Deck the Hells

M E E E E E R R Y   C H R I S T M A S !

*

santa's slay 2005

SANTA’S SLAY

3 Stars  2005/18/78m

“He’s making a list… Pray you’re not on it.”

Director/Writer: David Steiman / Cast: Bill Goldberg, Douglas Smith, Emelie de Ravin, Robert Culp, Dave Thomas, Saul Rubinek, Rebecca Gayheart, Michael David Simms, Chris Kattan, Fran Drescher, Alicia Loren, Annie Sorrell, James Caan.

Body Count: 38

Laughter Lines: “You bought me a gun? I don’t mean to be ungrateful but… are you fucking retarded!?”


Brett Ratner produced this wickedly amusing flick, which would give those parents’ groups that protested Silent Night, Deadly Night‘s depiction of a homicidal Santa Claus twenty years earlier coronaries.

Santa, it turns out, is a son of Satan (wow, my dad was right!) and has done 1,000 years of good deeds after losing a wager with an angel. As the thousand year penance ends, so does his good behaviour. Setting his sights on the small Canadian township of Hell (police mantra: ‘Crime doesn’t stand a chance in Hell’), where crotchety old people, sleazy pastors, and all manner of hypocritical types are gruesomely done away with, as well as Carol Singers and strippers.

santa's slay 2005

Indifferent teens Nicolas and Mary (de Ravin, of Lost) are the ones charged with the task of bringing the madness to an end. There are a lot of dark laughs here as the body count goes stratospheric – watch for the awesome teens where a pair of spoiled brats get their heads blown off by their presents and their tired grandma wearily says: “Fuck.”

Santa slashers are strange critters, but this plays it the right way, albeit one that would probably upset more than a few evangelicals. The end does seems to sag under the weight of a few too many in-jokes that don’t quite translate to screen very successfully, but up until then this is probably one of the better examples of it’s sub-sub-genre.

santa's slay 2005 bill goldberg

Blurbs-of-interest: Robert Culp was ironically in Silent Night, Deadly Night III; Rebecca Gayheart was in Urban Legend and made a cameo appearance in the sequel plus a small role in Scream 2; Douglas Smith was in Stage Fright (2014).

Please come home for Christmas.

red christmas 2016

RED CHRISTMAS

2 Stars  2016/18/78m

“This Christmas, the only thing under the tree is terror.”

Director/Writer: Craig Anderson / Cast: Dee Wallace, Geoff Morrell, Sarah Bishop, Janis McGavin, David Collins, Gerard Odwyer, Deelia Meriel, Bjorn Stewart, Sam Campbell.

Body Count: 11

Laughter Lines: “Why can’t we just open our presents like normal people and forget all this Oprah bullshit?”


‘Tis the season to get into age-old arguments with family. Fa la la la laaaa la la la laaaa.

Here’s a weird Australian flick, which sees American-in-Oz Dee Wallace hoping for the best family Christmas before she sells up her remote house to explore Europe. Heavily-pregnant daughter Ginny keeps rowing with pious sister Suzy, whose priest-husband Peter struggles with the laid back clan’s use of language. And pot. Younger sister Hope just wants to get away, and Jerry, with Downs Syndrome, tries to unify everyone with the seasonal spirit.

Things take a turn for the weird when a cloaked and bandaged stranger calling himself Cletus arrives. Dee invites him in for a warm drink and he asks to read a letter, which takes her back to a bombing at an abortion clinic twenty years prior (never nineteen, never twenty-one). Could Cletus be her unsuccessfully aborted son? Cletus to Foetus. Ho ho ho.

red christmas 2016

When the family eject him from the house, he retaliates with Biblical fury: Axing, skewering, grinding, and bear-trapping everybody in a siege, until the inevitable showdown with dear old Mom is enabled and also Ginny going into labour.

The Australians, like the Brits, have a pretty dark sense of humour with heavy subject matter, and it’s at times difficult to gauge what’s intended to be funny and what isn’t. Where does this film lie politically? We have the hyper-religious family members who are unable to conceive (“God is the only treatment we require”) versus the unserious pot-smoking mom-to-be. That neither are pleasant and both meet sticky ends assumes a centrist just-stop-being-dicks outlook, which I can appreciate.

Cletus’s amusing politeness and some funny demises are interesting but I just couldn’t get my head around most of Red Christmas, although Dee Wallace gives it her all, which should be commended. She must rank as the genre’s first Final Grandma.

Blurbs-of-interest: Dee Wallace can also be found in Dead End RoadPopcorn, the Halloween remake, and Scar.

The Old Ways

murder loves killers too 2008

MURDER LOVES KILLERS TOO

3.5 Stars  2009/18/75m

“Everyone knows killers love murder. But did you know… murder loves killers too?”

A.k.a Blood Cabin (UK DVD)

Director/Writer: Drew Barnhardt / Cast: Christine Haeberman, Allen Andrews, Mary LeGault, Scott Nadler, John Jenkinson, Kat Szumski, Kathryn Playa.

Body Count: 5


This micro-budgeted, energetically directed quickie was shot in the Californian woodlands and scrunches up the entire stalk n’ slash act of the genre into just 30 minutes, as a quintet of prepped-to-party teens arrive at the gorgeous log cabin they’ve rented for the weekend and almost immediately fall victim to the middle-aged bald guy who’s home. It’s so immediate, one girl barely gets a look around the joint before being nabbed and spirited away.

The odd-ball killer wastes no time in ridding the cabin of the other three until only smart girl Aggie remains for a protracted game of cat and mouse, with scenes reminiscent of early genre examples – Amy Steel’s Jason-dodging comes to mind. She’s eventually caught by Big Stevie, who sits down to explain that she’s going to help him with his ‘sexual problem’ – which sounds a bit like he wants to do the deed with his daughter!?

murder loves killers too 2008

Aggie manages to escape and Big Stevie finishes her off, packs up his car with her body in the trunk and returns home to his dull, normal suburban life. An awesome final twist springs into play and the film ends just there: Short, sweet, succinct.

Murder Loves Killers Too is hampered slightly by the constraints of its budget, but at the same time it suits it down to the ground, insofar as quirky slasher movies of this type likely wouldn’t pack the endearing attributes that go into them with more cash thrown at them. The way it is, things work just fine, with adequate performances all round, characters who are slight, but at least not insufferable, and an optimistic creative approach, seen in the jaunty camera angles and spacial set-ups.

Definitely not one for everybody – I liked this more during my second viewing – but it’s an acquired taste, and the filmmakers note that they intended only on going back to basics with it. Check out the DVD extra that lists the various working titles; my favourite of which was Off Campus Death Party Massacre 4.

murder loves killers too 2009

The Audacity is Coming from *Inside* the House…

wakc

WHEN A KILLER CALLS

2 Stars  2006/91m

“The stranger on the phone… is inside your house!”

Director: Peter Mervis / Writer: Steve Bevilacqua / Cast: Rebekah Kochan, Robert Buckley, Mark Irvingsen, Sarah Hall, Derek Osedach, Carissa Bodnar, Isabella Bodnar, Chriss Anglin, Tara Clark.

Body Count: 13


The Asylum has made a name for itself producing quick turnover rip-offs of about-to-be-huge releases – though these days they just seem to churn out films about sharks – and as the remake of When A Stranger Calls loomed, in the same month came this similarly titled, higher-bodycount pretender, which is more or less the exact same plot, but wasn’t it nice of them to put the twist on the cover in the form of a tagline!?

Cookie cutter hot girl Trisha turns up at her babysitting gig, explains that she “doesn’t sit for the Hewitt’s anymore” and strikes an expression that tells us exactly who the killer’s going to be. Or are they playing us? No. It’s exactly who you think it is.

The standard post-Scream calls come in – “check the kid”, “I’m going to kill you tonight…” blah blah blah – so she calls the cops. Her sexy boyfriend and his two loser tag-alongs show up, giving Mr Hewitt – I mean, the mystery killer - some extra fodder to stab, slash, and asphyxiate, before Trisha is taken hostage. The last half hour is pretty much her tied up and menaced by the mystery killer in some pretty disturbing ways.

The only daring instance that occurs here is that there are two on-screen murders of young children, a taboo usually not crossed even in the pits of exploitation horror, but that doesn’t make it a good film. As it is, it’s backed into a corner by the number of cliches it depends on. Let’s see a babysitter film where it’s a guy looking after the kids for a change.

Blurbs-of-interest: Kochan and Odesach were the leads in fellow Asylum rip, Halloween Night; Robert Buckley was also in Killer Movie; Mark Irvingsen was in both Scarecrow (2003) and Scarecrow Slayer.

Cloak and Dagger. And Axe. And Hammer.

fox trap 2016FOX TRAP

3 Stars  2016/18/98m

A.k.a. Don’t Blink (DVD)

“It’s hunting season.”

Director: Jamie Weston / Writer: Scott Jeffrey / Cast: Becky Fletcher, Therica Wilson-Reid, Richard Summers-Calvert, Kate Greer, Alex Sawyer, Julia Eringer, Klariza Clayton, Scott Chambers, Carey Thring, Charlene Cooper.

Body Count: 10


A very nicely put together and impressively acted British slasher mystery, which is thankfully closer in quality to Braxton Butcher than it is the Unhinged remake (ironically featuring the lead actress here), or 12 Deaths of Christmas.

Eight years (OMG, not ten!!) after their stupid prank leaves a girl paralysed, the responsible group are invited to a bogus reunion at the remote country house of a girl murdered at the start. There, they’re all in receipt of boxes containing creepy dolls, and a Truth or Dare-type card game that aims to shine the light of truth on what they did.

Frankie (Fletcher) took the fall for everyone and ended up doing time; Anna is genuinely sorry and will do anything to repair their broken friendship; ringleader Connie didn’t give a fuck then and doesn’t give a fuck now. With a couple of extra boyfriends in tow, a killer wearing the same cloak and white mask combo used in the gag rocks up and starts to do away with them by axe, hammer, and cellophane.

fox trap 2016

While the film follows the expected route of discovery, panic, failed attempts to drive away for help, the creators have thankfully taken extra care to use players who can actually act well for the most part, set up decent shots (the coat hook moment at the start is a little gem of a shock), and write good dialogue for the tension-thick scenes when the past crime is discussed over dinner.

Fox Trap runs maybe 10-15 minutes too long and the identity of the killer isn’t much of a challenge to guess, but there still are plenty of nice developments as we go, from Frankie and Anna discovering a room with the fiend’s plans neatly laid out, a good chase scene, and even a mercy killing. This benefits from not straying too far from tried and tested groundwork, carefully tweaking the tropes of its situation to its advantage. Good stuff.

Blurb-of-interest: Becky Fletcher and Kate Greer (under a different name) were in the aforementioned Unhinged.

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