Secret Santa Movie Review

Written by Joel Harley

Released by Signature Entertainment / Frightfest Presents

Directed by Adam Marcus
Written by Adam Marcus and Debra Sullivan
2018, 89 minutes, Not Yet Rated
Frightfest European premiere on 27th August 2018

Michael Rady as Ty
Drew Lynch as Kyle
Debra Sullivan as Sharl
A Leslie Kies as April

secret santa poster


A family gathering descends into carnage when they are overcome with a monstrous diseased rage during Christmas dinner. Already harbouring enough simmering anger and resentment to fuel a year’s worth of soap opera plots, it doesn’t take much to push this feuding family over the edge. It’s You’re Next crossed with Arrested Development.

secret santa 01 secret santa 02

But when it comes to this warring bunch of middle-class murderers, there are no winners. The characters of Secret Santa are one of the most hateful, hateable collections of people ever seen in a horror film. Even those you’re supposed to sympathise with (the ‘nice’ sister with a dark secret, the stammering brother… with another secret) are rendered unbearable through performance and character writing. It’s Krampus, minus that film’s excellent cast and discreet heart. It’s Mom and Dad, without that film’s savvy handle on its themes. Some families really hate each other, who knew?

secret santa 03 secret santa 04

What Secret Santa does breed, however, is satisfying violence and brutally scabrous dialogue. The constantly flying insults are beautifully effective (if ruined by most of the cast’s screeching performance style) and I genuinely cheered at the first act of brutality. Once the family stop shouting at each other and the film becomes a more conventional action horror piece, it makes for much more tolerable viewing. (Co) writer and director Adam Marcus’s script is frequently witty, funny and gloriously savage. If only he could have been afforded a more talented cast to bring it to life. Could have done without all that really on-the-nose “when this family loses control of its id” stuff too.

secret santa 05 secret santa 06

With a better cast and bigger budget, Secret Santa could have been a truly good, if not great Christmas horror film. Unfortunately, it’s depressingly cheap, undermined at every stage by its low production values and obnoxious, gurning cast. Everything from the crap CGI blood to the rotten Christmas carol cover songs is low-grade and obvious, sabotaging the good work Marcus does manage to get done.

Secret Santa is an annoying, obvious chore that’s not nearly as profound or edgy as it thinks it is. Nevertheless, there’s a wit, enthusiasm and energy to it that can’t be denied. For all its flaws, it’s certainly dedicated to delivering unadulterated, un-PC nastiness. Well, it’s the thought that counts.


Movie: twostars Cover

This page includes affiliate links where Horror DNA may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Joel Harley
Staff Reviewer
Haribo fiend, Nicolas Cage scholar and frequently functioning alcoholic. These are just some of the words which can be used to describe Joel Harley. The rest, he uses to write film criticism for Horror DNA and a variety of websites and magazines. Sometimes he manages to do so without swearing.
Other articles by this writer



Join Us!

Hit the buttons below to follow us, you won't regret it...