Monday, December 26, 2022

Christmas is Terminated: Christmas Bloody Christmas (2022)

Christmas Bloody Christmas (2022)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Riley Dandy, Sam Delich and Jonah Ray

Do you see yourself as that one person who needs blood and carnage to balance out all the cutesy and saccharine sweet feel-good mushiness from sentimental holiday movies filling up your cable channels and streaming services every Winter season? Well, fortunately for your freaky arse, director Joe Begos of the scifi slasher Almost Human (2013) and bloody siege thriller VFW (2019) is bringing holiday fears with a good ole' slasher that's crass in class, proud to be loud and jolly to be bloody!

All Tori (Riley Dandy) wanted to do after working her Christmas Eve shift at a record store is score a good time with some dude she met at Tinder. But after finding out that the guy is married with kids and is living with his parents, she decided to ditch the lame shmuck and instead accepts her friend and colleague Robbie's (Sam Delich) invitation to hang out and paint the town red. After stopping by to visit some buddies working at a toy store and getting piss-assed drunk at a bar, the two soon made their way to Tori's house for steamy sex and obnoxiously loud conversations about each other's taste for records and horror sequels, unaware that a life-sized animatronic Santa called "RoboSanta+" suddenly have gone haywire and, channeling its inner circuitry as an intended military-grade killer robot, starts murdering off any people it comes across as it makes its way to end Tori.

One half killer Santa slasher, one half festive Terminator (1984) knock-off, Christmas Bloody Christmas (2022) has the makings to be an outrageous exploitation throwback breathing some variety to yet another axe-wielding Santa trope and it succeeds in this with its on-the-nose yet unapologetically manic execution, delivering a rather wild yet worthwhile B-grade holiday horror flick that's as entertaining as it is clunky at parts. 

The first thirty minutes can be a chore to sit through, being a crude hangout story following two adults acting like unsupervised teenagers with their hooting and hollering, drug snorting and beer guzzling. It is annoyingly immature, wearying and foul at its worst, as there's only so much swear-littered dialogue and grating blunderings one could take before the charm of it all is lost, but I will be lying if I didn't say I got some chuckles out of it (especially around their riled-up talk about horror sequels. Glad to see that mess Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000) still has its fans) and I have to give praises to the actors for doing a swell job delivering a genuine feel to their roles. Things eventually got better once RoboSanta+ finally lumbers their way to Tori's residence, stopping by and breaking into a neighboring house first for a grimly effective home invasion-cum-family massacre before forcing their way to Tori's and everyone gets an axe blow or two to places that definitely hurt.

The kills here are gloriously practical and rubbery yet gory, a lovely throwback to 70s and 80s slashers, much like the film's grainy visuals and candy-colored lightning, as well as its retrowave synth score. The killer robot Santa itself is a decent take on a popular holiday horror staple, bearing a passable explanation for its durability and strength, and too has thrown enough hints here and there as to why exactly it's splitting people in halves with an axe, but still leaving enough to the viewer's imagination regarding its specific interest on hunting down Tori. I do love the fact that it started out looking so much like your average Saint Nick with a murderous streak before gradually getting more and more damaged the further it struggles to end our final girl, revealing the flashy machinations inside it with some goofy but otherwise fitting make-up effects. 

And by struggle, I mean struggle! The final face-off is where the whole Terminator gig kicks in, running through the last third of the film and it's every way as harebrained as it is badass. It came to a point where our robot Santa is nothing but a metal endoskeleton with sparks and wires hanging out damaged and yet it still manages to be quite a challenge to put down as the menace survives every form of abuse Tori inflicts at it. This is where our lead turns from a screechy party girl to a gore-drenched heroine and I gotta say that the endless barrage of attacks from the mecha-maniac is only as good as the trappings and counter attacks its intended victim hurl back against it and this last act certainly delivers on that department, so long as you don't mind it dragging on a bit with all the robo fake-outs.

Without a doubt a slasher film for the undemanding, Christmas Bloody Christmas (2022) may suffer from a couple of clods in its writing, but as a straightforward bodycounter made to be entertainingly ridiculous and gruesomely bloody, I say it has done its best! If you get to switch off that big melon resting between your shoulders, feel free to see it as it can be a good watch. Just, maybe, prepare some booze and ready your finger towards the flashforward button... 

1 male split in half with an axe
1 female repeatedly beaten against a glass counter
1 male gets a thrown axe to the back, head stomped
1 female hacked on the face with an axe
1 boy hacked with an axe
1 female had her neck broken
1 male killed offscreen with an axe
1 male had his head cleaved with an axe
1 male hacked on the head with an axe
1 male has his head blown off with a shotgun
1 male killed offcamera, mangled body hurled and seen
1 male shot on the head with a shotgun
Total: 12

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Santa's Lakehouse Slay: Yule Die (2010)

Yule Die (2010)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Malinda Asbhy, Nathan Betts and Jared Borum

Considering young Emily was attacked at a hijacking gone wrong by a crook in a Santa get-up one Christmastime ago, it's more than understandable that she's a little Santa-phobic, freezing up the moment she sees the jolly ole' fat man within premises but is doing her best to get over it by writing Christmas letters to him, as well as talking to her mum and a fatherly family friend named Nick about her fears. This year, however, she'll find herself reliving that nightmare when, due to the news that the creep who attacked her just busted out of prison, Emily and her mother decided to spend their holiday at a lakehouse owned by Nick and someone suited up as Santa Claus starts prowling around, murder in mind and ready to take victims...

Despite falling over and over around the common budget-affiliated pitfalls of shot-on-video titles, Yule Die (2010) surprisingly made itself to be an interesting little shlock that paced itself quite nicely, build a workable dark tone for the second half of the plot and feature an effectively creepy looking Santa slasher with a gore quota to match. Yes, the acting and audio is laughable at its worst (save for Shana Mangrum who played our lead girl. Quite a passable talent for a kid starring on basically a camcorder movie), the video is grainy in quality and a good chunk of the script involving some family drama between Emily's mom, dad and the family friend can get hammy, but the film thankfully didn't pull any punches when it comes to its horror scenes and actually have the guts to give us well executed "prowl and stab" moments with decent lighting style, camera, blood work and brutality, leading to a good enough killer reveal and a fitting downer ending. 

Frankly, I can see why Yule Die (2010) is a relatively rare slasher to stumble across as its low budget pretty much weighed it down into obscurity, but if you see yourself looking up this title, I do recommend it. It's an undemanding movie with a basic plot and a shaky production quality, but I have to give credit when credit is due as this film at least made itself intriguing and bloody enough to be a popcorn-friendly holiday creeper. What else can I say but give this slay a little ride.

1 male hacked to death with an axe
1 male beaten to death with a brick
1 female had her throat cut with a ceramic shard
1 male repeatedly stabbed and carved with a kitchen knife, shot to death
1 male lands back-first on an axe
Total: 5

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Sammy is Coming To Town: He Knows (2022)

He Knows (2022)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Shawn C. Phillips, Lynn Lowry and Julie Anne Prescott

'Twas the night before Christmas and somewhere in the house, 
little Christina was staring at a masked killer, ready to pounce;
With their rubber mask grinning, a smile twisted to cause despair,
The crazed killer brained daddy's head in, repeatedly beyond repair;

No children was nestled that night, none snugged in their beds,
Panic was all over as the maniac came for their heads;
But only one child survived this home invasion madcap,
Lil' Christina lived, while her brother Johnny disappeared from the map...

Twenty years after this grisly incident, Christina is now a single mother and a troubled artist, keeping her nose to the grindstone providing for her daughter, Stephanie, whose custody is shared with Christina's ex-husband Steve, who mostly spends his time living a drug-fueled party life with his friends. For her family's sake, Christina tries her damnedest to move past the childhood scars left by the night that masked maniac mangled her father's head and kidnapped her brother, but little did she know that said same psycho, dressed as an elf and going by "Sammy", is back in town to wreck havoc upon its people once again, slaying those he deems have been very naughty and deserving a knife stab or two.

Right off the bat, He Knows (2022) is a very low budget production, a typical do-it-yourself deal with a lot of things working against it, from the amateur line of talents filling its casts to its clumsy editing hobbling the story's pacing and direction, from the awkward scripting attempts of drama and depth between the killings to the horrible sound design that varies between muffled due to ambient noises to hilarious dubbed over. Not a lot of characters here are that likable to make matters worse, with a lot of them being drug addicts, bimbos and/or alcoholics who are I guess tailor-made just to be slain by Sammy the Elf as the killer supposedly targets folks worthy of Santa's Naughty List. 

On that note, I would say that the film at least delivers on its slasher elements; Sammy The Elf is honestly a fun little devil, with his creepy grinning mask and a whole deck of festive gear to fit his elf motif. His supposed legend is intriguing at its best, told here via narrated comic book panels wherein Santa, sad that he and his (sexily drawn?!) wife doesn't have a child of their own, so the elves made one for him via magic (Dark magic, coz elves are apparently evil in nature. Who knew?) and things didn't go too well as Sammy turned out to be too murderous on how he handles naughty boys and girls. With that, the kills and attacks here are (albeit still within the confines of a low budget) a messy, bloody bunch that's actually handled pretty okay, with the right amount of mean-spirited Christmas fear, dumb dark humor, a good dash of blood and some unexpected surprises, particularly with the reveal in the near end in which we find out some truth of what's going on and who's behind the mask, all the while still hinting something bigger working in the dark. 

To be truthful, He Knows (2022) can be a decent run with the right mindset; though its flaws doesn't do much of a favor for its semi-decent story, its concept, cheese factor and workable low-budget horror scenes still makes this film a fine little holiday horror number to see out of curiosity. Yes, there are better titles out there, but what's the harm of treating yourself to a little dip of guilty poison for the kick of it?

1 male brained to death with a bowling ball
1 male stabbed to death with a hunting knife
1 female jabbed in the neck with a syringe
1 female brained with a baseball bat
1 female brained with a baseball bat
1 male had his throat slashed with a tire iron
1 male found with candy canes stabbed into his eyes, throat cut
1 female stabbed to death with a hunting knife
1 male knocked neck-first into a broken bong
1 female had her throat cut with a hunting knife
1 female shot dead
1 male repeatedly shot, stabbed in the eye with a fire poker
1 female found dying
1 male stabbed to death with a hunting knife
1 male stabbed in the neck with a garden shear
Total: 15

No, really, why is Mrs. Claus drawn so young and hot?!