Cyber Monday: Project Shadowchaser Trilogy

Frank Zagarino dies hard!

Cinemasochism: Black Mangue (2008)

Braindead zombies from Brazil!

The Gweilo Dojo: Furious (1984)

Simon Rhee's bizarre kung fu epic!

Adrenaline Shot: Fire, Ice and Dynamite (1990)

Willy Bogner and Roger Moore stuntfest!

Sci-Fried Theater: Dead Mountaineer's Hotel (1979)

Surreal Russian neo-noir detective epic!

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

December to Dismember: DISMEMBERING CHRISTMAS (2015)

As December draws to a close, it's important to think about the way your life has been blessed by the Fates. To relax in front of a roaring electric space heater and watch life-affirming movies that bring you closer to your friends and loved ones. So why am I doing this shit? Actually, in a way, nothing brings people closer together than mutual suffering, so a slew of insufferable Christmas horror films fits perfectly. That said, I feel I should bring this up once again: We are actually hoping for diamonds in the rough. We would really like to get a low-budget movie that actually has something going for it. It's not like we go off and watch recent Bruce Willis and Steven Seagal movies. That's just fucking crazy.

Running true to form, DISMEMBERING CHRISTMAS is like an old joke. Tell me if you've heard this one: A group of kids meet at a house to celebrate Christmas, drink heavily, say a lot of stupid crap and finally get picked off one by one by a killer that nobody sees or hears, even though he/she/it is in the same freakin' house with them. Yeah, I know, El Diablo's in the details, but trust me, the details ain't cutting it.

Starting with a black-clad killer sneaking into a kitchen in which a man is busy playing with tinsel, the killer unwraps a Christmas present (yes, while standing behind the guy who is completely unaware that someone else is two feet away from him) which turns out to be a hunting knife engraved with the name "Mark", leading to an off-screen stabbing and the killer washing the knife and re-wrapping it. This will be important later... or not.

After getting some pointless banter between a couple of high-school kids, Travis (Austin Bosley) and Lauren (Shannon McInnis), driving through the snow, they meet up with Justin (Johnathon Krautkramer) and Mark (Baker Chase Powell), a trust-fund kid who's father owns the mansion-like, snow-bound cabin that they are (ahem) dying to party in. Once they stand around and talk for a bit (we discover that Mark has a fake ID that he used to buy alcohol), they move inside to meet Justin's maybe-girlfriend Sam (Nina Kova), Justin's step-sister Emma (Leah Wiseman) and Mark's girlfriend Katie (Danielle Doetsch). This is all spelled out as they stand around the kitchen talking about nothing important. This is going to hurt, isn't it?

While getting the booze out of the car (another riveting and important scene), Mark and friends meet their neighbor Joan (Marla Van Lanen) who lives a mile down the road. She's kind of kooky, which is evidenced by the fact that she takes a snapshot of them with only her fingers. After a lot more talking and the introduction of yet another friend, Clair-Bear (Jennifer Lenius), Emma and Sam walk and talk about hooking Sam up with Justin, they meet up with another sketchy neighbor, Frank (Scott Seagren) who tells them that they can't stay in that house! They have to leave! THEY CAN'T STAY THERE! Why? Because tomorrow is Christmas eve! After continuing to drag out this dreary attempt at a Crazy Ralph "you're doomed!" scene, we finally find out that it's because "there were murders here". Ok, so that makes total sense now. Once there has been a murder in a house, no one can ever stay in that house again. Ever. Apparently a woman murdered her family on Christmas eve and was found "screaming nonsense in the basement". So can we guess who the killer is going to be already?

Of course, no by-the-numbers slasher movie is complete without a red Solo cup party scene. This cliche is doubled down on with a almost nudity-free drunken strip poker scene. I say "almost" because what we do get is man ass. Well, technically, boy ass. The only thing amusing about this is the fact that the credits show that the actor who is supposedly showing off his pasty cheeks is actually using a body double. I think that actually may be a first for a no-budget slasher movie. This partying sequence goes on for nearly 3 minutes with the camera simulating their drunkenness by rotating around the table where they are sitting enough times to make even those without any history of motion sickness feel queasy. On the other hand, there are a couple of moments where the first and last time feature director Austin Bosley does try to get some atmospheric camera-work. There's only so much you can dim the lights in a low-budget digital production, but Bosley manages a few low-light sequences and a good amount of camera movement, prowling up staircases and dollying around corners. Of course a lot of my good will is lost when the automatic exposure dims and returns in a shot and it's just left in because doing extra takes is like work and stuff.

When Travis and Lauren go outside (in their pajamas), we finally get an appearance by the killer, who slices open Travis' guts (he quickly turns around so that we don't see that he is simply pressing some offal against his shirt) with what appears to be a gift wrapped hockey stick. Could it be a gift stolen from the house along with the knife in the beginning? Is the killer just self-gifting? Who knows? We never will. I'm kind of amazed that these movies can't even be bothered to do the oldest low-rent trick in the book, and insert a close-up shot of a fake torso being stabbed or gutted or whatever. Adding to the laziness, when the kids wake up and notice that Travis and Lauren are gone, they just blow it off saying that they just took off at dawn... even though they left all of their clothes and personal effects in their room? Sure, whatever.

From there, it's more scenes of high-school kids talking about boys, girls and vomiting, interspersed with a killer in what appears to be a bulky road-worker's suit and a cheap Leatherface mask, sneaking around the house killing off the kids in shockingly unexciting scenes of non-horror. The best scene (and I use that word loosely) is when Clair-Bear and Mark are standing and talking in the snow and mid conversation Mark says “I've got an idea” and runs off into the woods leaving the Clair just standing there and try to fix up a rather pathetic snowman. We cut back to Mark and he’s whooping and laughing while sledding down a hill. So he doesn’t even say “hey, would you like to go sledding?” Nope just takes off. After cutting back and forth, the killer somehow sneaks up on the girl, hides behind the snowman that she is looking at and kills her with a large candy cane, while somehow simultaneously setting up a tripwire to decapitate the sledding dude. Yeah, that was the best bit. It completely lifted an iconic moment from SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT (1984), but at least they created an effect, rather than just have everything happen off screen. Of course, the effect is barely seen as it consists of a quick flash of what we presume is a severed head flying after what appears to be a decapitated body. We also get scenes that don't seem to make any sense at all, such as when Emma is freaked out by a picture of some guy smiling and holding a dog, there's a sound of a dog yelp on the soundtrack and she starts laughing. In her next scene, she also faints after seeing something, though we are never shown what it is. Did anybody actually watch this during the editing process?

(Obligatory spoiler warning) As it turns out, the killer is Joan, the crazy lady that lives down the road and obviously not Frank, who ends up a corpse, because we all know that's what happens to the Crazy Ralph character. Joan has the final girl, Sam, tied up and is shouting stuff about her being her daughter, which has nothing to do with anything else in the movie, but was covered by the bit of earlier dialogue where Frank stated the the killer was "screaming nonsense." So this denouement doesn't actually have to explain anything! Damn kids! Back in my day, bad slasher movies at least came up with a pat and cliched explanation for the killer's homicidal impulses. You know, terrorized by campers, ignored by counselors, witnessing mommy kissing Santa Claus. Not here. She's just nuts. Oh, and that knife that got rewrapped in the beginning? We find out that it was a gift to Mark from his dad, but that doesn't matter at all, except maybe to imply that the stabee in the opening scene was the dad (we are never told who that was). But again, that doesn't matter at all either.

Starting life as a Kickstarter campaign, according to the IMDb, the script was originally a spec script for a FRIDAY THE 13TH sequel. So basically writers (yes, there are two) Steve Goltz and Kevin Sommerfield sat at a kitchen table and said "wouldn't it be awesome if we could like do a Jason sequel?" Even if the F13 rights weren't actually held up in litigation and even if this wasn't a Kickstarter movie, there is no way in hell this would even be considered, much less read, by any studio brass. The only thing that this has that F13 fans have been wanting for years is snow. That's it. Creepy score? Nope. Nekkid girls? Nope. Creative kills? Nope. Special effects? Not really. Cool looking killer? Definitely not. There are some nice sound effects of wind whistling through trees, and the musical cues by Dylan Curzon, while not exactly Henry Mancini, are better than average for this level of filmmaking.

Literally the first thing we see on the screen telegraphs the misery that is in store. It's a title card reading "Slasher Studios". First off, that's the kind of studio name you'd fantasize about in Junior High, second there is no studio, it's an Airbnb. After gathering $11,000 off of Kickstarter, $1500 of it went for the rental of this house, which is really the only money on the screen. Supposedly $1000 was ear-marked for effects, but damned if I can see anything that would have cost more than a couple hundred. Even worse, for a "studio" that talks a big game and actually gathered what they claim to be a $25,000 total budget, the audio level has not been equalized from scene to scene, much less shot to shot! One shot will have people talking too quietly to hear and you'll be forced to crank up the volume, so that the next shot will have a response that is loud enough to piss off the neighbors. Someone on Facebook recently said that a focus puller's job is hard; if you do your job right, nobody cares, screw up once and you are an incompetent asshole. This movie suddenly made me realize how obvious it should be that you need to normalize the audio through the duration of the movie. How could they watch this and say "Yep, nailed it! Ok everybody, group high-five"?

Unfortunately, as the season sinks despondently to a close, it's starting to look like that Santa royally stiffed us. The Christmas miracle of a half-way decent Christmas horror movie wasn't under the tree this year. There's always next year, I guess. Til then we will have to console ourselves with a stack of unwatched David Heavener movies. That should give you some idea of how rough this year was.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

December to Dismember: A CHRISTMAS TO DISMEMBER (2016) / DEAD BY CHRISTMAS (2018)

Ho, ho, ho! “Wait, what did you call me,” says our faithful reader(s). Merry Christmas! This year we’ve decided to give everyone a gift. Unfortunately, it is like that gift you never really wanted like a shoe horn, a pair of black-and-white checkered pants (hey, some folks like them!), or an Eli Roth movie on disc. Yes, we’re going to be doing some deep cuts when it comes to the Christmas horror genre. Deep cuts in both senses of the term in that they are really obscure selections that even the most fervent fan has never heard of; and deep cuts because when we watch them they hurt us down to our core. So, in the spirit of giving, we are going to do a tag team of reviews of Christmas horror shorts. William is up first with a review of…

Jeez, if there is ever a title that would be perfect for our “December to Dismember” category, this might be it. Well, like every Christmas, disappointment is always creeping down our chimney. The film opens in the perfect location for a Christmas set horror film - the woods of Canada without a single snowflake in sight. Wait, I take that back, there are Cameron (Alex DiSanto, who also directed this) and his friend Rita. The duo are just sitting around delivering unhuman-like dialogue that lets me know this is going to be a rough 40 minutes. Seriously, who talks like this?

Cameron: We’re not leaving until we explore the rest of the forest.
Rita: But it’s mucky!
Cameron: Yeah, but it’s beautiful and isolated.
Rita: Well, we should have a party here!

The duo decide they should search the river for a classmate’s stash of hidden hash. Bad news for Rita as the only thing she finds is a killer in a Santa Claus outfit who kills her with an axe. Cameron eventually walks around a tree and finds her bloody body. He just stands there, shaking his head in shame as if he caught her stealing hot dogs. Freakin’ Cameron, man!

We then cut to a high school where a group of kids are in detention.With Cameron is a trio of girls: Veronica (Jennifer McNamara), the bitchy one because she is always bitching and is the quasi-leader; Samantha (Emma Fulton), the other bitchy one but with pink hair; and Bailey (Riley Anderson), the sarcastic one because she is wearing a shirt that says “Sarcastic Comment Loading (please wait).” These kids are rebels as they pull a THE BREAKFAST CLUB (1985) and leave the classroom to wander their Christian school. This is a marvelous scene where we are shown two minutes and forty-five seconds of hallway wandering. Yes, I clocked it because I wanted to know how much of the film’s 40-minute running time was spent on hall wandering. I blame Cameron. Freakin’ Cameron, man!

Cameron and Veronica then walk home and talk about going to a party. As a lowly junior, Cameron questions why he would go to party with older kids and Veronica says, “Because it will boost your rep.” F’N Cameron! However, Veronica’s rep is about to take a hit because the Santa Claus killer catches her alone. He throws a rock that hits her in the back of the head so hard it pops her eye out. Sheeeeeet, someone needs to recruit Santa to the track team for the shot put event. That boy got an arm! As usually happens with a death in high school, everyone is really bummed out. Haha, just kidding. Per MEAN GIRL code, Samantha insists she is now the group leader. Later, Samantha, Bailey, and newly-introduced friend Matthew (Erin Hilberdink) head on over to Cameron’s for his raging Christmas party. And by raging I mean a riveting present exchange scene. I did marvel that someone gave Cameron a VHS copy of the HAMMER HOUSE OF HORROR episode “Guardian of the Abyss” on the Elvira Thriller Video label. Yes, I’m a VHS nerd. Just like my boy Cameron. Freakin’ Cameron, man!

The party takes a dramatic turn when Samantha asks Cameron, “Do you still have that book with the Ouija board?” Soon enough they are contacting the dead Veronica and ask her who killed her. “S...A...N...T...A” she spells out with the planchette. Obviously speaking with the dead freaks the group out and they split. Haha, just kidding, Samantha heads to the basement to get more soda and is quickly disemboweled by the Santa killer. She doesn’t scream. The remaining kids eventually find her body after Bailey delivers one of my favorite lines of the year: “Did anyone hear that loud thump downstairs?” Guuuurl, why you gotta shade her weight? In perhaps the greatest scare for teenagers, the kids find out all of their cell phones are missing. They opt to stay put in the house after Cameron says, “It all makes sense. He took all of our phones thinking we’d go outside to the neighbors for help. So he is probably out there waiting for us. What we should really do is barricade ourselves in here til morning.” Freakin’ Cameron, man! Also, I don’t want to criticize (I’ll do that in the next paragraph), but Cameron keeps saying “he” when talking about the killer. Seeing as there is only one male in the group, me thinks DiSanto might have slipped up and revealed who the killer is. Yes (SPOILER IF YOU ARE EVER INSANE ENOUGH TO WATCH THIS) freakin’ Cameron is the killer and he is doing it because he finds his friends “evil, manipulative people” that are “filthy and disgusting!” And I thought my high school years were awkward. (END SPOILER)

Goddang, I actually feel kind of bad if I rip this one apart because this is basically kids in high school making a movie and I really wanted to “be best” this holiday season. Plus, I’d hate to dissuade anyone from their dreams. Rest assured this is amateur hour...well, amateur forty minutes really. It is full of wonky filmmaking, goofy store-bought masks, silly blood gags, and stilted acting. Trust me, I know because I made a similar slasher when I was in high school back during the Civil War. DiSanto is apparently a Canadian auteur who has delivered earlier short films such as NIGHTMARE IN PSYCHO TOWN (2014) and MEAT PIE MASSACRE (2015). You can tell he has an affinity for 1980s horror films (just check out his bedroom wall in the pic to the right) and he seems to be emulating his faves here. Unfortunately, he forgot to copy the good parts like suspense, terror or creative kills. I don’t want to be overly negative because it is clear he has an enthusiasm for the work, so I’ll focus on some of the positives. There is a dream sequence toward the end where Bailey sees herself in the forest that is juxtaposed with a surreal thing where Cameron is being cut by a person in a mask that reminds me of one worn in THE REDEEMER (1978). Here DiSanto delivers a bit of surrealism as Bailey encounters a masked killer hanging ornaments on a tree. It isn’t a knockout scene, but it definitely made an impression. There is also some good music throughout the film. Based off that, I’d encourage DiSanto and his entourage to keep it up. Yes, my Christmas gift this year is unhealthy motivation. I hope he continues to explore his passion well into his college years. And speaking of which, that is the perfect segue for me to tag Tom in for his review of...

Remember a week or so ago how I said something that implied that I hit a low-point? No man has ever been so wrong in his life (well, except Harvey Weinstein, but I meant about terrible Christmas movies, not about life in general). Sure I complain bitterly about Uncork'd seducing me with great covers and misleading titles, Artsploitation writing checks that their movies can't cash, but I have no excuse here. Sporting a couple of still frames and a title generated in Microsoft Word, this entry not only cannot hit anything close to a feature running time, but can't even be bothered to get someone to illustrate a half-way enticing piece of promotional art. How hard is it to have your buddy Jeff doodle something during math class? This lack of effort should have set off a legion of red flags. I mean, it did, but I had to forge a head ("forge" meaning to hit something with a hammer).

A group of college-age losers who all grew up in the same orphanage decide to get together for Christmas after one of their number supposedly commits suicide by stabbing himself in the eyes with candy canes, or as one character refers to them "that sharp thingy" (I'm not making that up). We are shown that he was in fact killed by someone in a Santa suit, which is supposed to lead to some upcoming suspense. The house that they plan to meet up at is the home of Sister Mary (Dawn Streeck), the nun who worked at the orphanage with a Father LeDoux (Vince Rodriguez). Apparently, the group harbors a deep, dark secret about their time at the orphanage, which everybody talks about, without actually telling the audience what they are talking about.

When they aren't talking about stuff that they don't want to talk about, we get their internal monologues in voice-over sounding as if they are being read off of a cue card for the first time. The lead girl Carla (Holly Bonney), is constantly musing pubescent poetic introspective thoughts, such as "The rain comes. The rain goes. This is life" and "Christmas is the season of giving. But can you truly give when you're holding back?" If I had to listen to that all of the time I'd stab myself with "that sharp thingy" too.

When the group aren't sullenly arguing about who got worse abuse at the lecherous hands of Father LeDoux (without actually saying that they were abused), they wander around a Christmas craft fair looking at various bits of junk while grating Christmas music plays in the back ground. Or they walk across a street, or talk in front of an utterly insane OCD Christmas nightmare house that looks like a very special holiday episode of HOARDERS. This is intended to be heart-warming. It is not.

Even though nobody will actually say what happened at the orphanage, we get plenty of flashbacks of kids drinking tea, Sister Mary looking scared and Father LeDoux leering, so it becomes really obvious what was going on, long before the characters actually bother to spell it out. After seemingly weeks, but in fact only about a half an hour, of nothing happening (except the lead male taking a shower, if that's your thing), our killer Santa shows up and does something to the back of the supposedly grunge gurl Tessa (Hilary Porter). We don't see what it is, but it sounds like burning and there is close-up of an outline of a gingerbread man in blood on her back. I was assuming he was supposed to have carved it in her skin with something, until there is a shot of a baking tray with cookie cutter shapes of skin on it. They literally couldn't be bothered to even try to make a crappy effect of having fake skin peeling off of a red "wound". Hell, they couldn't even be bothered to paint the inside of the cookie cutter shape red!

This leads to more flashbacks, more talking about feelings, and a couple of other cheap, mostly off-screen kills. By this time we know exactly who the Santa killer is and pretty much why the kids are being killed as the "clues" are thuddingly obvious from the start. Even worse the ending explanation goes on foreeeeeeever (about 10 minutes, one fifth of the movie's running time.) [Spoilers Commence] As it turns out, Sister Mary, an enabler of Father LeDoux's sexual abuse of the children, is dressing up in LeDoux's Santa outfit and killing the kids in an act of revenge for them complaining about the abuse, which lead to the priest's suicide. In reality, of course, this is a bit unbelievable as priests don't shoot themselves in the head, because that's a sin. Sexually assaulting children is apparently just a moment of weakness, and is easily fixed by having the bishop cover it up. In a final twist, Sister Mary keeps one of the girls (Maggie Buck) alive and permanently paralyzed with poison tea, blaming the murders on her as she sits comatose on the sofa. The detective on the case sees nothing suspicious about this, or Mary's unprovoked protestations of innocence.

Shot on digital video with a budget that strains to the breaking point just to buy a Santa costume, director Armand Petri has made a few other short and feature length no-budget movies, a few of which have some nice, fake reviews on the IMDb. This is his latest to date and if this is how much he has progressed over the past few years, then there is zero hope. For him as a filmmaker and for me watching anything else in his oeuvre. The directing is clumsy, the production valueless and the writing is puerile. I'm not sure where the actors come from, but the performances feel like Petri simply invited some of his friends over for the weekend. Adding insult to injury, the short running time is padded out with so much dead wood that even at under an hour, the movie drags to the point of madness, particularly since it is obvious who dunnit by the 10 minute mark. I'm pretty sure the title is irony defined, as I'm not sure we made it out of this festive month alive.

- Thomas Sueyres

Saturday, December 21, 2019

December to Dismember: CHRISTMAS BLOOD (2017)

Quick joke for the schoolyard: What's worse than seeing the Uncork'd logo when you fire up a Christmas horror movie? Not seeing one and thinking that what you are going to watch might be good. Ok, it's not a very funny joke. Even less funny because it's true. I swear to sweet baby jeebus, my Christmas stocking single-handedly keeps the coal industry alive.

Set in two separate time lines and spanning five years, this Norwegian entry opens with a little girl sneaking downstairs to poke and prod the presents under the Christmas tree. As we all know, this is naughty, and Santa shows up to teach her the error of her ways (off screen of course). Then a man comes down to investigate the screams and gets his head smashed in. Suddenly, the police arrive in what is undoubtedly world record breaking response time, to what is presumably a massacre. I say "presumably" because the cinematography is so dark due to the filmlook video filter that you can barely see anything other than random glimpses of what appear to possibly be mutilated bodies. The detective on the scene Thomas Rasch (Stig Henrik Hoff) finds a list of names in one of the victim's mouths and decides this is the last straw, runs out to where the uniform cops are holding the Santa killer on the ground and shoots him twice in the back and once in the head. Obviously he got his police training in the US.

If you have spent much time watching Scandinavian entertainment, you'll know that they have a thing for detective thrillers, or more accurately, police procedurals. And when I say "thing" what I mean is "cultural obsession". While this obsession with police detectives chasing down criminals goes way back, it really caught fire when Swedish (not Norwegian, Mac) novelist Maj Sjöwall and crime journalist Per Wahlöö teamed up to write the Martin Beck series of books, which are arguably the best police procedural thrillers of the modern era. The books spawned radio adaptations, films (even an American one), TV shows and inspired countless other writers and filmmakers world-wide. As a consequence, it seems utterly impossible for the Swedes or Norwegians to make a horror movie, and if they do, it absolutely must have a significant amount of time devoted to at least one police detective trying to catch who or whatever is killing people, usually in remote villages. Bearing that in mind, you know exactly what to expect here. Well, almost exactly. The elements are there, but that's about it.

Apparently Rasch had been hunting down the Santa Killer, responsible for 121 murders in 12 towns, for 13 years in a country the size of New Mexico. That's almost exactly one murder for every two square miles of land at a rate of about 1 per month and nobody can catch this maniac with an axe in a bright red suit that (I'm not making this up) leaves a trail of bloody jingle bells in his wake? Either he's a freakin' ninja or he's Jason Voorhees. There can't be any other explanation. As we are told in a very long expositional text scrawl, "In some inexplicable way, the Santa survives and he is locked up at a secret address." Yep, the guy survives a bullet to the head, which I would call bullshit on, except that Ronald Reagan did too. Though nobody had the good sense to lock him up afterwards.

Equally inexplicably, the holy Saint Nick (yeah, boo all you want), manages to escape his surprisingly low security prison. Since Rasch quit the department after the "Christmas Blood" case (yes, that's the official case name), Detective Terje Hansen (Sondre Krogtoft Larsen) is now in charge of hunting down the homicidal Julenissen. He discovers that Santa refused to talk to anyone at the prison, would only eat porridge (Norwegians leave rice porridge on their doorsteps for Santa), and would get agitated around Christmas, which is really not a distinguishing characteristic. Have you seen people around Christmas? "Agitated" is a nice way of putting it.

For some, yet again, inexplicable reason, Santa, fresh out of stir, has his eyes set on a group of girls who apparently all met in Australia or something. To say that this plot is more muddled than a bourbon Old Fashioned is putting it mildly. It jumps back and forth from 2011 to 2016 for no apparent reason before settling in on the present day (2016) and a house party that these girls are sort of just throwing for themselves because of... Christmas. The group includes, but is not limited to, a prudish goody-goody who is outraged that the token black girl brought some chronic into the house (did no one tell her this was a party?), an emotionally unstable girl who brings her boyfriend who has slept with the token black girl (leading to crying and high drama), and a mute who wears a lot of make-up. Not deaf, just mute, and kind of slutty as she decides to have sex with on of the unwashed hillbillies who show up after a Tinder invite. Yep, that's the kind of movie this is, sort of a bumbling rip-off of the girls from the 2006 remake of BLACK CHRISTMAS. Girls who shout things like "good motherfuckin' yule bitches!" and "would you rather go down on your grandmother or punch a baby in the face?" I suddenly feel like the designated driver at an unsanctioned high-school graduation party.

While the girls are getting their shitface on, Santa seems to just wander around looking for someone to kill and Hansen seems to just wander around looking for Santa. At one point, Hansen heads out to the morgue to check out a tatted, pierced, stripper-boobed corpse. After examining it in detail and watching the coroner eat lunch off of it (an attempt at gross-out comedy), Hansen realizes that the corpse has nothing to do with his case and leaves! Err, so why did we have that scene? I mean, if you want some gratuitous nudity, we do have a house full of 20-something girls who are in the process of drinking themselves into uninhibited moral laxness. No? I guess you are right, that would be too easy.

Additionally, we get Hansen hunting down Rasch to help him hunt down Santa and finding him in a squalid apartment reeking of booze and poor life choices. This leads to the old saw of the old soak cleaning himself up for one last go-round. To pad out the movie even more, Hansen also follows up a lead in which he busts in on some white trash dude who is pretty pissed off about having some hot monkey love interrupted and attacks him... while naked and presumably uhhhh... "aroused". Like the morgue scene, this has nothing to do with the case either. Eventually, after much sitting around at desks bemoaning the fact that the clock is ticking on this case, as Santa is presumed to be preparing to kill someone on the stroke of midnight. Midnight is apparently when Christmas starts (I think it's only the US in which Christmas starts in October). Hansen and Rasch finally figure out that the girls who are partying are the intended victims as Rasch realizes that the killer is committing his crimes to make... wait for it... a Christmas tree on the Norwegian map! No, seriously, that's it. Check the framegrab if you don't believe me. Cue the obligatory detectives-rushing-out-of-the-office scene.

While Santa runs amok killing kids, mostly off screen, Hansen and Rasch are forced to take a bus to the scene of the crime, as for some inexplicable reason, they don't have a car. Is this supposed to be a comedy? Is this supposed to be a satire of the genres? The IMDb says it's a straight horror movie, so it must be true. (Spoilers incoming) Once they discover the blood-soaked house that the surviving girls have fled from, Rasch drugs Hansen so he can take down Santa by himself. Because he did that so well last time (it took 13 years, as you will recall). Of course while Rasch is looking for Santa so that he can shoot him again (because that worked so well last time), Santa inexplicably teleports to where Hansen is unconscious and kills him, and then inexplicably teleports to another part of town where two of the surviving girls have fled. I say "teleports", because he clearly has no method of transportation, not even a sleigh, and yet manages to be everywhere at once. Then again he is walking around with a bullet hole in his center of his head, so I guess teleportation doesn't seem all that far fetched. All of this non-excitement leads up to a shakey-cam finale where Rasch shows up just in time to shoot the hell out of Santa while he is trying to kill one of the girls. The end... or is it? In the final frame we see Santa is still alive, in silhouette against the night sky. Roll discredits.

Directed by the ironically named Reinert Kiil, there are so many moments where I wanted to just overlook the mangled attempt at flashing back and forward in time, the ridiculous common sense failures, the rambling tangents, fumbled attempt at creating a franchisable slasher character, and a video filter that is so dark, it's impossible to see what appear to be some reasonably well executed effects. I really wanted to enjoy the genre mash-up which is completely in my wheelhouse, but Kiil manages to throw in so many stumbling blocks for himself to trip over, when we finally get to the end, it's a rather tedious chore to get through the obvious, glacially paced finish. This is Kiil's latest feature length effort having previously directed FUCK NORGE (2004), WHORE (2009) and INSIDE THE WHORE (2012), which is his meta effort that is a horror film about a film crew working on a horror film titled WHORE. Maybe I lucked out on this one after all.

Distributed not by our usual holiday nemesis Uncork'd, this was courtesy of repeat offender Artsploitation. The interesting thing is that while at first glance, both outfits seem to be offering the same kind of cheap, quick and careless shot on video movies in eye-catching packaging, with Uncork'd you know you are going to going to be scraping the bottom of the barrel so hard that all you are going to get are splinters. With Artsploitation there is always a hint of promise. These are the people responsible for the crushing disappointment RED CHRISTMAS (2016), an Australian movie that boasted the return of genre fan fave Dee Wallace and hideously squandered it. From a distance the thought "hey, this might actually be good" floats through your mind, like a corpse on the Hudson river. It could just be a guy talking a swim, right? Of course that's just wishful thinking, which makes the reality so much worse (though Will may argue this point after 2016's SHELVED). From a distance, CHRISTMAS BLOOD looks like it could be a fun, creative blend of Nordic Noir and Santa Slasher. It even sports some shockingly nice camerawork, with moments of atmosphere and smooth travelling shots. Even so, all we really get is a flea-market bootleg BECK and a half-sketched serial killer of sailor-mouthed girls that has hints that he may, in fact, be a supernatural creature (or one of Krampus' minions ala 2010's RARE EXPORTS), but is almost totally unexplored, and at times even seemingly forgotten. Which, unfortunately, is exactly what this movie will be.