March 14, 2018 Mercy Christmas (Movie Review)
There is no season more Christmassy than spring! The blossoming trees, the animals waking up from hibernation, and the Easter Bunny hopping around. Okay, to be more reasonable, Mercy Christmas was released back on November 28th of 2017, just in time for last year’s holidays. Its DVD/Blu-Ray release is now due on Tuesday, March 27th via Gravitas Ventures, so let’s bring back the holiday spirit!
To give a little backstory on the film, Mercy Christmas ran through the festival circuit before then, winning the Best Kill at 2017’s Sin City Horrorfest. Not bad for a Kickstarter project based on a 2010 “teaser” film. One-hundred and eight backers chipped in an estimated $50,300 across August 2015 to top off the film’s approximate $150,000 budget.
The teaser and full film were created by husband and wife team Ryan Nelson (Prick 2012, Margo Lives 2018) and Beth Levy Nelson (Detention 2011, Outlaw Chronicles: Hells Angels series). Ryan handled the directing, Beth did the casting, and they both wrote the screenplay amongst other roles. The original short’s lead actor, Steven Hubbell (rigging & grip work on Cavemen series, and The Avengers 2012), also came back as the unfortunate protagonist, Michael Briskett. He has not only met the perfect woman (Casey O’Keefe: 2 Broke Girls series, The Young & The Restless series), but she has invited him over to her family’s Christmas dinner. The only problem is they want to cut the brisket out of Briskett. Will he make it out alive? Or, will he be the main course?
It is unfair to judge a movie by its title alone. but is Mercy Christmas supposed to be a pun? ‘Mercy’ does share 80% of the same letters as “Merry.” Yet it does not roll off the tongue like 2005’s Santa’s Slay does. That said, it is not often that cannibalism and Christmas cross over at the cinema. There is 2016’s Cannibal Claus, and the upcoming Cannibal Christmas Massacre, but 1988’s Lucky Stiff is perhaps its closest relative. It was the last film directed by Anthony Perkins (Psycho 1960, Murder on the Orient Express 1974), and it was about a beautiful woman luring a fat man onto the family platter for Christmas. It did not exactly wow the crowds. However, can Mercy Christmas improve on its formula of flesh-frying and festivities?
It certainly has charm with the way it mixes horror and hilarity. The Robillard family act like any other family around Christmas – talking about football, having dinner, going to church, etc. They just happen to prefer human over turkey due to “tradition.” It is not that they are blind to the horrors they create. They just do not happen to rank as high as a stain on the tablecloth. So, it is quite a bit different from the nudge-wink take on sociopathy seen in 2006’s Funny Games or 2017’s Tragedy Girls. Though, it is no less disturbing.
There are some solid performances on display too. Cole Gleason (My Crazy Ex 2016, Book Club 2018) does a good job as Briskett’s boss Andy, the asshole businessman of the family. It is not a new take on the character – kind of a milder version of 1998’s American Psycho. Yet, it does take something to be the most hateable out of a bunch of villains. Though, the most entertaining of the bunch is likely David Rupprecht (Webster series, Supermarket Sweep series) as father Abe Robillard. He comes off as a sitcom dad gone wrong; rattling off anecdotes, and gleefully reminiscing past Christmases. The performance manages to contrast charm and laughter with harm and slaughter.
The victims hold their own too, be it the defiant Katherine (Whitney Nielsen: Children of Sorrow 2012, Billy the Kid: New Evidence 2015), or sad sack Briskett himself. Even during the horror, Hubbell gives the character a sort of childlike innocence. He is a dork, but a likable one, and one the audience hopes will escape the most. As opposed to Philip (Joseph Keane: Licking Lemons 2014, Dr Ken series), who seems designed to be a potential kill thrill with his pretentious quotes and clinginess.
The effects come out rather well too, albeit with some noticeable camera work to avoid detail. Maybe the Nelsons did not want to go too overboard, or they were hiding something that did not come out well on camera. That does not stop it from being bloody, as there is plenty of gore on offer. Plenty of grisly-looking wounds too, courtesy of makeup work by the director’s uncle Greg Nelson (Batman Returns 1992, Tropic Thunder 2008) and associates. The biggest issue with the film would be the lag. The film slows down to go through the Christmas tropes once Briskett is trapped. It offers plenty of build-up, but it runs the risk of running its MO into the ground.
Nonetheless, Mercy Christmas picks up the pace once it reaches the middle of the second act onwards. Its final act gets a little silly as it leans more on the Comedy side of things. That does not stop it being an entertaining kind of silly, or from being a solid picture all around. It offers some fine acting, some grisly spectacles, and some chuckles along the way. It may be early for Christmas, but it makes for a nice stocking stuffer. For these reasons, CrypticRock gives Mercy Christmas 4 out of 5 stars.