It’s Christmas Eve and Tori just wants to get drunk and party, but when a robotic Santa Clause at a nearby toy store goes haywire and begins a rampant killing spree through her small town, she’s forced into a battle for survival.

Editing: Josh Ethier
Steve Moore

Cast: Riley Dandy, Sam Delich, Jonah Ray, Dora Madison, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Abraham Benrubi, Jeremy Gardner

Directors: Joe Begos
Writers: Joe Begos
Cinematography: Brian Sowell

Christmas horror movies are a subgenre I always look forward to seeing every year. This year, Christmas Bloody Christmas ticks all the boxes when it comes to ridiculous plots, a slasher you’ll want a sequel to next year, and a surprising final girl in Riley Dandy. In Christmas Bloody Christmas, the army, or someone buying the army tech, has used the latest AI to make a bunch of robotic Santas. However, as the movie begins, after watching several ludicrous TV advertisements, it’s revealed the Santas are now being recalled for malfunction. Of course, one is going to go haywire in this film and begin killing everyone in their sight. 

Abraham Benrubias Santa in the horror film, CHRISTMAS BLOODY CHRISTMAS, a Shudder and RLJE Films release. Photo courtesy of Shudder and RLJE Films.

Having never watched a Jeff Begos (VFW, Bliss) film before, I’m not sure if the first 30 minutes of Christmas Bloody Christmas is his regular pacing, but there’s a lot of talking and little killing. And I’m not saying this as a complaint, as I enjoyed it, but this may be the part that turns some viewers off, not the gory kills. 

As we meet Tori (Riley Dandy), she’s arguing with Robbie (Sam Delich), who works at a record store with her, about who she should spend her night with; his case being it should be him, not some Tinder match. Eventually, they head out together and what follows is about 30 minutes of pop-culture references and metal music trivia. The dialogue reminded me of watching a Kevin Smith film, but it’s less Star Wars and more inspired by Black Christmas and Ozzy Osborne.  

Riley Dandy as Tori in the horror film CHRISTMAS BLOODY CHRISTMAS, a Shudder and RLJE Films release. Photo courtesy of Shudder and RLJE Films

A team effort between Begos, his cinematographer Brian Sowell and production designer Adam Dietrich lead to a neon-soaked film that makes the Christmas colours scary. Every inch of the film is red or green as the lights of trees or decorations always seem to find a way to bounce off something and make it into view of our characters. And with Begos shooting on film, it looks beautiful.

When the kills start, the mechanical Santa kills with purpose, not pleasure. He moves like the Terminator and goes for results, which he quickly gets as he finds ways to catch his kill count quickly once he gets moving. Santa Claus was apparently a big part of the film’s budget, and you can tell as the thing looks great and will make you re-think about crossing the street into a person dressed up as Santa Claus.

Even at 1 hour 21 mins, I found the film too long, as the pacing starts to dwindle in the middle as Tori recovers from the first major Santa Claus attack. I hope Begos can make another one of these, but he’ll need to work on keeping the excitement up better if he gets a second go at his killer Santa Claus.

However, the standout of this film is Riley Dandy, who has appeared in the recently released A Hollywood Christmas, Netflix’s romance That’s Amor and last years, A California Christmas: Christmas Lights, but has undoubtedly found her calling in horror. She brings the character that Begos wrote to life with pure passion, and Tori becomes a standout, bad-ass final girl in a film. I wouldn’t have expected to have loved the characters as much as I did, and Dandy was a big part of making Christmas Bloody Christmas as good as it was.

Christmas Bloody Christmas is available to stream now on Shudder.