When it comes to treacly traditions, one of the biggest offenders is Christmas – a holiday so infested with niceties like gifts, carols, sweaters and mistletoe that even ol’ St. Nicholas himself would be heaving up cookies if he were (spoiler alert!) a real person.
Christmas horror movies, on the other hand, take the yuletide spirit that plagues this time of year and slice it open stomach to sternum. Many festive fright flicks have preceded the two selections below, and many are sure to follow; I’ll be looking forward to every one.
BLOOD: a bit of red spattered between the bore
BUDGET: Estimated to be $50,000
Santa, religion and consumerism clash in this meandering, un-merry movie that had me praying for Christmas to end quickly.
Taking place over the five days leading up to December 25th, this holiday horror follows two characters’ intersecting stories of yuletide jeer. On a downward spiral of losing his phone, job and home, an ex-action star turned public-access Santa bemoans the modern treatment of Christmas (full of consumerism, empty of religion, and ignorant of its origins) while having violent fantasies about those who do him wrong. The second “protagonist,” a priest similarly angered over what Christmas has become, turns homicidal after his punky female employees ditch worship for a sex party. In a fit of rage, the priest sets his sights on Santa as the ultimate symbol of Christmas desecration.
Shoehorned into the story is a subplot involving a police investigation into the brutal death of a local boy. The whole affair does little to advance the plot other than hinting that the killer is one of the two anti-heroes.
Apart from brief scenes of the clergyman’s killings, Santa’s slaying fantasies, and the final fight between the two (picture a longer and much clumsier version of the tussle from They Live), Bloody Christmas is a real snore, and not so bloody either. It feels like they missed the chance to really play up the film’s conflict. Some overacting and intense melodrama could have really added some ludicrous humour and made the film at least entertaining.
Stunt casting with the sadly plastic-looking Geretta Geretta (Demons, Murder Rock), obscure spaghetti celeb Mary Arden (the Satanik photo comics, Kriminal) and Lloyd Kaufman in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him cameo, do very little to help the story.
Bloody Christmas is a great choice if you need some help sleeping on Christmas Eve, but if action-packed yuletide cheer is on your wishlist, I suggest you check out the film below.
BLOOD: Both surroundings and people get drenched, yet the gore is still restrained
With a crackling, aged look reminiscent of 8mm no-budget horrors such as The Dead Next Door, this new Christmas classic takes its undead infestation to university, where a rag-tag group of survivors spend their Christmas Eve trying to quell a cadaver uprising.
After escaping the zombie-filled university of his employ on Christmas Eve, a blood-soaked janitor (simply known as “the janitor”) flees to Eddie’s bar. Reasonably suspicious Eddie calls local cop Sam Sheriff. The disgraced officer, more intent on winning back respect than taking precautions, foolishly throws the janitor – and himself – head first into the horde of hungry ghouls when he insists they return to the school. Along for the ride are bar patrons Tom and Eddie, who flub things up along the way, and a perverted perp who takes advantage of the situation and looks for a good corpse to fuck, while the janitor and Sam constantly argue over tactics to take out the rotters. Copious amounts of Christmas kitsch and even more goofy zombie gore are also heaped on for good measure.
Already getting points for being a yuletide horror, A Cadaver Christmas is one of those gems that rise above the shambling hordes of horrible zombie films. It does the subgenre right by focusing primarily on the characters, instead of letting the zombie element take over. It also does away with typical hero archetypes and makes the two would-be jocular jerks (Sam and the janitor) meek geeks, making it all the more satisfying when they kick cadaver ass.
Relying on a general sense of crass goofiness and physical gags, a lot like the early National Lampoon comedies, this zom-com has a genuinely retro feel to match its grainy images. The perfectly cheesy electro score also adds great vintage atmosphere.
Fitting perfectly with hilarious holiday horrors such as Silent Night, Deadly Night (RM#129) or Elves, this nostalgic no-budget bloodbath is just the right thing to put you in the spirit of the season.
Both films are widely available on DVD. A Cadaver Christmas is also available streaming, and will have a theatrical screening Thursday, December 20th, 2012, at the NoHo Laemmle 7 Theater in Los Angeles and at The Alamo Draft House Slaughter Lane Theater in Austin, TX. Tickets here