The latest horror anthology to hit the sinister scene, Deathcember, presents to us a literal arcane avalanche of terror tales (presented via an advent calendar wrap-around), most with a Christmas theme… and let me tell ya; this is one wicked whopper of a fright flick as it clocks in at an oh so brief two hour and twenty three minute runtime!
It would be impossible, and really fuckin’ long, to take you through each and every segment presented here… oh fuck it; I’ll give it a (sorta brief) go…
First up we get Dominic Saxl’s A Door Too Far; the neo-Brother’s Grimm-like tale of a greedy boy that can’t keep to eating just one piece of his advent calendar chocolate a day with dire results, followed by All Sales Fatal, Michael Varrati’s tale of a Karen named Claire (genre stalwart Tiffany Shepis) gone berserk… well more berserk than normal, Christmas on a contamination-riddled spaceship in Lazar Bodroza’s Aurora, Florian Frerichs’ Tarantino-influenced Christmas crime short X-Mas on Fire, and Isaac Ezban’s Villancicos; the story of a dying boy and the carolers that visit him… and the nightmare lunacy they bring.
Out of this batch, the winners for me were the satisfyingly dark fairy tale parable A Door Too Far and the violent hilarity of All Sales Fatal, and the surreal and stylish insanity of Villancicos.
That being said, Aurora is visually impressive but slow, and X-Mas on Fire would actually make for a hell of a feature… so I wanted more of it… I guess that’s actually a huge recommendation as well.
The next horrifying handful of shorts brings us Sonia Escolano’s Joy to the Girls; a yarn concerning a dude who gets invited to a party only to find there’s more unending fear than holiday cheer, followed by Bob Pope’s silent film influenced The Hunchback of Burg Hayn; the tale of a disabled man set to be burned at the stake, Steve De Roover’s Family Matters, which concerns a young man meeting his fiances family which includes more body horror than you’d imagine that sitch would demand, B.J. Colangelo and R. Zachary Shildwachter’s coming of age tale of hunters becoming the hunted; They Used to Laugh And Call Him Names, and Ama Lee’s Euro-horror styled Five Deaths in Blood Red, that revolves around a family holiday gathering turned deadly (as the “Deaths” in the titles would indicate).
Checking the score card we get They Used to Laugh And Call Him Names and Five Deaths in Blood Red as the wicked winners here, with the frantic Evil Dead-style gore and lunacy of the former, and the bizarre and stylish ambience of the latter really ring yours cruelly’s beastly bells!
Family Matters is brief but fun (and has a suitably gross ending), and the The Hunchback of Burg Hayn is a nice (if cruel) pastiche of silent shockers from the early 20th Century.
The only one here that didn’t do much for me was Joy to the Girls, which was well made but predictable.
Next up comes Kill Santa; Sadrac González-Perellón’s tale of two sisters going toe-to-toe with the jolly fat man, followed by Julian Richards’ kids versus Krampus tale Bad Santa, Sang-woo Lee’s Santa is Coming; which deals with a girl who wishes to meet Santa, her drunkard father, murder, doppelganger human dolls, and Friday the 13th references (guess what’s going to be called out as a winner in just a sec), Vivienne Vaughn’s A Christmas Miracle, a tale of a woman’s holiday wish come true, and Casetta Sperduta in Campagna; the story of a holiday gathering seemingly turned into nightmare courtesy of Italian horror maestro Ruggero Deodato (Cannibal Holocaust).
So yeah; Santa is Coming is a psychotronic masterpiece (and my favorite of the film’s presented so far), and Casetta Sperduta in Campagna has a fantastically mean-spirited twist; so those are by far my favs.
A Christmas Miracle is nicely done as well, and features the legendary Barbara Crampton (Re-animator, From Beyond), Kill Santa has a great look and vicious streak, and Bad Santa is a fun romp as well… top shelf quality all around with this collection.
Moving on we have Sam Wineman’s Milk and Cookies; the story of a kid who lives with his asshole of a pappy and leaves milk and cookies for Santa in exchange for getting daddy dearest out of the picture, followed by Andreas Marschall’s Pig which concerns a group of lethal ladies taking on a gross dude with wildly violent abandon, Lucky McKee’s They Once Had Horses; which features cowboys encountering the unknown, Milan Todorovic’s December the 19th, which features a homosexual, incestuous tryst brought to a violent end, and Pollyanna McIntosh’s Getting Away From It All; the tale of a man unable to escape from the nightmare of holiday cheer!
These are all strong entries as well; but McIntosh’s Getting Away From It All and Wineman’s Milk and Cookies are my top picks here due to fever dream imagery and vigilante Santa awesomeness respectively.
Make no mistake though; Pig, They Once Had Horses, and December the 19th are arty horror biz bangers in and of themselves as well…
That brings us to our last batch of noxious narratives…
First up is Rémi Fréchette’s Family Feast; which relates a holiday get together turned waking nightmare, followed by Jason Rostovsky’s Before Sundown; the story of a group of kids who race home on their bikes to be inside by nightfall… and the appearance of the legendary creature that stalks the creeping darkness, John Cook Lynch’s A Christmas Cracker, which features a family sweating that post-meal snack, and Trent Haaga’s Operation Dolph, which showcases a brutal “Santa”’s rampage through a cotton-candy hued house.
This is a strong group, and to be honest I really enjoyed all of these, but the standout here for me was A Christmas Cracker which combines a ‘50s aesthetic with sci-fi elements and pitch black humor.
So that’s the main event… but wait the credits bring us more!
In Annika Marx’s Christmas Corp.se, an office Christmas party turns deadly, and in Alyosha Saari’s Ring My Bell, A family Christmas dinner gets interrupted by a visit from St. Nick (and let me tell ya, this one had two huge twists over it’s scant runtime).
Bottom line; this is a great collection of bite-sized holiday horror terror tales, and you’ll definitely get your money’s worth here.
And in case you’re keeping score at home, Sang-woo Lee’s Santa is Coming was my favorite of all of the stories presented here, so that’s that!