Deathcember Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by Jinga Films
Written and directed by Assorted
2019, 145 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
Released on 2nd December 2021
Barbara Crampton as The Woman
Clarke Wolfe as Eva
Tifffany Shepis as Claire
Ryan Fisher as Noah
“It’s a mixed bag” is an anthology movie cliché often thrown around by critics. It’s also one that tends to hold true, especially when it comes to the genre’s more ambitious efforts. When you have 26 short movies all crammed together into one anthology picture – see 2012’s The ABCs of Death and its sequel – they’re not all going to be winners. The same holds true for 2019’s Deathcember, a selection pack of 24 horror films, all with a Christmas or winter theme.
Billing itself as the world’s first cinematic advent calendar, the film packs in the work of 24 international directors, spanning various subgenres and themes. While most of the gathered names tend to sit more on the budget end of the spectrum, big names like Ruggero Deodato, Lucky McKee, Milan Todorovic and Pollyanna McIntosh do pop up among the 24 entries to drop a minor work. Peeled eyes will notice the likes of Barbara Crampton, Jefferey Reddick (writer of Final Destination) and Tiffany Shepis among the cast, too. Nobody is particularly well-served by this bargain-basement shock and gore, but the stream of recognisable faces relieves some fatigue.
At 145 minutes, Deathcember is a lot. And, to coin the dreaded cliché, a very mixed bag. It starts rough, with the story of a boy who gets turned into an advent calendar chocolate and eaten by his sister (how Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids) and barely improves from there. There’s a dull punch-‘em-up between Tiffany Shepis and a store clerk (the biggest surprise being that nobody went and named her 'Karen'), a convoluted Tarantino riff, and the first properly good entry doesn’t appear until Isaac Ezban’s Villancicos.
After last year’s controversy, one might have expected Juergen Kling’s Crappy Christmas: Operation Christmas Child to have been left off the line-up, but it’s still there, and every bit as vile as I remembered. This animated/Claymation rape/revenge movie is the anthology’s most memorable entry – mostly for the wrong reasons – sullying any good work which does appear later, through association.
So exhausting are Deathcember’s lesser entries that by the time anything of quality emerges, it’s hard to muster up much enthusiasm. It’s one low-rent, dimly lit heaping of misery after another, all predictable punchlines and witless cruelty for cruelty’s sake. While some directors don’t even bother with the Christmas ethos, the films achieve some cohesion through a shared visual palette – but it’s an ugly one. Would it have hurt to turn the Christmas lights on?
The sheer amount of chaff does a great disservice to Deathcember’s better entries. Out of 24 films, only a handful of them are worth anyone’s time, and it’s a grind to have to sit through the rest just to get to a Ruggero Deodato (itself underwhelming, by Deodato standards), a Sang-woo Lee or a Pollyanna McIntosh.
Watching Deathcember feels like scoffing one’s way through a whole advent calendar in a single sitting. It’ll leave you feeling sick, exhausted, and full of self-loathing. To return to the cliché, Deathcember is a mixed bag. Unfortunately for all involved, it’s a mixed bag - if the bag was full of cheap, off-brand and tasteless dross, well-past its sell-by date. Advent calendars are supposed to be a treat, you guys.
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