Saturday, November 25, 2017

BiTS '17 Film Review - Once Upon A Time At Christmas

Jennifer (Laurel Brady) is growing tired of the charade being put on by her parents Lucy (Brook Fletcher) and Frank (Robert Nolan). They are obviously headed for divorce but try to keep up the facade of a happy family Christmas. Into their sleepy town of Woodbridge, New York come two psychotic killers posing as demonic Santa (Simon Phillips) and Harley Quinn channeling Mrs. Claus (Sayla de Goede) who sports pigtails while wielding a mean baseball bat. The pair picks off their first three days of victims before local law enforcement glean to what's going on.

Writer co-director Paul Tanter breaks new ground in the Christmas time horror market. His story is anchored on two holiday traditions an Advent calendar based title for each new day plus clues from the crimes that link to The Twelve Days of Christmas.  The tone is set early by a special spooky version of jingle bells greeting the viewer as the opening credits roll.

A film like this depends on the strength of its villains. Phillips and de Goede play of each other perfectly as the Kringles. She's often the lure disarming potential victims to his axe swinging hammer. We learn that they met in a psychiatric institute for the criminally insane which is where you would expect this duo to have gotten together. The other pair that works hand in glove is local Sheriff Mitchell (Barry Kennedy) and his number one deputy Fullard (Jeff Ellenberger). Sheriff Mitchell has veteran savvy knowing how to link together evidence in an investigation. Fullard is full of youthful exuberance eager to do the legwork checking out every last angle to catch these killers. Laurel Brady's Jennifer is not your typical scream queen. She's smart, resourceful and refuses to be the victim as she does her own research to determine why she seems to be the link to much of what's going on during the twelve-day killing spree.

Once Upon A Time At Christmas is a film with enough originality and tongue in cheek violence that it could land in heavy rotation both at Halloween and Christmas time each year. The straight-ahead narrative has enough twist to keep the audience mildly guessing. The toxic pair of killing Clauses like to play with their food as they corner then dispatch their victims. It's a deliciously gory feature that I can recommend.

***1/2 Out of 4.

Once Upon A Time At Christmas | Paul Tanter | U.K. | 2017 | 102 Minutes.

Tags: Santa Claus, Christmas, Divorce, The Mall, Axe, Bat, Crossbow, FBI, Drum Fest, Eggnog Latte, Bear Trap.

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