CHRISTMAS BLOODY CHRISTMAS (2022)
Release Date: 12/09/22 [Cinemas / Shudder]
Studio: RLJE Films
"It's Christmas Eve and Tori just wants to get drunk and party, but when a robotic Santa Clause at a nearby toy store goes haywire and begins a rampant killing spree through her small town, she's forced into a battle for survival."
OUR MOVIE REVIEW:
The purpose of a Christmas film will always be singular – to put you in the holiday spirit. How a Christmas film conjures up that spirit will vary, lest all movies of this type are copies of each other. Christmas Bloody Christmas, a new film written and directed by Joe Begos, is not a particularly new film but still a fun, creative Christmas film. Despite the language, violence, and mayhem, I enjoyed much of what this film offered. This movie is tongue-in-cheek. It is an expression about being stuck in the prime of your life juxtaposed with the dangers of capitalism. Sort of. Christmas Bloody Christmas isn't about the holiday as much as people's resentment towards it.
In this film, the U.S. government has spent trillions of dollars perfecting robot technology to destroy America's worst overseas enemies. Due to the robots' high performance and sentient command of language and directives, these mechanical killing machines are reprogrammed and outfitted as Santa Clauses around the country, used to spread cheer instead of fear. It's as if no government official read Isaac Asimov's novels in high school.
We see via flashes of a news broadcast that these robots are being recalled due to malfunctions. But it is too late for our characters.
In a small town, on Christmas Eve, record store owner Tori (Riley Dandy) and her employee Robbie (Sam Delich) decide to spend the night drinking at the bar after their shifts are over. On their way, they walk through the falling snow to a toy store to visit friends who are having their own party. After a few drinks, Tori and Robbie press on while their friends remain behind when one of the robotic Santa Clauses on display comes to life and begins hacking people to death. Apparently, the robot recall message came out too late.
Eventually, the killer Santa Claus targets Tori and Robbie, and a chase through town ensues, leaving behind blood and bodies.
Many characters are one-note, or even less, in the development scope. But they're there to add to the body count, a body count that sure adds up quickly. The two leads, Tori and Robbie, were so much fun to party with. The chemistry between the two actors is solid. During the first act, the screenplay has the two riff on metal music and horror movies, but the subtext of attraction is front and center here. I was deeply invested in these characters, and my stake in their safety happened so suddenly that certain moments of this film made me audibly gasp.
As the film progressed, so did the insanity of the situation. I respect this film so much for pulling out all the stops that it could afford. The film hooked me immediately with a grindhouse carousel of silly commercials in the film's opening minutes. The whiskey brand commercial, in particular, ties into the film smartly later. Hello, capitalism! This particular plot isn't anything more profound than "The Terminator Christmas Special." But it doesn't need to be more than that. Cinematographer Brian Sowell lights beautiful shots of characters walking along the town streets on harsh winter nights. Begos and company use inventive special effects, props, and stunts to deliver something more satisfying than I was expecting. I appreciate that Santa provided a variety of deaths that range from absolutely cheesy to horrifyingly original. Abraham Benrubi portrays the robotic Santa Claus with a sinister charm; the longer I saw this Santa, the more scared of him I became.
Christmas Bloody Christmas fits in the pocket of off-beat Christmas movies because it speaks for the underrepresented masses of those jaded by the season instead of being invigorated by it. Tori and Robbie were real characters; their dialogue was funny and authentic. I felt like I knew them. The monster was scary, and the effects were the best they could've been. Begos did a great job fusing tender, comedic moments with chilling instances of dread.
I wish this film had a bigger budget to accommodate its ambitious scope, but I also love how dirty and grungy it is. But how Christmas Bloody Christmas was assembled is why it works the way it does. This film walks with a guerilla-style grassroots filmmaking strut; it isn't a big-budget tentpole holiday film chasing a demographic; it's an economical and unconventional Christmas experience that confidently puts me in the holiday spirit.