Being a big fan of Joe Begos’ last couple of films, I went excitedly into his newest. And the main thought I was struck by while watching “Christmas Bloody Christmas” is there was a Terminator movie released within the last few years and despite the fact that James Cameron himself was involved in making it, “Christmas Bloody Christmas” actually feels more like “The Terminator” by leaps and bounds. I recently was able to speak to Begos and when I mentioned that, he claimed “The Terminator” as his favorite movie and that is completely unsurprising to me after seeing this film. It’s a love letter to Cameron’s 1984 sci-fi classic in the same way Begos’ previous film, “VFW”, seemed a clear valentine to John Carpenter’s “Assault On Precinct 13.”
“Christmas Bloody Christmas” is a beautiful mashup of horror and action cinema with an infusion of holiday cheer (and anxiety). When I spoke to Begos, he posited that instead of trying to create massive tentpoles out of their killer robot features, studios should instead be giving a few million dollars to indie filmmakers to do them. I’m inclined to agree with him. Not that I have anything against the last Terminator film. A big part of what made Cameron’s original film interesting was not only how well it mixed genres (I can’t disagree with those who call “The Terminator” a slasher film instead of an action picture) but also how character-oriented it was. It’s in that respect that I give a lot of credit to Begos and “Christmas Bloody Christmas”. Your mileage may vary but as someone who grew up in the punk and metal scenes in addition to being a horror geek, I can’t help but love these characters and appreciate how much time is given to their development. It’s something that you absolutely should see all the time in horror but, sadly, is not always present.
The actors playing the supporting characters are uniformly great in their roles. I have to give special praise though to lead actress Riley Dandy. She not only imbues the lead character of Tori with truth but she manages to carry the entire movie on her back, despite not having many opportunities like this previously. Her character is more than just a final girl but ultimately a legitimately impressive heroine. Dandy manages to show moments of great vulnerability in her performance beneath her outward appearance as maybe the boss-est bitch in recent cinematic history. I haven’t seen her in a leading role before this but I hope to see more in the future. I also want to single out Sam Delich as well. In a large portion of the film, he’s leading things as much as Dandy is and does a wonderful job as Tori’s closest counterpart. They bring out the absolute best in each other and their scenes together are my favorite parts of “Christmas Bloody Christmas.” Also, Delich has one of the most convincing American accents I’ve heard from an Australian.
According to Begos, “Christmas Bloody Christmas” began life as an unsuccessful pitch to remake/reboot the cult classic slasher “Silent Night, Deadly Night”. That new iteration has yet to come to fruition but I can’t imagine by the time that it eventually does it will have done any better than “Chrismas Bloody Christmas” at bringing the whole “killer Santa” idea to life. I’ve always liked the original “Silent Night, Deadly Night” but the fact that (despite what the poster might lead you to believe) the killer is at no point portrayed as anything but a normal-looking lunatic that just happens to be wearing a Santa suit. And well, that has always bummed me out a bit personally. In this case, yes, it’s clearly a robot in a Santa suit gone haywire but that’s actually so much more frightening to me. Not just the idea of technology gone amok but Abraham Benrubi’s intimidating size and the body language he brings to his portrayal is legitimately scary in a way that many attempt but few are actually able to pull off.
I also want to mention the fact that in addition to obviously being a scary (and thrilling) movie, “Christmas Bloody Christmas” is beautiful to look at. It’s unsurprising given Begos’ established aesthetic style but the way he bathes every location in garish but absolutely gorgeous light, and then shoots it all on 16-millimeter film, is just sumptuous and spectacular to behold. Plus the practical blood and gore effects throughout the film are uniformly excellent. I’m sure no one that knows me will be surprised by my appreciation of how gory this film is but I feel like there’s no way that any horror fan will be able to watch it and not smile ear to ear seeing these makeup effects.
I had small issues with its pacing on occasion and there are rare moments where the limitations of the budget do reveal themselves but overall, it’s one of the best movies like this in quite a while. There have been more high-profile and expensive films that have tried and failed to accomplish something similar. That alone is deserving of praise. That being what it is, I believe that Joe Begos intended to make this film for a very specific niche. I am undoubtedly a part of that intended audience. However, it should appeal to a broader audience than any of his work has before. “Christmas Bloody Christmas” is a gift to fans of slasher (and killer robot) movies and a worthy addition to my (and hopefully others’) annual Christmas watching traditions.
CHRISTMAS BLOODY CHRISTMAS is in theaters and streaming on Shudder starting December 9th, 2022.