“Christmas Bloody Christmas” enters the anti-Yuletide pantheon via a robotic Santa out for blood.
And that’s more or less where the film’s ambitions dry up.
The uber-low budget affair takes forever to heat up, finding little of note in its cyber-Santa origin story. Its key selling point? Some snarky banter between the two leads before Ol’ St. Nick picks up an axe.
All record shop owner Tori Tooms (Riley Dandy) wants for Christmas is meaningless sex. Instead, she settles for a drink with her employee, Robbie (Sam Delich), who clearly has a crush on her.
Tori would rather avoid a romantic entanglement with her staff, but she’s game to fight, flirt and focus on drinking as much as possible.
Unbeknownst to them, a clunky prologue warns of a malfunctioning line of robotic Santa Clauses. And one of those dysfunctional Santas, forged from military-grade material, happens to be loitering at a shop near Tori’s store.
Guess what happens next?
Not much, at least for a good, long while. Writer/director Joe Begos (the superior “VFW”) focuses on the Tori/Robbie coupling, letting us hear every wise and not-so-wise crack Tori shares. The screenplay is sharper than your average slasher film, and Dandy delivers her quips with aplomb.
It’s not enough to carry a genre film.
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Santa’s rampage starts with a whimper. Two kills come and go without gore, blood or even a whiff of tension. The Santa Cam-style vantage point proves worthless, too.
Is that all there is?
Finally, Begos finds the film’s Grindhouse gear mid-film and “Christmas Bloody Christmas” gets a pulse.
The film’s threadbare budget is impossible to hide, from the rudimentary effects to the faux snow falling right in front of the characters as they stroll down the street. Begos shoots the film with that spareness in mind, his lurid neon hues and fuzzy film stock giving “Bloody” an ‘80s vibe.
It can’t compete with “Stranger Things,” let alone the new grandaddy of pretend ‘80s horror, the “Terrifier” franchise.
“Christmas Bloody Christmas” leans hard into the Final Girl trope, and Tori proves a fine addition to that horror heritage. She’s tough and resourceful without the perfect gloss afforded Mary Sue heroines.
She does fall into a maddening tic late in the film, grunting nonstop during the final sequences. Who thought that would be appealing?
Stills from the upcoming movie: Christmas Bloody Christmas 🎅 pic.twitter.com/QRHKOH2xiq
— Frederick Nuti (@FrederickNuti) November 30, 2022
The rampaging Claus (Abraham Benrubi) has little personality, robbing the slasher theatrics of their bite. Ghouls like Freddy Krueger and Art the Clown bring humor and panache to their maulings.
A robotic Santa, by default, has the personality of a wet sponge.
The final act owes more than a debt to “The Terminator” franchise, but even Ah-nold’s metal warrior had more personality than this killer Claus.