Movie Review ~ Christmas Bloody Christmas

The Facts:

Synopsis: It’s Christmas Eve and Tori just wants to get drunk and party, but when a robotic Santa Clause at a nearby toy store goes haywire and begins a rampant killing spree through her small town, she’s forced into a battle for survival.
Stars: Riley Dandy, Sam Delich, Jonah Ray Rodrigues, Dora Madison, Jeremy Gardner, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Abraham Benrubi
Director: Joe Begos
Rated: NR
Running Length: 81 minutes
TMMM Score: (2/10)
Review:  This may get me an extra lump of coal in my stocking, but I’ve come to enjoy a more subversive Christmas movie morsel to counteract the saccharine sweetness that can feel overwhelming right around Thanksgiving. Don’t get it peppermint-twisted; I’m one of the first people to scan Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas list once it is released and will note any film starring Lacey Chabert or plots involving amnesiac grumpy corporate executives getting a dose of their figgy pudding. Still, it’s more than a bit of fun to see what creative filmmakers can do with a satanic Santa on the loose or elves running amok causing mayhem.

I had high hopes for Christmas Bloody Christmas because the general plot summary seemed like such a slam dunk. It’s one of those loglines that gets scribbled down on a paper napkin at a bar late one night and feels like a good idea at the time, but once it comes time to write the thing and make it, well… that’s where the problems start. Unfortunately, Christmas Bloody Christmas is a fruitcake of a meal, sticky and filled with indigestible bits that don’t go down well.    

Director Joe Begos has gained a sizable cult following with his previous two films, Bliss and VFW but can’t capture the same goofy horror charms here, despite a winning performance from Riley Dandy. Dandy plays Tori, a record store owner unexpectedly fighting off a robotic Santa Claus (Abraham Benrubi, Strange World) that’s gone haywire in her small town, viciously murdering anyone that gets in his way. For what seems like an eternity, Begos follows Tori all over the tiny hamlet evading ‘ole St. Nick in what amounts to an extended version of the finale from The Terminator

That may sound like a welcome wild ride, but the low-budget thrills and exceptionally crude dialogue take Christmas Bloody Christmas down the crummy chimney with zero care for any sophisticated skill. It squanders any leg up it gets on similar shoddy Christmas fare with more gross shenanigans or foul-mouthed back-and-forth between characters. A movie so short should not drag on so long. By the end, I wished for them to dash away all.

Movie Review ~ Offseason

The Facts:

Synopsis: After receiving a mysterious letter, a woman travels to a desolate island town and soon becomes trapped in a nightmare.
Stars: Jocelin Donahue, Joe Swanberg, Richard Brake, Melora Walters, Jeremy Gardner
Director: Mickey Keating
Rated: NR
Running Length: 83 minutes
TMMM Score: (3/10)
Review: As you grow into adulthood, you begin to describe your feelings about specific experiences better. That’s how I got to pinpoint what I liked about riding a rollercoaster and what I’d rather avoid. It turns out that I’m one of those people that doesn’t thrive on that sensation of a drawn-out build-up to the main drop. It’s the worst part for me. That creaky chug-chug-chug, your shoulders and neck jostling, jangling, and angling back further the higher up you went. I’d much prefer those new rides that practically shoot you sky-high like a slingshot and get right to the star thrill. In many ways, horror movies are the same way for me. I can appreciate one with a slick design, skilled layout, and efficient method to deliver you to the frights. When you’re stuck endlessly heading toward a payoff that never arrives, though, you wind up resenting the entire experience.

My latest ride to nowhere was Offseason, a film with such promise and a premise any indie horror film should find to be smooth sailing. A woman who fled from a secluded island community the moment she could get out of town receives a letter relaying the news that her mother’s grave has been desecrated and she needs to return as soon as possible. Arriving with her husband right as a storm cuts them off from the mainland, she starts to unravel as memories from the past mix with terrifying visions from the present. Unable to distinguish reality from fantasy, the woman is caught in a vortex of creatures lurking around corners and a townies that wants her to stay permanently.

What I’m laying out sounds like a movie any genre fan would leap toward, right? Right. The marketing will trap many unlucky souls, with the poster and various images giving just the right feel for the film without totally falsifying its substance. In all honesty, writer/director Mickey Keating gets in several freakishly chilling moments. Still, they’re infrequent amidst a lot of endless shots of star Jocelin Donahue (Doctor Sleep) walking around the town either lost or pursuing someone that vanishes as quickly as they’ve popped up. Donahue is so good and has been for a while now. You crave for the actress to land the role that sends her into the mainstream once and for all. 

Donahue doesn’t have much to work with or work off of cast members who have all been better in other projects. I’m not even going to name them here because I consider Offseason a rare occurrence of fouling out for batters that usually at least get base hits. Some may appreciate the slow and steady hand Keating employs with Offseason, and perhaps this is the pace of scare to which they prefer to respond. I think there was more potential to tighten up the piece and even ask if it was really worthy of being feature-length in the first place, or could it have worked better as short in a chapter of a longer anthology?