‘Christmas Bloody Christmas’ review: Dir. Joe Begos [Shudder Saturday]

Christmas 2022 definitely appears to be the year of alternative festive films. The season has already given us an odd throuple in The Leech, a Santa vigilante in Violent Night, and the promise of a Grinch-themed horror in The Mean One. There is one more film to add to that list, and it is Christmas Bloody Christmas from writer and director Joe Begos.

Christmas Bloody Christmas brings the collision of Christmas, slasher, and sci-fi movies with its deadly tale of a killer robot Santa. Originally designed for combat overseas, RoboSanta+, has been placed in toy shops across America, a safer option to ‘degenerate mall Santas’. However, come Christmas Eve, one of the machines malfunctions, reawakening its thirst for blood, and sets out on a murderous rampage. At the heart of the chaos is record-shop worker Tori (Riley Dandy) who just wants to spend a nice Christmas Eve getting drunk with her co-worker, Robbie (Sam Delich). Her need for alcohol soon switches to a desperate need to survive, but can Tori make it to morning? 

Sharing similarities to both Silent Night, Deadly Night and The Terminator, Christmas Bloody Christmas is not, by any stretch, a traditional Christmas movie. Even within the parameters of an anti-Christmas film, it pushes boundaries. Whereas its modern peer, Violent Night, rams the cheerful sentiment of the holidays down your throat at every opportunity, Begos’ film does not. Christmas Bloody Christmas is not concerned with the magic of Christmas or preserving the schmaltzy spirit of the holiday. The sanctity of family, something that festive films hold in high regard, is also subverted in spectacular fashion. Children are often kept safe in slashers, but here Begos gleefully hacks his way through a postcard perfect family with hilariously horrible results. 

If the opening credit, announcing Joe Begos as writer and director was to be omitted, it would still be abundantly clear that this is his film. Everything about the visual and aural style screams Begos. As his film career has progressed, Begos has pushed the colour palette of his movies more and more. His 2019 movie, Bliss, is a colourful cacophony of art, drugs, and violence, but Christmas Bloody Christmas is Bliss times a thousand. Colour, especially those of the neon variety, shine out of the screen to an almost blinding level of brightness. The store that Tori works in is majestically neon-soaked and exudes the cool record-shop you would want to live in. The bursts of colour don’t stop here though, the film is set during Christmas after all, and so there are festive lights dripping from almost every structure. These lights contrast perfectly with the dark night sky and bright white snow to create a stunning visual atmosphere. 

Steve Moore’s original score is another triumph. As with the visuals, this music immediately links synapses with Begos’ former work. It’s that heady mix of Carpenter synths and the heaviest of metal that gets the blood pumping. Christmas Bloody Christmas is a party film, one to be watched with friends whilst sharing some drinks, and Moore’s score helps conjure that sensation of being at a club or raucous gig. It is exceptional work and fans are going to want a copy of this stat. Mirroring the movie’s anti-Christmas position, the soundtrack is stuffed full of alternative yuletide tunes. Technically the soundtrack consists of Christmas songs, but these are unlike anything mainstream listeners will have ever heard before. 

Riley Dandy makes for a great lead as Tori. Her character is akin to a punk-rock, potty mouthed Sarah Connor, and her feisty nature ensures the audience are rooting for her. Before the mayhem begins, a lot of time is spent with Tori, Begos building that connection between viewer and character. Tori is an instant win in the lead character stakes, be it for nothing more than her interesting takes on music, or her spot-on observations about Pet Sematary 2. Abraham Benrubi, the gentle giant orderly from E.R, is frighteningly ferocious as the evil Santa Clause. Channelling his inner Arnold Schwarzengger, Benrubi is a juggernaut of aggression and he storms his way through the film. 

Much of the rest of the cast consists of regular Begos actors. The likes of Matt Mercer, Graham Skipper, Dora Madison, Josh Ethier, and Jeremy Gardner all appear; Begos takes great joy in dispatching many of them in highly hostile ways. The kills are inventive and crowd-pleasing, rejuvenating the Christmas slasher sub-genre with its commitment to the extreme. There’s also the new addition of Jeff Daniel Phillips, a regular of Rob Zombie films, who is instantly at home in this bloody environment. 

A Christmas film with a heavy-metal heart, Christmas Bloody Christmas succeeds in becoming a successor to the throne of classic festive slashers. The addition of the robotic antagonist adds a fantastic science-fiction slant, doing an excellent job of welcoming the Terminator fans in the audience. The Terminator itself is a slasher to a certain degree, but Begos takes that idea and runs, creating a worthy rival to the ultimate killer cyborg. A crowd-pleasing movie, stuffed with exaggerated bloody deaths, Christmas Bloody Christmas certainly lives up to its name. The perfect holiday horror to pair with a bottle of bourbon, Christmas Bloody Christmas is just the tonic to the overly-sentimental season of goodwill.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Christmas Bloody Christmas is on Shudder now.

This review first appeared on THN.