The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Shudder] - CHRISTMAS BLOODY CHRISTMAS | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Shudder] - CHRISTMAS BLOODY CHRISTMAS

Christmas Bloody Christmas review
A robotic Santa malfunctions and embarks on a killing spree.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Joe Begos

Starring: Riley Dandy, Sam Delich, Abraham Benrubi, Jonah Ray, Dora Madison, Jeremy Gardner, Jeff Daniel Phillips

Christmas Bloody Christmas poster

Lots of movies have featured killer Santas. Even more have given us killer robots. Director Joe Begos's Christmas Bloody Christmas might be the first movie to boast a killer Santa robot (please let me know of any others).

Set in the near future, Begos's film opts for some Verhoeven-esque satire in its pre-credits sequence as we're greeted with a series of satirical TV commercials, including one for a blend of whiskey the whole family can enjoy. But with this opening, Begos sets a comic tone for his movie that it never quite recaptures.

Christmas Bloody Christmas review

The mall Santa seems like an occupation that's not long for this world, with today's parents so paranoid about placing their little tykes in the hands (or laps) of strangers. In the world of Christmas Bloody Christmas the good old US military has come up with a solution – robot Santas made from repurposed android soldiers. What could go wrong?

Oblivious to a TV news snippet that informs us the Robo Santas are beginning to revert to their original military programming and are being recalled en masse, record store owner Tori (Riley Dandy) closes her shop after a profitable Christmas Eve and heads to a nearby bar with her employee Robbie (Sam Delich). The pair stop off at the toy store run by their friends Lahna (Begos regular Dora Madison) and Jay (Jonah Ray), where one such Robo Santa is beginning to kick into killer mode, before returning to Tori's home for more drinks and some fumbling, unaware that the killer Kris Kringle is on their tail.

Christmas Bloody Christmas review

Just as Christmas themed pop songs inevitably sound like cynical cash grabs for annual royalties by acts thinking about their future retirement, Christmas horror movies too often feel like they've been made out of obligation rather than passion. I don’t think that's the case with Begos, as anyone who has seen his fun veterans vs punks thriller VFW knows he has a genuine love of this sort of retro b-movie fare. I have no doubt that Begos has long wanted to make a movie in which a robotic Santa Claus chops people in half with a large axe. At the same time, Christmas Bloody Christmas feels half-formed, as though it was an idea Begos had sitting on a shelf for a while and found himself in the position of having to bring it to fruition in a short space of time. Begos's idea of character development here is to force us to spend an insufferable amount of time with the drunken, loud-mouthed Tori and Robbie, who with their sub-Kevin Smith arguments about music and movies come off as little more than thinly written millennial hipster douchebags. Admittedly Tori is a welcome departure from the conventionally timid and withdrawn Final Girl archetype, but she's so irritating that you may find yourself rooting for Santa to shut her the hell up. Spending 80 minutes in the company of the screeching Tori will make you realise what it must be like to be an Uber driver on New Year's Eve.

The killer Santa robot is a great concept but it's poorly realised. Played by actor Abraham Benrubi, it's never convincing as a mechanical device – we always just think of it as a bloke in a Santa costume rather than a malfunctioning robot. Begos adds some robotic sound effects but they're so over the top that they just bring our attention to Benrubi's unconvincing performance. It gave me a newfound appreciation of just how great Yul Brynner and Arnold Schwarzenegger are at portraying killer robots in Westworld and The Terminator. It's only later when the skin is peeled from Santa and we're exposed to its mechanical innards that we're reminded we're watching a cyborg rather than some burly guy in a costume. Early on we're told the Robo Santa is programmed with thousands of words, but Begos misses a trick by never having it come out with some classic Santa catchphrases that might be mined for laughs.

Christmas Bloody Christmas review

It's that absence of humour that proves Christmas Bloody Christmas's greatest folly. After the satirical opening sequence it's played relatively straight, but with no characters we care for there's a lack of stakes. While Begos once again proves he's a filmmaker that knows how to make a good looking movie on a limited budget (his customary primary colour neon aesthetic is given a Christmassy green and red glow here), there just isn't enough here to make Christmas Bloody Christmas stand out from the overly saturated seasonal slasher market.

Christmas Bloody Christmas
 is on Shudder from December 9th.

2022 movie reviews