November 28, 2017 Once Upon a Time At Christmas (Movie Review)
Once Upon a Time At Christmas, all hell broke out. The snow turned to red, as two killers ran about! This tale is sheer Horror, from the festive elves at Lionsgate, And on December 12th, my Secret Santa, you have a VOD date! If you are confused, perhaps it should be made abundantly clear: We’re speaking of bloody fun movies, my tinsel-eared dear!
We open on December 14th at the Woodridge, New York mall, where Santa Claus has just been decapitated in the parking lot. In the spirit of the season, the killer has placed his bearded head into a festive Ho Ho Ho gift bag beside his body in the snow. Enter Sheriff Jim (Barry Kennedy: The Challengers 1991, Rocky Marciano 1999) and Deputy Sam (Jeff Ellenberger: Suicide Squad 2016, Knocking on Heaven’s Door 2017), the unfortunate souls who will now have to solve this bloody December case before pandemonium breaks out in the small Northeast town.
With the town in an uproar, the life of teenager Jennifer (Laurel Brady: Our Conversations About Love short 2016, Billable Hours short 2017), along with her best friends – hypersexual Courtney (Susannah Mackay: The Swashbuckling Adventures of Pete Winning and the Pirates 2011) and quiet Lisa (Devon Mary Doherty: Handsome Devils series), will be turned upside down. To add poisonous hemlock to Jennifer’s holiday, her parents are continually fighting and a post-Christmas divorce seems imminent.
As the horrors progress with each passing day and December 25th grows closer, the fairly oblivious police catch a break: the killers are a Bonny & Clyde-like duo dressed as, how apropos, Santa (Simon Phillips: Dangerous Mind of a Hooligan 2014, Knocking on Heaven’s Door 2017) and sexy Mrs. Claus (Sayla de Goede: Watchmen 2009, Seiren 2015).
What follows involves Jennifer’s mom Lucy (Brook Fletcher: Dead Genesis 2010, See No Evil series); a crack-squad of FBI Agents; one strip club-loving Mayor; some French hens; and a partridge in a pear tree.
Clocking in at 97 minutes in-length, Once Upon a Time At Christmas was directed by Paul Tanter (Jack Falls 2011, Age of the Living Dead series), while the screenplay was written by Christopher Jolley (The Date short 2015, Essex Boys: Law of Survival 2015) based off a storyline from Tanter and Actor Phillips. A jolly good blend of Holiday horrors and merry murder, this is a film that flies the middle finger in the face of Christmas love and cheer, instead stuffing your stockings full of candy cane chaos.
Making its North American Premiere on Sunday November 26th at The Blood In The Snow Canadian Film Festival, aka BITS, Once Upon a Time At Christmas could have used a better name, yes, and its script does put a psychotic spin on the 12 Days of Christmas, sure, but it is a fun little interlude of escapism at a time of year when many are forced to simply drown their sorrows in eggnog. That said, the ensemble cast are solid in their roles – whether they are acting as a scared teenager (Brady) or a psychotic Santa (Phillips). The stand-out here is Ellenberger as Deputy Sam; though, he is also the actor given the most impressive material to work with. Unfortunately for de Goede (as the maniacal Mrs. Claus), her role is far too derivative of Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn in 2016’s Suicide Squad; the parallels between the two being endless!
While there are some CGI snafus when victims meet the axe or crossbow and some dialogue is intentionally cheese-tastic, nothing is so offensive as to kill the enjoyment of watching people die at Christmas. In fact, the fan reaction must be good: there is already a sequel in pre-production! That said, Once Upon a Time At Christmas is a fun little December distraction: not a film to be over-analyzed or dissected at-length, but rather just a bloody good time.
So it shall be said that, on the first day of Christmas, Lionsgate gave to us, a murderous little Holiday fuss…which CrypticRock give 4 out of 5 star ornaments.
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