Written by: Matt Patti | December 8th, 2022
Christmas Bloody Christmas (Joe Begos, 2022) 2 out of 4 stars.
December 2022 seems to be the month of extremely bloody, gruesome Christmas movies. Director Tommy Wirkola’s Violent Night, involving a good-hearted-but-kickass Santa Claus fighting thieves, hit theatres on December 2. As so happens, one week later a film containing exactly the opposite is here: Christmas Bloody Christmas, from director Joe Begos (VFW). In this film, Santa is the bad guy (well, Robo-Santa, that is) and everyone who crosses his path, naughty or nice, receives equally violent treatment. But while Christmas Bloody Christmas certainly offers up more than its fair share of blood and gore, it doesn’t offer enough to hold up the “Christmas” part of its title.
Christmas Bloody Christmas begins with two young, twentysomething folks living in a small town: Tori Tooms (Riley Dandy, That’s Amor), a record store owner, and Robbie Reynolds (Sam Delich, Spiderhead), her employee. It’s Christmas Eve and, while closing the store, they chat about their plans for the night. Neither have particularly interesting gatherings to attend, so they instead decide to hit up a local bar. Nearby, a toy store is home to a military grade, robotic Santa Claus, one of many sold throughout the country. The Santas are being recalled for malfunctions, yet the toy store still displays theirs. The Robo-Claus utters various holiday phrases on loop, but suddenly, on this night, it goes silent. What it now lacks in speech, it makes up for in movement, as the Robo-Claus begins to walk around and attack people in the toy store. Soon, it follows Tori and Robbie home to Tori’s neighborhood. Tori and Robbie are not sure what to expect of the evening, as they’ve never been together at Tori’s house, and both are heavily intoxicated. However, the last thing they expect to encounter is a murderous Santa Claus Robot.
Dandy is fantastic as the film’s lead, turning in an exceptional performance as the humorous, but also fierce and badass Tori. Delich matches her energy as the persistent and equally funny Robbie Reynolds, and the two display great on-screen chemistry with conversations flowing so easily that sometimes the viewer forgets they’re watching an actor and actress at work. The other characters in the film, though, are not nearly as compelling or enjoyable to watch. Still, the performances from Dandy and Delich, their natural interaction, and their long, drawn-out, but fun and interesting conversations are major wins that entice the viewer, especially early on in the film. However, though these chats are engaging, they also have little to do with character development or plot, and once the chatter stops and the mayhem begins, the film can never quite recapture the level of intrigue from its first act.
The film’s main premise is a bit of a mixed bag, and not executed to its fullest potential. While the film offers a few decent moments of suspense, it’s not very frightening overall, and the Robo-Claus doesn’t do a great job of intimidating. Also, while the film pours on the blood and gore in droves, it’s not of great quality, as the effects are cheesy and overexaggerated, making what could be terrifying appear quite artificial and laughable at points. Finally, my biggest issue with Christmas Bloody Christmas is that, though the word is displayed twice in its title, the setting of the film does not feel like Christmas. The filmmakers choose not to show characters partaking in Christmas traditions, spending time with family, or really celebrating the holiday at all, making the whole Christmas setting null and void. In fact, I’d argue that if they take the Santa costume off the robotic figure, and then change the film’s setting completely to, say, a random Friday night in the middle of June, the film would be no different.
Overall, Christmas Bloody Christmas has its bright spots but fails where it matters most. The conclusion does impress a bit, however, by showcasing several different creative ways to take down the robot. The first act with Tori and Robbie is also a delight. However, from the second act all the way to the last 10 minutes, the film underperforms in key areas and can’t quite recover. The icing on the disappointment cake is the fact that the film does not lean in and embrace its Christmas setting, and instead plays out as a standard slasher flick that disregards its environment. While it’s always a pleasant surprise when a film succeeds at something you weren’t expecting it to, in this case characters and dialogue, it nonetheless doesn’t make up for shortcomings in the most vital areas: the promise of the premise. Therefore, though I enjoy some aspects of Christmas Bloody Christmas, I will have to be a Scrooge and label it as a disappointing film in the end. Bah Humbug!