Friday, December 4, 2020

December to Dismember: KILLER CHRISTMAS (2017)

 Christmas means different things to different people. Even if they don't celebrate Christmas for whatever reason, there is still some sort of celebratory event in their lives, even if that consists of a bottle of vodka and a pack of razor blades. Here at the virtual VJHQ, this traditional event is an endurance test. As if 2020 hasn't been enough of one, we push the limits of cinematic suffering with a buffet of rotten Christmas horror movies. To be sure, we are really more gullible than Tiny Tim, thinking that maybe, possibly, perhaps, this year we will will get a Christmas goose, but usually end up with a goose egg. No more is this apparent than this year's second entry, which isn't so much a goose egg, as at least with a goose egg, you can make breakfast. This sloppy, careless, brainless, utter waste of time does nothing but kick the crutches out from under our crippled legs.

The suffering the viewer is about to endure is telegraphed by the unnecessarily padded opening sequence in which we find a waitress taking orders in a cafe. After standing around talking to the guy who appears to be the manager or owner for a while (because, fuck the customers), we discover she is excited about Christmas and is taking a six week vacation to be with her family. Raise your hand if you've fantasized about spending six weeks of your adult life with your parents and siblings during the holidays. Yeah, nobody's that crazy. All of this leads up to a lengthy jogging sequence (yes, after waiting on tables all day, she decides to go running at night), during which some random dude that we can't see, flashes a knife, chases her for a bit, grabs her and makes a stabbing motion and drags her off. To somewhere. For some reason.

Cut to a Christmas tree farm that is located next to an abandoned hotel. A group of uber-douchey 20-somethings arrive and like typical douchebags, they stand around yelling "fuck" as loud as possible, so that people will notice how cool they are. Actual line: "Let's go chop down some fuckin' trees! Yeaaaaah! Woooo!" I would accept it as the best Christmas gift ever if these idiots were just killed right now and I was spared another 80 minutes of this cheese-grater garbage.

The tree sales guy (co-writer/co-director/co-producer, PeterPaul Shaker) isn't really a Crazy Ralph, so much as a Cranky Ralph, warns these morons not to go to the abandoned hotel. Why? Just because. Strangely he looks just like one of the chuckleheads in the group, Robbie who is played by the other co-writer/co-director/co-producer, Tony Shaker. No mention is made of this similarity in appearance and it doesn't factor into the movie at all. Two separate characters who just happen to look like they share 90% of their genetic material. This is confusing at first, but once you realize that the movie has absolutely nothing to offer, you'll get over it.

The Brah Crew goes to great lengths to tell the audience that they like to play head games and sex games and this is initiated by one of them yelling "game on!" While they made a decision to totally go check out the creepy hotel, they are going to pair off and "play a game" first. Basically they shout "frolic" and disappear from camera, only to come back looking exactly the same as they did before and imply that they just had sex. And they have to spend some time talking trash, smoking weed (which does nothing to them except make them cough) and drinking from a flask that never seems to run out. Weren't we supposed to be doing something here? Oh yeah, padding the movie out by 12 minutes.

After finally cutting down some trees, with more whoops than an underground rave, (we are now 20 minutes in) they finally start talking about "what sort of fucked up shit's in there". Yes, we may actually get to the main point of the movie. Maybe. It literally takes them 8 minutes and 8 seconds of walking around the building shouting "fuck!" and "it's creeeepy!" and "there could be hobos in there!" and "eeeww!" One of the girls, Margo (Freya Lund), speculates on how cool it would be to get two "hobos" to fight each other and livestream it. Hell man, if someone doesn't start bumping these over-privileged ass-nuggets off sharpish, I'll kill the little fuckers myself.

Once inside, we get a shout of "game on bitches!" and they decide to play hide and seek. Could this possibly get any more boring? Oh yes. Yes, it could, and will. It could and will also be more irritating with Margo opening her brainless yap and giving us lines that would make Tom Stoppard weep, like "it looks like homeless people shit all over here!" Of course the other nimrods aren't any more eloquent; self-proclaimed leader and alpha dog Cutler (Matt Maretz) shouts "I wonder if people fucked in these rooms?" This is accompanied by more shots of these jabbering dillholes wandering around, admiring the spray-painted graffiti (Margo is particularly excited about a crudely drawn ejaculating penis) and various characters shouting "game on!" after which nothing happens.

Finally after 45 minutes of pointless bullshit, we Cutler (I swear that's not a typo) and his incessantly bitchy girlfriend Bella (Kourtney Kelly), stumble across a room that has "this is the death room" badly spray painted on one of the walls, which causes Bella to shriek "this is creepy!" At the same time, Kate (Natalie Pavelek) finds a couple of cans with spoons in them (gasp!), and Margo finds a room with a girl chained to a bed, who has her vocal cords cut (though it takes some dialogue from later in the movie to realize this). This girl just happens to be... our waitress from the opening sequence! And here I thought they were just padding things out. I got the Shaker brothers all wrong. Margo's reaction to this is to free the waitress from her restraints and... oh, sorry, no, Margo just dances in place, screaming for a while. Long enough, in fact, for everyone in the hotel to hear her. Except for the Santa-masked killer, who finally makes his entrance to CGI stab Cutler with what I think is a machete. Low-light video photography and lousy camera work make it difficult to even tell. Bella screams and screams again, but for some reason, no one can hear her (presumably due to the dark power of The Death Room). Kate, still grappling with the horrors that she has witnessed, tells token Black dude Art (Malcolm Xavier), "there's definitely someone living here, I saw open cans of fresh food in the kitchen!" to which Art replies, "that's fucked!" Is it? Ok, if you say so. Also, aren't canned foods, by definition, not fresh?

At this point it is literally an orgy of wandering aimlessly, screaming over nothing, and running (while screaming) from something. At one point, the girls hide in a room. Our Santa killer, always the gentleman, instead of smashing the door in and wasting these entitled asshats, stands outside banging on the door like a drunk who lost his keys to his girlfriend's apartment. He stands there, banging away, for so long that the other relentless yobs actually follow the sound only to get to the room and find that Santa gave up and left.

[Spoilers ahead - not that you should care] After much more running and screaming, the Santa killer manages to kill off the group in mostly bloodless ways. When we do get a tiny bit of blood, the few times we see anything, it appears to have been done in MS paint. This is literally the most expensive part of this movie, outside of the $25 Santa mask. Earlier we had seen Art get killed by simply disappearing in a doorway and screaming. There is a lot of screaming in this movie. Screaming is cheap. If your brain hasn't been completely pounded into Christmas pudding by now, you may start thinking it's odd that we don't see Art's death, then again you may also think it's just the Shaker brothers being cheap. You'd be right on both counts. As it turns out, after many overt "hints" that are about as subtle as the freaking Hindenberg, Art is revealed to be the killer. Why? Because "I told you [Bella] I loved you and you threw it back in my face!" I think it's pretty obvious that this movie didn't need to feel encumbered by a script. But who chained that waitress to the bed? The tree salesman, of course! Yep, he shows up to kill Art and drag Bella off to be chained up in a bed in the same way. The end. [End spoilers]

The hotel that these suburban subhumans are allegedly exploring is the famous Adler Hotel and Spa in Sharon Springs, New York. The hotel itself has a long illustrious history until it was abandoned in 2004. Since this movie's budget extends about as far as buying a mask and a few cans of spray paint, only the exterior is briefly used in almost complete darkness. In the hands of real filmmakers, the pre-modern interior of the hotel would be a sublimely creepy setting for something along the lines of THE SHINING (1980) and THE SENTINEL (1977), but even though we can't expect anything remotely close to that from an amateur VOD effort, what we get appears to be a dorm that has been graffitied by people who were not majoring in art.

If you thought the title lacked creativity, wait till you see the movie. Not even the smallest effort is made to craft anything with any sort of substance, skill or thought. And why should they bother? It's not like they are paying for filmstock. It's not like they have to sell it to distributors. You can put anything on VOD and reel in suckers for an easy buck. On top of that, when everyone writes scathing one star reviews on Amazon, you can just get your friends to make dummy accounts and give yourself some five star reviews and say things like "Kourtey Kelly is a rising star." It must be her mom, I don't think even her boyfriend could lie that hard.

This is quite possibly the worst excuse for a Christmas horror movie I've seen yet, and if you have seen the other movies we've talked about over the years, that really is an amazing achievement. Shot with what appears to be a hand-held iPhone, with almost zero production values, what appears to be adlibbed dialogue, no real plot, non-actors who cannot even be bothered to act inebriated, absolutely insufferable "characters" and a literally non-stop soundtrack of whispered Christmas carols, this feckless, anemic, half-assed excuse for a movie makes THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999) look like SUSPIRIA (1977).  There is a reason it's only available on VOD, nobody is going to waste physical media for a production run.

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