Bad Santa vs. Bad Ass Kids Cineray

Happy Holidays, fiends! If you are like me, somewhere in an old family photo album or special holiday frame is a picture of a child version of you sitting on Santa’s lap while crying your eyes out. As we grow up, our parents tell us that Santa brings us presents and, therefore, we should not be afraid of him. But maybe that childhood instinct is correct. Perhaps, trusting a fat old man with beard dresses In a red suit who loves kids is a lot sketchier than we give the story credit. Today’s Cineray holiday recommendations are a couple of films about some very dangerous Santas and the badass kids who battle against them in Dial Code Santa Claus and Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Dial Code Santa Claus – AKA Deadly Games –  is like a demented and scarier Home Alone with a kid that has watched all the best 80’s action movies. The story takes place on Christmas Eve in the home of Thomas. Thomas is a brilliant boy with a grand imagination and a wealthy mother that indulges him. He dresses for his day like a mini Rambo and spends his day capturing his dog in trap doors. Thomas has installed a camera system throughout his entire house and can see everything from a remote on his wrist. 

Impressed? 

The camera system is the least of his security measures. 

Thomas also spends his days with Papy, his grandfather, and works to repair his mother’s old car while Julie, his mother, manages a department store. Meanwhile, a man spots the store is hiring for a Santa and takes the job. When a girl accuses Santa of being fake, the jolly bastard slaps her. Julie sees this happen and fires him immediately. He steals her address, though and after killing a delivery driver and stealing his van, goes to her home. When he breaks in, Thomas mistakes this criminal for the actual Santa until a brutal event shows him the truth. Thomas has to mount a defensive to save himself and his grandfather from the psycho Santa. 

What makes this movie great is the motifs and sequences it borrows from 80s action movies we know and love. It’s not a movie with a lot of kills, but it’s smart with the kills it does have and fills in the gaps with action. I would even hazard that one kill can be downright polarizing for viewers and may anger them to consider stopping the film right there. But I think it’s a bold move to establish the unforgivable evil as the crazy man simply known as Par Noel and put him in a Santa suit. It creates an eerie undertone beneath those 80’s action motifs.

Take the opening scene of Thomas suiting up with boots, toy knives, and camouflage, all laced up and strapped on to a knock-off hard rock soundtrack. These shots would usually be close-ups on the tight, rippling muscles of a Stallone or Schwarzenegger, but here they’re of a kid whose only resemblance to those 80s action stars is a spectacular mullet. And considering the odds and events Thomas has to deal with, he’s a total badass. It’s not a perfect film by far; there’s an opening that is heavy with exposition, and some of the callbacks overstay their welcome. But it’s a French take on over-the-top American Cinema, so it kind of makes sense.  

Next, we move from a psychotic Santa to a demonic one.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is an extremely original concept that is really brought to life by a fantastic cast. The story starts with a survey crew on a mountain. They’re using a drill to take soil samples and find what they’re looking for when the foreman presents Riley, the man finding the operation, with soil that contains sawdust. Riley is excited as he explains the dust’s presence as evidence of something trapped in ice. Riley tells his crew they are close to finding what they set out to find, none other than Santa Claus, or at the very least the being that the Santa myth is based on, frozen in this ice. 

Nearby, local boys Jusso and Pietari are sneaking around the site, listening to all of this. They hurry home, and Pietari begins to read up on this creature buried in the mountain. He discovers old folklore about a horned man with goat’s feet who once ran free, whipping and sometimes eating children who misbehave. The next day during the town’s annual reindeer hunt, Pietari’s father Rauno and some other men discover the corpses of hundreds of reindeer, all gnawed and eaten. They believe wolves have been driven wild by the mountain’s excavation, but when the disappearance of some local children follows this, it’s Jusso and Pietari who know the truth. The kids know better than the adults because adults are conditioned to disregard folklore, while the children are open to the fantastic. 

Rare Exports‘ crisp, sharp cinematography and excellent production and set design make it a joy to watch. Nothing here looks fake, and similar to John Carpenter’s The Thing, this entry into the “monster thawed from the ice” subgenre feels very original. 

Again these are both foreign films with subtitles, one being French and the other Finnish, and they both are great. As is usually the case with a good foreign film, at some point, you forget you are reading as you watch and just start doing it automatically and enjoying the movie. To watch these, you can stream Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale from several places, with options to watch for free with ads or with the cost of a rental or subscription but as usual, it’s on Shudder along with Dial Code Santa Claus so why not watch there. 

Cineray XMas with the Family

Well, it’s that season again, fiends! That time when we get crap for watching horror movies during the “holidays.” It’s also when we get together with family and take part in that thinly veiled dance where we try not to get angry at family members we have not seen for a while. So why not watch a couple of horror movies that take all those thoughts about the holidays we have and take them to the violent nth degree. Today’s Cineray holiday recommendations are Red Christmas, directed and written by Craig Anderson and Secret Santa, directed and co-written by Adam Marcus, and co-written by Debra Sullivan.

Red Christmas is a slasher movie with an unusual killer and a mixed political message. This one starts at an abortion clinic that is bombed by a pro-life activist. In the aftermath, the bomber finds and takes with him the surviving result of a late-term abortion. Flash forward 20 years to Diane, played by Dee Wallace, hosting her family at her home in Australia. Tensions are high and old wounds show as the festivities begin. Her daughter Ginny is nine months pregnant and likes to smoke pit with her husband, supplied by her uncle, and her sister Suzy arrives with her pastor husband. The two clash and argue a lot with the family between them. And then a mysterious stranger named Cletus, wrapped in bandages, wearing a cloak arrives, and before they understand what’s happening, he is picking them off one at a time. 

The slasher element of Red Christmas is pretty inventive, and once the kills start, they are pretty brutal. In typical slasher fashion, the killer has come for revenge, except here, his origin and rationale are pretty inventive. The kills could be a little more revealing, especially for a slasher, but it being an independent film, maybe that was the best way they felt they could keep down the cost. The special effect on the barely seen Cletus is cheesy looking, and honestly, the mystery of how he looks should have held for the entire film, but it’s quick and easy to see past. Finally, it’s a little muddled in its politics. 

The next feature Secret Santa follows with more of a family killing spree but a lot more killing and some excellent dark humor. The film follows a family who meets for Christmas Eve dinner and their annual Secret Santa Ritual. Though blood, these are all different people with histories and issues between them. Tensions are high because, well, old wounds often do not heal. During a tense argument, violence ensues, and people start attacking others and complaining of feeling hot while others try to protect themselves and escape. But one of them has engineered the events of this evening and secretly knows what is going on. 

The humor and violence of this film are entertaining, and the actors are great. It’s easy to hate some characters as the film progresses, but there’s a complicated family narrative afoot as well. Take the shrewish family matriarch Shari, played here in spiteful, vengeful glory by Debra Sullivan. Even though it’s an independent feature, the film spares no expense with the practical effects. The kills are fantastic, and some are outright funny. There is one WTF moment of particular gruesomeness in the film that will make you laugh out loud. 

Now, to be completely honest, my fondness for Secret Santa transcends how great I think the movie is. This is because, when the Horror Vision podcast was only into its fifth episode, we got the chance to sit down and interview Adam Marcus and co-writer and star Debra Sullivan, and the film’s producer Bryan Sexton about the film. They were all excellent guests and very personable and open about the film process. Adam is generous in his advice and very positive, and Debra could not be farther from her character onscreen. She is very friendly and a great actor, considering how much you hate her character onscreen. That being said, more people need to see this horror film, and it’s always part of the reason I pick my Cineray features. Red Christmas can be rented from all the usual places but is free with Prime, Peacock, and Shudder, while Secret Santa is available for rent or purchase through Prime and YouTube. 

A Thanksgiving CineRay!

Hey horror fiends! This week was Thanksgiving, and if you are like me, you had enough turkey to last you a while. But thankfully, we never get tired of horror. For this week’s Cineray double feature, I have decided on a couple of slasher movies. One is legitimately set on the Thanksgiving holiday while the other is not, but there is a theme that ties them together I will reveal later. Today’s recommendations are Blood Rage, directed by John Grissmer, and The Mutilator, directed by Buddy Cooper. 

Blood Rage is a great slasher that happens to take place on Thanksgiving. The story focuses on twin brothers Todd and Terry and their mother, Louise. One night while at a drive-in, Louise, played by Louise Lasser, begins to make out with her husband while her sons sleep in the back of the station wagon. Terry wakes up and wakes his brother and tells him to sneak out of the car with him. While out looking in car windows and around, Terry finds an ax. He happens upon a couple having sex in their car and gets caught pepping with Todd standing behind him in the distance. Terry hacks the man’s face to death, then gives the ax to Todd and smears blood on him. Todd is traumatized and left catatonic and institutionalized. Ten years later, after Louise visits on Thanksgiving, Todd escapes. Meanwhile, after Louise announces her engagement to her boyfriend, Terry gets triggered into a killing spree at the apartment complex where they live. 

Blood Rage is a fantastic slasher movie with lots of gore and a pretty inventive plot. Once Terry starts offing people, it’s pretty great. He hacks and slashes his way through his victims, and the effects are all practical and excellent. The dismembered hand clutching a can of beer is pretty memorable. Mark Soper plays the twin brothers Todd and Terry, and he does a great job of it. Terry is ruthless and cruel in his actions, while Todd, by comparison, is soft-spoken and just kind of lost in how to stop his brother. As the film progresses, there is an indication that there may be an incestuous Oedipal relationship between Louise and Terry. From a man killing to eliminate competition for his mother’s love, we shift to a movie whose action focuses on a man’s accidental murder of his mother. 

The Mutilator focuses on the story of Ed and his father, Big Ed. One day while his father is out, Ed is cleaning one of his father’s hunting rifles to surprise him when the weapon accidentally discharges and shoots his mother in the next room, killing her. When Big Ed comes home, he blames Ed and has a psychotic break. Many years later, Ed is now in college and decides to go with his college friends to his father’s beach home for Fall Break. What they don’t know is that Big Ed is hiding at the beach house, waiting to exact his revenge on his son after all these years. 

What makes this film fun is how odd of a slasher movie it is. It’s fairly formulaic in its plot and structure, with the killer ramp up in violence and the characters indulging in episodes of making out. But the tone of this film is bonkers. It starts with the very stark, almost overly dramatic mother’s death and then cuts to the friends meeting and deciding to go to the beach house, which is a very light-hearted scene. And then the film’s original title Fall Break, comes on screen over a music montage more fitting for a cheesy 80’s comedy. The film does this more than a few times. It will be a slasher movie one moment and then decide it wants to be a teen sex comedy for a moment or two. 

These films are worth a watch because they have largely been forgotten about, even amidst the increased market for regional slasher movies. Plus, both films both focus on killers motivated by family relationships and anger. If you have been on either a zoom call or a small family gathering, this season chances are you may feel homicidal too. The Mutilator is on Amazon prime video, and Blood Rage is on Prime, Kanopy, and best of all Shudder. Now you can watch Blood Rage all on its own, but as I always do, I recommend it watched as part of the

50th Episode Just in time for Halloween: Bly Manor, The Mortuary Collection and More!

Ray, Anthony, and Shawn hit Zoom to talk about all their pre-Halloween watches. We talk about The Mortuary Collection, Tremors 7: Shrieker Island, The Haunting of Bly Manor, French New Extremity flicks Sheitan and Ils (Them), Haun and Luckert’s new comic Red Mother, the glory and thrift of region-free Blu Ray players, and Modern CG as the new schlock! That’s not everything, but it’s a lot of it!

Jon Wright’s Grabbers!

This episode we watch and react to Jon Wright’s delightful 2012 Horror/Comedy Grabbers, an Irish monster movie with a beautiful setting and a drunken cast. Our Classic Corner pick is Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator and we don’t stop there! Locke and Key’s premiere on Netflix, Dale Fabrigar’s D-Railed, Osgood Perkins’ Gretel and Hansel, Shudder’s The Marshes, American Horror Story, David Cronenberg’s debut novel Consumed, and Vault Comics knock-out horror titles The Plot and Black Stars Above. Oh, and there’s quite a bit more where those came from. Su Nioj!

Josh Lobo’s I Trapped the Devil!

Holy smokes! Two episodes in one week. Well, it seems we at The Horror Vision have a lot to talk about this month. Anthony, Chris, and Shawn talk about a ton of good stuff, including but not limited to Godzilla: King of Monsters, The Perfection, Jim Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die, and Adam Rifkin’s batshit crazy epic The Dark Backward, all before sitting down and watching Josh Lobo’s I Trapped the Devil and then recording their reaction to it! su nioJ!

Secret Santa!

 

This episode we welcome Writer/Director/Producer Adam Marcus, Actress/Writer/Producer Debra Sullivan, and Producer Bryan Sexton, creators of the just released on DVD/BR holiday horror film Secret Santa, which played to rave reviews in 19 festivals over the previous year! Our guests discuss true independent moviemaking, the state of horror, the challenges of an 11-day shoot in the middle of a blizzard, their fantastic cast and the genesis of their production company Skeleton Crew.