Friday, December 6, 2019

December to Dismember: DEADLY LITTLE CHRISTMAS (2009)

I often wonder what the world would be like if Christianity hadn't conquered the world by brute force. Sure, there would be less fear, shame, guilt, fanaticism and ludicrous excuses for mass murder, but would we still have a highly commercial holiday that whips the American public into a frenzy of venomous consumership that brings out more petty nastiness than a Republican at Taco Bell? More importantly, would I have to review mind-numbingly dull amateur productions like DEADLY LITTLE CHRISTMAS every damn year? I like to think not.

Yep, once again, we suffer for their (lack of) art, thinking that at some point, like a homeless alcoholic dreaming of tripping over an unopened bottle, we will find a low-rent Yuletide horror outing that will knock our collective stockings off. Yeah, there's death, taxes, and those stockings aren't going anywhere. The only thing deadly in this movie is the movie itself.

Opening with a flashback to Christmas Eve, 15 years prior to the present time which we have not even seen yet, kids Devin, Taylor and Noel are frolicking under the Christmas tree in their middle-class home, while mom, Mary (Felissa Rose), tells her Swedish domestic (?!), Inga (Noa Geller), that she should relax on her day off. Apparently there was some sort of communication barrier, or cultural faux pas, as Inga decides what she should do is to hop into bed with Santa (Douglas Meyers) who is fine with giving her the ol' Christmas cracker, while his wife and kids are hanging out in the living room. Someone who doesn't have, or has had too much of, the Christmas spirit, stabs them both to death with a knife. And when I say "knife", what I mean is one of those plastic, retractable daggers that used to be sold in the toy aisle of grocery stores. At first I thought this was going to be a gag, since it's obvious that the dull, silver-painted blade is going into the handle, but nope. Not only is this an actual murder weapon, but it is the murder weapon that will be used for the few other kills in the movie. In the bloody aftermath of the coitus interruptus, 10 year old Devin (Shane Carther Thomas) somnambulistically walks out of the front door of the house with knife in hand, covered in blood. Not at all like HALLOWEEN (1978). Totally different holiday.

Flash forward 15 years and the kids have grown. Toddler Noel (Leah Grimsson) is now a catty, fresh out of high-school drama queen, who now produces drama with her sister Taylor (Monique La Barr) at the local Community Playhouse... which is an industrial lot space with a roll up door. While the not-particularly traumatized sisters are enjoying their quiet lives of desperation, brother Devin (Samuel Nathan Hoffmire) has been a guest of the State bughouse and apparently has been emotionless and has not said one word since "the incident". But he is eeeeeeeeeeeevil! We know this because the three women of the family (including Mom, who hasn't aged a day) say so. Apparently the writers didn't want to draw comparison to the John Carpenter movie, so they decided to forgo a speech from his doctor declaring this fact.

Mary (still Rose) goes to visit Devin every Christmas to try to connect with him on the date of his infantile, homicidal outburst. This makes sense when you realize that Christians throw a massive celebration at the (alleged) anniversary of the Romans murdering a nice guy by nailing him to a couple of planks. While visiting, Mary goes all Niagra Falls, Frankie, and begs for him to speak, sobbing "I was hoping for a Christmas miracle!" So was I, Angela, so was I. Oddly, seemingly as punishment for their crimes, mental patients are forced to sleep on beds from a Herve Villechaize estate sale.

Devin finally busts out of the nuthouse, or rather casually ambles out, but not before we get what this movie lives for. Pointless, long-winded scenes of dialogue that are about nothing. NOTHING. Case in point the scene in which Mom drops by the Playhouse to invite Taylor to go out and get some tea and after discussing it to freaking death, Taylor has to turn her down because she is too busy. Sure the actual running time of this scene is only about 68 seconds, but goddamn, those are some long fucking seconds. The scene where Taylor and Noel have a discussion about how they are dealing with the Elephant in the Room (aside from pointing it out every chance they get), is particularly grueling.
Taylor: "Sis, whay won't Mom let us see Devin?"
Noel:    "He's a frickin' psycho, I don't even remember him. Mom doesn't want us to. Why do you think she hid all those pictures?"
Taylor: "They're in a box."
Noel:    "What are?"
Taylor: "The pictures. They're hidden in a box."
Noel:    "What?"
Taylor: "Yeah, they're in the basement, hidden in a box."
Noel:    "Ok, how do you know this and why haven't you mentioned it to me before?"
Taylor: "Ok, a couple of months ago, Mom was doing laundry and I heard her crying, so I went down to see what was wrong and I saw her kneeling down over a box of pictures."
This back and forth actually goes on for much longer, but I'll save you the tedium. The discussion is finally (temporarily) brought to a close when Noel's boyfriend, Steve (Anthony Campanello), stumbles into the scene saying "Hey Hon, it's a bit nippy outside, think I can get the car keys?" Yep, just call him Macho McStudd. Waitin' in the car. With the heater on.

Now that Devin is on the loose, it's time for shit to go down, right? I mean, we are at the 30 minute mark and we have had nothing but trivial conversations, so now shit's gotta get real! Eeh, sort of. The sisters are producing a Nativity play and have sagely procured the help of a couple of pot-smoking douchebags who engage in juvenile trash-talk while smoking a joint. Well, one guy smokes a joint and will only let the other guy have one hit. Is this what the youth of today has come to? Selfish bastards who bogart joints? Man, these assholes deserve to die. And fortunately for the viewer, they do. Unfortunately it's a quick throat-slashing with that damn toy knife by someone in some sort of red and white mask and a hoodie. Uhhh... ok, I guess that is supposed to be Devin. We don't even get a shot of a hand stealing a mask from a Halloween sho... oh yeah, I forgot, totally different holiday.

And we're back to more conversations. The sisters have been digging through The Box and having the same flashbacks to the same flashbacks of opening presents on Christmas. This leads to Mom catching them in the act and flipping out and screaming "how could you do this to me?!" while calling them horrible children who don't appreciate her and that they have now ruined Christmas. I'd like to thank the filmmakers for making me feel right at home with this true-to-life scene. Wait, I don't think "thank" is the word I was looking for.

While the girls chat over coffee (kill me now), Mom is down at the hospital reading the riot act to the staff and police detectives who have been assigned to the case. Since he only escaped a mere 12 hours ago, it makes sense that they should get some plainclothes detectives on the case to look for him there inside the hospital building. "It's a big building" they say. Mom continues to yell, they continue to tell her everything is fine and this seemingly never, ever ends. You could easily get off the sofa, grab a beer, take a piss, make a sandwich, check your email, sit back down and not miss a damn thing. Not that I did any of that. I take this job very seriously. I'm sure the screenwriters (yes there are three of them), Jeremiah Campbell, Novin Shakiba, and David S. Sterling, thought they were very clever when they have Mom give them the detectives the burning line "you better pray that he's still in this building, because horror awaits us all, if he's not." Did you get goosebumps, too? Ugh.

At nearly the hour mark, we get to witness the Christmas play we've heard so much (so much) about, as our smarmy detective Huges (Eric Fischer) is given orders by Mom, who aparently out-ranks the Police Chief, to go to the play to keep an eye on her daughters, presumably even though they are terrible kids and have ruined Christmas. The playhouse, not even packed to the 12 person capacity, has plenty of room for Huges, who sits and watches the play, in which no-one seems to notice that the douchebag stoner leads are absent without leave. Finally the play ends and we are in the home stretch. "Wait," I hear you say, "where's the horror in this horror movie?" Well, uhhhh, after the play, Steve decides to clean up by himself so he can let the sisters go home and celebrate Christmas. Steve's lack of testicular ornaments under his Christmas tree is pretty horrifying, I guess. Presumably, the intended horror is our masked killer stabbing Steve in the head (with that damn toy knife) before he manages to get the place cleaned up. Oh gosh, what will the girls think of him? Yeah, I'm fucking riveted to my seat.

Things finally draw to a close (spoiler alert for anyone who is desperate for a nap on the sofa and plans on watching this mess) when Mom has the girls and the detective meet her at the playhouse because... uh, reasons. Of course the stage is set up with the corpses of the victims set up like The Last Supper, but really only reminds viewers of many far better movies, and we get... more conversations. And then we find out that, surprise!, the twist we could see coming from the beginning of the movie (just over 60 minutes ago), is that Mom is actually the killer and she has been blaming the murder on Devin since day one and Devin gets to have a big, emotional, surprisingly articulate speech for someone who has been in a mental institution and hasn't spoken a word in fifteen years! Seriously, if you are going to advertise, and actually star, everyone's favorite homicidal chick-with-a-dick (spoiler?) slasher star Fellisa Rose, how is nobody going to see this coming? Uhhh... no pun intended.

While nobody is turning in any sort of noteworthy performance, at least Rose appears to be giving it her all. While famous, or infamous, for her role in SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1983), Rose wasn't in a feature (and I use the term loosely) again until 2003's Andreas Schnaas helmed disappointment NIKOS THE IMPALER. Since then she has been a mainstay in no-budget, shot-on-video outings in which she easily outshines her co-stars. Maybe that's what she likes about it, or maybe it's just a way to pay the bills. Currently, according to the IMDb, Rose has no less than 25 work-in-progress budget-starved efforts that are looming on the horizon. It's a dirty job, but...

This is the second "feature" movie from director and co-writer Novin Shakiba and his last to date. He has several producer credits for other no-budget, shot on video VOD fodder, such as DAHMER VS. GACY (2010) which also features Rose in a supporting role. He shows neither aptitude nor interest in any facet of the video production, except maybe an ambition to work in daytime television as he is desperately trying wring every drop of emotion he can out of the plethora of vacuous dialogue scenes in this movie. While he seems to clearly enjoy shooting scenes of people talking about their feelings, the scenes are laughable at best, or at least they would be, if they weren't so boring. Probably the best scene that sums up the movie is when the sisters were having yet another heart-to-heart talk and one says "you have to dispel the anguish from your heart!" At which point we cut to a slow-motion flashback of the kids opening Christmas presents. Anguish, I tell ya! The only anguish here is suffering through all of the banal padding in this Christmas turkey.

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