The Nights Before Christmas Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Directed by Paul Tanter
Written by Paul Tanter and Simon Phillips
2019, 104 minutes, Not Rated
Released on December 6th, 2020
Simon Phillips as Santa Claus
Sayla de Goede as Mrs. Claus
Jennifer Willis as Dr. Monica Mudd
Keegan Chambers as Courtney
‘Twas the nights before Christmas. Not a creature did stir…except for the FBI and a pair of Santa-themed serial killers, dressed up like Jolly Saint Nick and his wife. A sequel to the holiday slasher film Once Upon a Time at Christmas, Paul Tanter’s second festive helping offers up roughly more of the same. Santa and Mrs. Claus are back, on the run, and more vicious than ever. Not even the might of the FBI can deter them from punishing naughty and nice alike. And survivor Courtney is caught up in the middle.
There’s a distinct Devil’s Rejects/3 from Hell vibe to this sequel, which is far too enamoured with its killers for its own good. Rather than spending the majority of their time hacking up oversexed teenagers (which they do still find some room for) this slasher pair’s rage is more directed towards the system, from rapist priests to bumbling FBI agents. This is a nice change of pace from most slasher films’ modus operandi, and the FBI procedural element also provides some variation on the theme.
Returning stars Simon Phillips (who also had a hand in writing the thing) and Sayla de Goede go all in on their performances as the demented killers, unashamedly chewing on the scenery (and occasionally the odd throat or two) with relish. Neither has much range, and both begin to grate after a while (particularly de Goede, whose Harley Quinn/Baby Firefly knock-off is not as funny or alluring as the film thinks it is), but their commitment to being unpleasant is admirable. Those who did fall in love with these monsters previously should enjoy the return to their world, and their brand of loquacious meanness.
Sadly this doesn’t always translate to watchability for everyone else, and there are stretches of time where The Nights Before Christmas is a flat-out chore, full of posturing and ugly snarling. None of its FBI characters have any presence or authority, making it hard to take them seriously as threats. Likewise, its plot strand with survivor Courtney is underbaked, and there’s a distinct sense that Tanter and Phillips don’t really care about anyone beyond Santa and Mrs. Claus. And, as a result, neither do the audience.
This low-budget holiday slasher film is more confidently and competently made than most of its ilk, with bravura (if off-putting) performances and a sense of focus that could have been lacking elsewhere. When it’s at the top of its game, it’s gory, brutal and nasty. For the rest of it, however, it’s a bore and a dullard. Much like its repetitively yammering villains.
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