It’s safe to say that I’m a Joe Begos fan. I appreciated Almost Human more than most when it appeared and I remain head over heels in love with The Mind’s Eye. I was already in the tank for the man’s work after that one and the arrival of both V.F.W. and Bliss only further cemented that. A new Begos film is appointment cinema for me. So when it was announced that he had a Christmas-themed slasher, Christmas Bloody Christmas, on the horizon, I was ecstatic.
Folks, it didn’t disappoint. This is a lean, mean piece of sci-fi-tinged slasher cruelty. Once the mayhem begins, the violence is gnarly, the kills are brutal, and the tone is punishing. More important than any of that, however, is the character work. Begos has delivered up some of my favorite would-be slasher victims in recent years. More on that later, however.
Our premise finds us in small-town America, following a batch of young adults on Christmas Eve as they party it up. Tori Tooms (Riley Dandy) runs an insanely cool record store, with her trustee friend/employee Robbie Reynolds (Sam Delich) by her side. The place is so packed with music, movies, and other media-tinged items that I am deeply saddened by the fact that no similar business exists where I live. It looks like the coolest place in the world to shop and hang out in.
Their friends, couple Lahna (Dora Madison) and Jay (Jonah Ray) run the town toy store further up the block. Lahna & Jay have them over for a few drinks after their respective stores shut down, but then quickly usher them out the door so that they can have sex. This sends Tori & Robbie off to the town bar (run by Begos regular Josh Ethier), where they encounter the sullen & drunken Sheriff Monroe (Jeff Daniel Phillips).
From this point onward, the main question is “Will Tori & Robbie finally hook up?” After all, they’re clearly perfect for one another. You end up falling in love with both characters almost instantly and spend the bulk of the first act hoping that they take their relationship to the next level. The writing is so on point and the performances are so compelling that you’d be happy if the whole movie was just a drunken holiday hangout with the two of them as they encounter other friends & family, as well as finally fall in love.
Problem is, this is a Joe Begos movie, so everyone listed above – along with a handful of other characters – is in for a really bad night. You see, that aforementioned toy store has a robot Santa at the front to great customers. He hails from a company that used existing defense department android tech to make said holly holly Santa bots. It sure would be a shame if RoboSanta accidentally reverted back to his military “search & destroy” programming. You know where I’m going with this.
Once RoboSanta enters stage left, the film quickly and devilishly turns into what can probably best be described as “Silent Night, Terminator Night.” The back half of the picture is just a nonstop relentless chase as the tireless murderbot hunts down anyone and everyone in sight. Men, women, children. All are on RoboSanta’s naughty list and boy oh boy are they gonna get their lump of cold, hard death.
Christmas Bloody Christmas sees Begos working with his biggest budget to date and it shows. Every penny is on screen. The make-up and animatronic FX work is pitch perfect, the pyrotechnics are bombastic, and holy hell there’s actual fake snow falling from the sky throughout. That might not seem like an important detail, but it really is. Digital snow might not sink a film, but it sure does detract from the atmosphere of an winter-set tale, so to see someone actually utilizing snow machines to fill the frame with flakes is a sight for sore eyes.
Begos once again shot on 16mm here and once again, it looks amazing. While there have been and will continue to be plenty of gorgeously-shot digital movies, these eyes will always gravitate more to shot-on-film cinematography. That does double for down and dirty exploitation films like this, where the grain just adds to the experience.
Christmas Bloody Christmas won’t be for everyone. If you aren’t a fan of Begos’ previous works, odds are extremely high that you won’t be a fan of this one either. Similarly, if you only want your Christmas horror to be funny and tongue-in-cheek, this also won’t be for you. This is a bleak and nasty piece of work, but those who are on its wave-length are going to have a blast when they watch it this holiday season. I sure did!
Christmas Bloody Christmas is an original horror film. It was written and directed by Joe Begos. The film was produced by Josh Ethier, Joe Begos, Brian E. Dutton, Emily Gotto, Mark Ward, and Sam Zimmerman. It stars Riley Dandy, Sam Delich, Abraham Benrubi, Jonah Ray, Dora Madison, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Jeremy Gardner, Kansas Bowling, Graham Skipper, and Josh Ethier.