calling it Black Christmas? It's hardly... Black Christmas!), Black Christmas (2019) can be forgettable with its lack of genuine surprises but it is, nonetheless, "here" and certainly could have done way worse.
1 female stabbed in the chest with an icicle
1 female strangled with fairy lights
1 female found stabbed on the face with a glass shard
1 male shot on the face with an arrow
1 male stabbed on the throat with a set of keys
1 female hacked on the gut with a hatchet, bled to death
1 male stabbed to death
1 male stabbed with a glass unicorn
1 male knifed on the back
1 male smothered with a plastic bag
1 female had her neck broken
1 male shot with an arrow 15 males caught inside a building fire
One Must Fall (2018) (AKA "1 Must Fall")
Starring: Vincent Lee Alston, Daniel de Weldon, Rebekah Lynn Dow
First heard about One Must Fall (2018) through a Youtube recommendation and is probably one of the few times that site recommended something that actually hits my interest. (For my gods' sake, NO! I do NOT want Epic Rap Battle of Histories, Youtube mods!) The trailer looked gooey in gore and teased the plot enough to get my attention so I noted myself to keep an eye for it and thankfully, it's an alright film once I finally get to see it.
Accused of fraud by her pig of a boss, Sarah (Julie Streble) is fired from her high rise office job and her gay best friend Alton (Andrew Yackal) gets the chopping block too for sticking up for her. Keeping their spirits up, the pair join forces and sign up for a new job as crime scene cleaners, which is recently getting a lot of work due to a suspected serial killer making their way through 1986 Louisville, Kentucky. Unbeknownst to Sarah and Alton, their crew is about to be this killer's new target when one day, they're called in to clean up an abandoned paint factory that law officials assume as just another crime scene, not knowing that the maniac responsible for the sticky and chunky mess is still lurking around the place, looking for fresh victims.
One of the things I came to like about One Must Fall (2018) is how it utilizes satirical comedy and playful writing to build around its premise and characters, to the point that it barely felt like a horror film and more of an indie comedy-drama with all of the banter thrown around the first half of the plot, save for some snippets of our nameless killer torturing and killing random victims in a span of a minute or two. This pun-filled direction did quite a lot of good in regards to the chemistry between the actors and even more once the film decided to shift gears into full-on slasher horror, which is by all means equally interesting and undoubtedly blood-red messy, making their demise reasonably cathartic and even worrying.
Regarding the horror elements, One Must Fall (2018) amalgamates tropes from slashers, torture porn and even serial killer movies, dropping most of the established comedic tone and replace it with a mean and sadistic run with an unnamed killer (played by Barry Piacente with an exotic suaveness) filling the scenes with monologues pertaining himself as God and why what he does is good for the behalf of everybody involved, whenever he's not making mince meat out of people. It could have been cringy for all of the dark preaching, but Piacante delivers his line with so much dry humor and confidence that his character comes out as both cruel and badass despite the simplicity of his appearance. In turn, the gore effects here are phenomenally done mostly in practical effects and sparing almost no one from the carnage, leading to a truly shocking finale that had me thinking this is one of those film that would end with no one left alive and kicking.
Minor spoilers, we do have some survivors and this is where I have a small gripe; with all of that carnage, I was egging to see a fair chance our protagonists would put up at least a decent fight and, yes, they somewhat did, but it was done and over so quickly that the ending felt a tad rushed. The only complimentary note to make up for the lack of a longer and more exciting exit is a certain douche's comeuppance and the quick-fix done to a character's uber-severe injury, the latter so hilarious looking for how bad it is, yet fitting with the movie''s more comical tone.
Hopefully, we get to see more of One Must Fall (2018) given the kind of ending it implies but, for now, it's safe to say this movie at least delivers what it promises, a fair and easy slasher-comedy that's rich in gore and characters you can mostly side with, neatly built around an interesting premise.
1 female seen murdered
1 female seen disemboweled, bashed with a hammer
1 male implied suicide via shotgun, scalp and brain matter seen
1 male had his throat cut with a machete
1 male eviscerated with a concrete saw
1 male stabbed through the head with a garden shears
1 male garroted with a winched rope
1 male gets a thrown machete through the back, impaled
1 male scalped and stabbed on the groin with a machete, dies from wounds
(*I left out the chunks of victims being cleaned out at the killer's lair as there's barely any full body to count and God knows how many dead folks make up that pile.)
The Furies (Australia/United Arab Emirates, 2019) (AKA "Killer Instinct")
Starring: Airlie Dodds, Linda Ngo, Taylor Ferguson
Kidnapped and let loose in the middle of nowhere, Kayla finds herself in a sinister survival game where girls are hunted down by a group of masked killers, with the resulting carnage getting broadcast for the viewing pleasure of shadowy patrons. As she attempts to make her way to save a fellow kidnapped friend as well as stay alive herself, Kayla will soon understand that the game's rules are about to get as macabre as the fiends prowling around and that the line between friend and foe isn't as black-and-white as she expected.
The Furies (2019), for a good chunk of it, is pure eye candy for gorehounds and slasher fans as apart from delivering some credible backwoods stalk-and-stab fun that often leads to a gloriously gory murder scene done wholesomely in practical effects, there's also a sweet slice of ghastliness given to the designs of the plentiful killers featured here, ranging from the ghoulishly simple to the ridiculously creative. (Skincrow and Rotface for the win, baby! Dirty Ken can have a honorable mention, too!) The twist of this whole shebang being a death game, however, complicate matters as it added elements to The Furies (2019)'s otherwise simplistic survival horror route, deconstructing it into something both unique and frustrating.
On one end, it is nice to see something different being done to what could have been another backwoods bodycounter, even if said difference is nothing new with movies like $LA$HER$ (2001) and Paintball (2007) already bagging have the whole "we kill people for sport and viewers" thing within the slasher subgenre. (Among many, I assume) The game's rules did give our characters an interesting strategy to survive, doubling as a source of drama and conflict that eventually blurs the line between allies and monsters. Sadly, the story's deconstructive writing couldn't pick whether it wanted to be serious or outrageously exploitative, so it hardly elevated its tone and characters from more than one to two notes, thus making it hard to genuinely root for anyone (Save for Airlie Dodds, who did her most to make a sympathetic final girl out of Kayla) and the attempted seriousness forced upon us just feels laughable.
For its worth, The Furies (2019) is mercifully quick in pacing and it at least looks capable with the rest of its production past the gore effects; the abandoned gold mine oasis in the middle of a desert is a nice backdrop that we don't often see used around slasher flicks, captured and implemented well enough through a competent camera work. Its expressively booming score may have the tendency to sound a wee bit cartoonish at times, but it works quite alright with the cheesier parts of the movie. All in all, if you can look beyond the lackluster world building and satire, this is a film one can well enjoy for its silliness and strong showcase of gore given they don't mind their slashers lean and swift.
1 male eviscerated with a scythe
1 female had her face sliced off with an axe
1 female had her arms torn off
1 male had his head explode
1 female hacked on the neck with a machete
1 male impaled with a screw
1 female had her head hacked in half
1 male had his head explode
1 male axed on the chest
1 female had her throat cut
1 male had his head explode
1 male tortured with a hunting knife, killed