You better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout, because a killer Robo-Santa is coming to town with an ax to grind…
…Wrapped in flesh and packed with gore, writer/director Joe Begos (VFW, Bliss) has returned bearing a new gift for horror fans in Christmas Bloody Christmas, the Santa massacre movie you never knew you needed.
Set on the eve of America’s favorite capitalist holiday, Christmas Bloody Christmas follows record store owner Tori (Riley Dandy) and her employee/friend/potential hookup, Robbie (Sam Delich) as they head out on the town for a night of liquid spirits. But when a toy store’s new Robo-Santa—“replacing your local degenerate mall Santa!”—malfunctions and begins killing anything that breathes, it’s up to the pair to stop it. But the mechanical embodiment of the Christmas season isn’t going to go down easy.
I imagine that if Paul Verhoeven made a Santa slasher flick, it would be a lot like Christmas Bloody Christmas. Begos opens the film with a series of tongue in cheek commercials that would make the Robocop director proud, including one which sees a dad and his two kids all getting the same alcoholic beverage as a present. Social commentary abounds during this first act, all of it tearing away the tinsel and wrapping paper to reveal the absurd consumerism underneath the holiday. If you didn’t already get the sense that the film is one big bloody joke from the premise, Begos sure lets you know from his approach.
At the center of this un-merry massacre are characters who fit the Begos mold wonderfully. All you really need to know about them is that they don’t like the holidays, they love booze, and “fuck” is their favorite word. Seriously, do not play a drinking game with how many times characters drop an F-bomb, you’ll die. Delich brings a sweet innocence to the otherwise hard exterior of Robbie—a guy who clearly has a crush on his boss—whereas Dandy bristles with a fun, flirty, don’t fuck with me attitude that cements Tori as one of the more badass heroines of 2022. Torrents of foul language may put off some viewers, but what works so well about these two is that Dandy and Delich both slide into their characters with a natural ease that feels relatable. The downside here is that stockings have more depth than most of the people in Christmas Bloody Christmas. A lack of coverage consisting of few close-ups doesn’t help either, creating a detached sensation that reminds us we are just the viewer here.
Christmas Bloody Christmas is all vibes and little plot. It wouldn’t be a Begos joint if it wasn’t soaked in neon, and the film decks the halls with such a heavy glow that every set looks like a grunge bar. Christmas Eve with Begos’ penchant for colorful lighting? Now that’s the punk rock Christmas movie I want to live in. Sexy. Smokey. This is the kind of holiday horror flick that encourages you to crack a beer, sit back with your preferred movie enhancing products, and enjoy the ride through this candy-coated winter terror-land.
And what a ride it is.
We don’t know why the Robo-Santa suddenly decides to kill everything on two legs. It doesn’t matter. Begos is quick to get this slay ride going, and once it does, it takes off like a rabid reindeer that just snorted a snowball’s worth of coke. A Terminator meets Silent Night, Deadly Night inspired premise, Christmas Bloody Christmas escalates into the blood-spattered rampage you’re hoping for. Joe Begos is an absolute madman that stuffs this cinematic stocking with every ounce of insanity he’s capable of. I’m not sure mayhem even begins to describe it. Think of the police station scene in Terminator, but for nearly sixty minutes. That’s Christmas Bloody Christmas in a nutshell…that’s then smashed by a nutcracker and tossed in the fire. Cold, dead eyes and expressionless features—thanks to a creepy as hell performance from Abraham Benrubi—there is no reasoning with this Santa. No one is safe. Taboos are shattered. And all hell breaks loose.
It’s astonishing to me that we have not one but two death-dealing Santa movies releasing around the same time, both of which are gleefully violent. Begos paints the snow red and does not hold back. You’ll gasp. You’ll cringe. And if you’re a gorehound, you’ll even cheer. Between dialogue that might as well have been written by horny sailors, Steve Moore’s pulsating score and gallons upon gallons of blood, Christmas Bloody Christmas is an aggressive assault that rarely gives the viewer time to breathe. The constant screaming/yelling may be too much for some, and frantic camera movements make the film more difficult to digest than those processed sugar cookies left out for the big guy. But if you asked Robo-Santa for a wild massacre that leaves its characters soaked head to toe in gore, Christmas Bloody Christmas delivers the fun.
A tooth and nail battle against the unrelenting spirit of Christmas that some of us just can’t stand—it’s me!--Christmas Bloody Christmas encapsulates the helpless feeling we get when holiday decorations invade stores before Halloween is over. This is exactly the raunchy, rampaging riot that any fan of Begos will scream for. It doesn’t redecorate the Christmas tree by any means, but it does pile on enough tinsel-guts and neon lights to make for one satisfying gift of ho-ho-horror.
Christmas Bloody Christmas brings the season's beatings on Shudder December 9th.
By Matt Konopka