Another holiday season, another onslaught of Christmas horror coming our way for me to add to my complete list of holiday horror movies. My first marathon of season’s screamings even includes more than just slashers.
AMERICAN EXORCIST (2018)
Since this one comes from the directors of Alpha Girls, I had high hopes for it.
It starts off with an office Christmas party gone horribly wrong. This awesome scene is a reminder that mass shootings should only happen in movies.
Next, a tough chick and a goody-goody girl enter a house to perform an exorcism on a gnarly possessed girl. This duo and their demon friend promise one kick ass holiday exorcism movie.
But then…WTF? The movie becomes solely about the goody-goody girl, who is a paranormal skeptic. She goes into an office building at Christmas time to debunk all its tall tales of ghostly action. Bill Moseley has a brief role as a maintenance guy, but other than that it’s an entire movie about this girl exploring the building.
It’s agonizing. Every time she witnesses something scary, she’s temporarily shocked, and then makes a sort of “fake news!” face and just continues exploring. Another fake news dumb ass. And all this while an annoying, pulsing score plays incessantly.
She uses a Ouija board, she decorates a Christmas tree, there are a couple of demon attack scenes that never pan out, and there’s even an entire Lights Out hallway rip-off scene.
The directors really need to go back to the drawing board and make the movie about the two exorcist girls.
KRAMPUS ORIGINS (2018)
Hey, I’ve watched a lot of disappointing, low budget Krampus films (and even more Krampus films) over the last few Decembers, but this one, which is titled in a way that positions it to sneakily be misjudged as a prequel to any of them, is virtually void of any Christmas or any Krampus.
We get a brief prologue about military men finding an amulet during World War I.
Then we move to an orphanage run by nuns, and for an hour we are subjected to every typical situation you could imagine arising at an orphanage short of them bursting into “It’s the Hard Knock Life.” If only.
Finally the kids do a ritual that brings Krampus, who is virtually nothing more than a still shot for a majority of his short appearance in the film.
His robotic design also makes it look like this movie should perhaps be called Krampus in Space.
DEAD BY CHRISTMAS (2018)
Now onto the good stuff. Christmas slashers. Director Armand Petri, whose other films I cover here, brings us the first one, a short, 60-minute film.
This isn’t the usual killer Santa flick. It’s actually a killer in a Santa mask, yet the style in which the killer is presented makes it seem there’s a supernatural element to its existence. But that isn’t the case when all is said and done.
But before I get into it, let’s begin with the tasty holiday treats…
While the death scenes are big on Christmas horror spirit, the focus is more on the back story of the characters. A group of friends that grew up together in an orphanage returns for a reunion at the home of the nun that raised them (a more interesting orphanage than the one in Krampus Origins). They are still haunted by a dark secret from their childhood, so there’s a lot of dialogue to fill us in on the details, as well as numerous flashbacks.
Essentially, the slasher elements are a side story to the deeper plot. They’re visually striking and sometimes gory good, but they often feel somewhat rushed without enough suspenseful buildup before the killer strikes.
There are no chase scenes, and the final girl is never highlighted, so we don’t get a chance to become attached to her—she suddenly becomes the final girl simply because she’s the only one left.
I’m not even sure if this odd film is a sequel to the movie The Elf that I blogged about last year, but it definitely stands on its own. It offers a unique premise rather than a predictable killer elf slasher.
A group of friends is basically cursed by an elf doll…as in, they each begin getting possessed by it and their faces morph into the elf!
Awesome. But hell, I make that face all the time and I’m not even possessed.
The rule is that when the “elf” tells you what to do, you must do it or die.
But this totally confusing movie also features a killer in a Krampus mask, plus there are what seem like supernatural kills, like a guy being attacked by a string of Christmas lights.
And of course the elf doll keeps popping up, although it rarely does the dirty work itself.
In between the fun and sometimes brutal kills, the main characters basically just sit around trying to figure out who’s next and arguing over whether the elf is real. So I wouldn’t watch this one for the story, just the cool creeps and kills.
MRS. CLAUS (2018)
Indie director Troy Escamilla is carving a niche for himself in the low budget slasher genre. I’m a fan of his first film Party Night, which goes for that throwback video store rental vibe.
Mrs. Claus follows generally the same classic 80s slasher template: a bunch of friends gets together to party and have sex, and soon a masked killer starts hacking and slashing.
It’s a Christmas party at a sorority house where a hazing ended in tragedy years before. Christmas atmosphere abounds, there’s some T&A, and there’s even a gay character.
But the bigger standouts include the gory, practical effect kills and the creepy Mrs. Claus mask. It’s refreshing to have the Misses doing the naughty work for a change.
We also get horror queen Brinke Stevens as a cop who spends most of her camera time on the outskirts of the actual plot. It was sort of déjà vu for me, as her role was similar to the one she played in the film Axeman.
Stringing the plot along between kills is the usual melodrama between characters. It’s hard to make shallow character development interesting in slashers, so don’t expect anything all that engrossing on that front.
The basic motivation of the killer at the end is about as thin and simple as it gets, which is definitely a staple of many 80s slashers.
Just coincidence that the guy’s lips are built to take on a big black phallus?
I like some of the edgier moments here (like an exploitative hazing scene), the vicious kills, and the holiday spirit, but I do think Party Night delivered a grittier, suspenseful experience overall with more old school horror atmosphere. The killer was more ominous, there were better scares, and the final girl took it up a notch. However, that film was left open-ended and the killer never unmasked.