★★★ out of ★★★★★
Directed by Joe Begos
It’s a rampaging robotic Santa versus a clever, foul-mouthed record store owner in Joe Begos’ holiday horror Christmas Bloody Christmas.
Take a Terminator/Halloween-style seemingly undefeatable villain, dress same in a Santa suit, and it turn it loose on an eff-bomb enthusiast record store owner and her friends, and you have the basic set-up of writer/director Joe Begos’ Christmas Bloody Christmas.
Repurposed military robots turned retail-store Santas are being recalled, but our main characters are blissfully unaware of that news announcement on Christmas Eve. Vinyl-platter shop owner Tori (Riley Dandy) and her employee Robbie (Sam Delich) head out for a night of alcoholic consumption, stopping off at a toy store owned by their friends Lahna (Dora Madison) and Jay (Jonah Ray), who happen to have one of those recalled Santas on display. After getting to know the main characters through lots of bickering about which bands, albums, and movies are better — along with “just get a room” sexual tension between a manager and employee — the automaton reverts to full-on killing machine mode, leaving a path of destruction and gruesome bodies in its wake as it relentlessly hunts down Tori and anybody with whom she comes into contact.
As with Begos’ previous feature VFW (2019), a good deal of siege action and grue-filled set pieces that offer suspense and jaw-dropping aplenty are on offer. And it all looks great in this neon-washed, shot-on-16mm (by cinematographer Brian Sowell) slice of holiday horror, which also boasts a solid soundtrack of psychedelic metal and hard rock.
The elements that don’t quite work for this reviewer are the banter between Tori and Robbie — if you have ever overheard two strangers incessantly trying to one-up each other as they argue about pop culture or any other topics, you get my drift, though Dandy and Delich do offer good chemistry together — and the fact that the robotic Santa’s face looks 100% human, and therefore like just some guy in a Santa Claus suit, until it starts taking some damage.
Overall, Christmas Bloody Christmas is ultimately a fun watch, though it doesn’t offer a lot new in the murderous mechanical man department.
Review by Joseph Perry
Shudder and RLJE Films will release CHRISTMAS BLOODY CHRISTMAS in theaters and it will stream exclusively on Shudder on December 9, 2022.