3 out of 5 stars

By my count, there are around 700 fucks spoken in Christmas Bloody Christmas; that’s one roughly every seven seconds. At first, it’s annoying (who are they trying to impress?), but after a while, the pouring forth of expletives gains a demented charm, like much of everything else in this merrily daft antidote to seasonal mushiness.

The scene is a small town somewhere in the US, or maybe a parallel universe where Tinder and VHS tapes co-exist. It’s Christmas Eve, and the film opens on a series of numbingly mundane TV ads promoting Santa live in concert, festive cannabis edibles, a show called Killed at Christmas… and the new ‘RoboSanta’ now available at the town’s T.W Bonkers toy store.

This robotic Saint Nick is based on repurposed defence technology which “fully replaces your local degenerate mall Santa.” We don’t meet RoboSanta just yet, however, as there’s first a lengthy flirtation between local record store owner Tori (Riley Dandy) and her employee Robbie (Sam Delich), after which they head off from a bar to the toy store. Unfortunately, a newscast reporting that the RoboSantas are being withdrawn because some have reverted to their old military programming, goes unnoticed.

Needless to say, the RoboSanta at T.W Bonkers is soon on the move, and the visit he pays to a local family isn’t to deliver presents. Nor is the cop (Elliott Gilbert) at the scene of slaughter, who shoots RoboSanta and confidently pronounces “he’s not getting up”, going to last much longer.

Yes, everything plays out exactly as one would expect because there’s nothing like tradition at this special time of year. This Santa may look like the Terminator but he’s a slasher at heart, and indeed Christmas Bloody Christmas supposedly has its origins in a project to remake Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984). His first victims are a couple having sex, and Tori will of course become the Final Girl after guns, tasers, and swords all fail to shut down the robot.

The story itself is intentionally dumb and predictable, then, and doesn’t bear close examination (RoboSanta initially seems implausibly programmed for indiscriminate slaughter but then turns to specifically hunt Tori). And Christmas Bloody Christmas does suffer from a rather pedestrian ending—-you might be expecting some spectacular ingenuity or an ironic twist, but instead it just stops.

Still, there’s an engaging energy and sarcastic humour to much of the film, particularly in the scenes between Robbie and Tori, both of whom are amusingly and convincingly acted. Their long repartee gets in a dig at Blumhouse Pictures, much discussion of Motorhead and other music, and a commentary on the virtues of Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000), known here as Book of Motherfucking Shadows.

Abraham Benrubi makes for a chillingly expressionless RoboSanta, Jeff Daniel Phillips contributes good support as a local Sheriff, and Steve Moore’s electronic score helps to provide some real tension at times. Director Joe Begos (Bliss) and cinematographer Brian Sowell also manage to give this low-budget outing a distinctive visual flavour by shooting in 16mm and heavily emphasising the festive colours of green and red, both within the action (Santa’s mouth and later his eyes flash green, Tori’s bloodied face is red) and more impressionistically (the police station washroom is bathed in green, for example).

The word of mouth for seasonal silliness this Christmas is currently favouring Violent Night (2022) at the multiplexes. But for those who prefer to get their festive dose of ill-will toward all men via streaming, this far lower-budget exercise is one for the shortlist.

The concept may not sustain the two sequels Begos reportedly has in mind, but the big joke of the premise is nicely balanced by some droll smaller-scale humour, the two central performances are strong, and the writer-director keeps things moving along well. It’s fun while it lasts.

USA | 2022 | 87 MINUTES | 2.39:1 | COLOUR | ENGLISH

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Cast & Crew

writer & director: Joe Begos.
starring: Riley Dandy, Sam Delich, Jeff Daniel Phillips & Abraham Benrubi.