This year’s Christmas horror roundup continues

My early Christmas horror shopping started here, and only a few strays that I know of still remain to be seen after this batch I’m about to unwrap and add to my holiday horror page. But which ones are like unwrapping clothes on Christmas morning?

CHRISTMAS BLOOD (2017)

There is nothing to really dissect here…except bodies. This Spanish film takes classic 80s slasher tropes and makes a killer psycho Santa movie.

The opener sets us up for what we can expect—Christmas and horror atmosphere, a Santa with an axe, and brutal kills.

Crazy Santa guy is put away, crazy Santa guy escapes, group of friends goes to party at a house for the holiday, crazy Santa guy has a reason to target them.

Meanwhile, the detective on the case enlists the help of a reluctant detective who tracked down the killer the first time.

The gore is great, the chilly winter atmosphere is great, it’s creepy as hell when crazy Santa guy terrorizes his victims with a throaty “ho ho ho,” there are loads of victims, and there are plenty of WTF moments, like the arrival of some dudes from Tinder who add to the group’s troubles.

Most importantly, there are loads of chase scenes and some delicious twists at the end. This is definitely a must add to my holiday horror collection.

POOKA (2018)

First there was Halloween, then Thanksgiving. Now, the third installment of Hulu’s holiday horror series solidifies a pattern—all the movies in this series should have been short films (one of them originally was, which says it all).

Pooka drags an intriguing premise out into a repetitive cycle that gets the point across early and fails to add anything to the plot as it keeps coming. To make up for the lackluster forward progress, every scary scene uses loud noises and surprises to give the illusion that the movie is scary.

I can say right off that the film kind of reminds me of the awesome clown story from Scary or Die. A struggling actor lands a “role” playing Pooka, the hottest new toy of the Christmas season.

His odd but friendly neighbor (the crack whore from My Name is Earl) doesn’t hear or see the scary stuff going on in his apartment—the Pooka costume coming to life and losing its shit in a flood of 80s neon horror lighting!

This happens over and over again throughout the movie, never with any actual payoff.

Meanwhile, the main guy starts a relationship with a single mom. But Pooka keeps making him envision bad versions of the good things that are happening to him.

In its attempt to be deep and thought-provoking rather than the simpler and safer (and probably better) story of the guy “becoming” the Pooka character and killing everyone off, the film becomes a mess of confusing scenes that never clue you in as to whether they are actually happening or all in his mind. And the initially freaky Pooka loses his potency the more we see the main guy crack.

ALL THE CREATURES WERE STIRRING (2018)

Adding to the small selection of Christmas horror anthologies out there, this little indie has an assortment of mostly campy, dark themed tales bookended by a strange wraparound that doesn’t deliver as much of a zinger ending as I’d anticipated. A couple goes to a tiny theater to watch a bizarre, live performance art show…which makes it seem that the three actors on stage are supposed to be acting out each tale? Not sure.

1st story – Eh. This takes place at a Christmas office party, and when it’s time to play a gift giving game, the group ends up in a bit of a Saw situation. It’s a tired plot that has been done more intensely in other full-length films.

2nd story – My favorite tale in the bunch. A guy locks his keys in his car and gets some help from two mysterious girls in a van. It’s the most genuinely horror feeling short here, with a Twilight Zone vibe.

3rd story – This one is a simple, campy modern day take on Scrooge when a guy clashes with his begging neighbor.

4th story – Another favorite, this one gives us a killer reindeer!

5th story – When a guy chains himself up during a full moon and is then surprised by a bunch of friends that show up to have a Christmas party, you think you know exactly where this one is going. It doesn’t go there. It should have.

SECRET SANTA (2018)

Not to be confused with this Secret Santa, this is more of a dark dysfunctional family comedy for most of its running time before it morphs oddly but thrillingly into a slasher late in the game.

There’s some fun, campy and snarky comedy as the family members take cruel jabs at each other and make perverse accusations.

Racism, homophobia, anti-semitism…you name it, the hypersensitive police would have a field day hating this one.

Now that’s my kind of Christmas sweater.

And I’m happy to say the absolute scene-stealing moments go to the stuttering gay guy. Priceless.

Then it breaks into an all-out bloodbath. And I’m not even talking about the classic slasher segment. That happens after the bloodbath…

And to make things even more interesting, it also has a bit of a classic infected/possessed at a cabin in the woods plot. You’ll just have to watch to see what I’m talking about.

SLAY BELLES (2018)

It’s one of those blind buys I kind of regret, even though it has its moments.

Those moments are the pretty cool Krampus monster, horror queen Kristina Klebe, Barry Bostwick, Richard Moll, and awesomely freaky Diane Salinger of Rest Stop and Dark House. Sadly, they’re all underutilized.

This feels like an hour long, low budget Christmas rock music video with hints of a horror comedy tagged on at the end. Kristina and her two friends travel to an abandoned Santa theme park, so a majority of the film features them goofing off in colorful neon costumes that will appeal to adolescent straight boys, I guess. I was reminded of the video game Lollipop Chainsaw…which is much funnier than anything that happens here.

Finally the girls see Krampus, Barry Bostwick warps in and claims to be Santa, there’s a lot more unfunny goofing off, and we at last get a short period of pretty good Krampus action. Considering this segment is its strong part, it’s a shame it didn’t take up the bulk of the movie.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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