‘Christmas Bloody Christmas’ Review: Robot Santa Brings Gore, Not Gifts

Daniel Rester reviews the holiday slasher 'Christmas Bloody Christmas,' written and directed by Joe Begos.
User Rating: 5

‘Christmas Bloody Christmas’ Review: Robot Santa Brings Gore, Not Gifts

By Daniel Rester

“All I want for Christmas is for these characters to stop shouting” is what I kept thinking while watching Christmas Bloody Christmas. It’s a holiday horror flick from Joe Begos, the director behind Bliss (2019) and VFW (2020). He specializes in bloody little grindhouse pictures, so Christmas Bloody Christmas isn’t exactly a stretch for Begos. While I’m fine with directors sticking in their wheelhouses, Begos’ latest genre effort unfortunately disappointed and annoyed me. 

The premise for Begos’ Yuletide bloodbath is simple but clever: pit a malfunctioning Santa animatronic (Abraham Benrubi) against some victims on Christmas Eve. It essentially wants to be a slasher in the vein of Christmas Evil (1980) and Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) while also mixing in The Terminator (1984). On paper that sounds like B-movie fun, but the execution of the idea only delivers sometimes while the characters are grating constantly. 

Christmas Bloody Christmas begins with some amusing infomercials with an edge, such as one with malts for the whole family and another with sexual appeal. This sequence also delivers some brief exposition about the robot Santas. One gets loose in a small town, but he doesn’t make much of an appearance in the first thirty minutes. 

The first half of Christmas Bloody Christmas focuses on friends Tori (Riley Dandy) and Robbie (Sam Delich), who don’t even know of the threat until forty minutes in. Instead of building suspense or having the two characters try to help other victims, Begos mostly uses the first half as an excuse for Tori and Robbie to argue about pointless stuff like sex, movies, and music to no end. These arguments consist of shouting and vulgarity dialed to eleven. Tori also defends Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000) at one point, so that inserts the knife a little deeper too. 

While some filmmakers employ pop culture references and cursing with playfulness and precise timing (Tarantino, Scorsese, etc.), Begos unloads them with sound and fury here. Using the word “fuck” is an art form itself in writing dialogue, but here characters wield it like 12-year-old boys hopped up on sugar. At times I felt like I was watching a lesser Rob Zombie film; Zombie regular Jeff Daniel Phillips even shows up as a cop in the cast. It didn’t take long into the runtime for me to hope the robot would show up and kill the lead characters.   

Begos knows how to build an atmosphere at least. As with his VFW, a better film, the director soaks the settings in colorful lights in nearly every scene. Falling snow, neon wall paint, and other visuals give the picture some life as well, while grit is provided by shooting with Super 16 mm. The final form of the Santa robot is cool too as he looks messed up and has green laser eyes. Steve Moore provides a thumping rock and synth music score that fits well with Begos’ vision.

Aside from one brutal head stomp, the gore in Christmas Bloody Christmas isn’t very memorable. The action at least gets better in the final stretch though, when Tori stops shouting and faces the Santa bot one on one. Begos’ film needed more sections like this as it actually has some brisk pacing and exciting moments. 

Christmas Bloody Christmas is a forgettable holiday slasher with irritating characters and a boring first half. Begos gives the flick some style, but it isn’t enough. Watch a holiday horror classic like Black Christmas (1974) instead if you have an itch for a winter slasher.      

My Grade: 5/10 (letter grade equivalent: C)

Running Time: 1h 26min

Christmas Bloody Christmas opened in limited theaters and began streaming on Shudder on December 9, 2022.

Written by
Daniel Rester is a writer for the We Live Film portion of We Live Entertainment. He is a Southern Oregon University alumnus and has a Bachelor of Science degree with a double major in Communication (Film, Television, and Convergent Media) and Emerging Media and Digital Arts. He has been involved with writing and directing short films for years. Rester also won 2nd place in the Feature Screenplay Competition in the 2015 Oregon Film Awards for his screenplay "Emma Was Here," which is currently in post-production and will be Rester's feature directorial debut.

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