In Michael Shershenovich’s “Bloody Christmas,” two main characters feel that they are being drawn to the depths of madness and murder. One of them dips a toe into that fathomless pool and pulls back, while the other goes in for a bloody swim. In the end, it is perhaps the greater madness of the latter character who enables the former to grasp the very last straw of sanity, and to reel himself back in.
Rich (Steve Montague), a once semi-famous actor playing Santa Claus suit for a department store, is very much down on his luck. He daydreams “Walter Mitty” moments in which he goes postal and murders people whom he blames for what Christmas, and society, have become. A nice man at heart, events seem to conspire to drive from him the very last of his empathy and patience. Having lost his daughter to drugs and faced with the loss of his job and home, he slides down a slope toward madness and grief that gets slipperier as the film goes on.
Father Michael (Robert Youngren), a man who tries to do good in the world, is also tired of sin. As he tries to counsel those who come to him for advice, he sees what he feels is the betrayal of faith by the nuns he works with as they seem to be drifting away from their calling. He also shares many of Rich’s views about consumerism and society, which leads him down his own dark path.
Meanwhile, the police are left with two murders to solve, and the feeling that more are on the way. Exhausted by their grisly work and suffering from an undercurrent of interpersonal rivalry, Detectives Reineger (Vincent Notice) and Steinman (Robert Arensen) do their best to follow the bloody trail of evidence that seems to go nowhere. As the film goes on, each detective seems to be nearing the end of his own rope as well.
Suspects abound in this engaging flick, and while it would be poor taste to spoil the major events, one simply has to see this movie for its competent acting and consistently engaging story. One can point perhaps to a minor actor or two who weren’t entirely convincing in their roles, amounting to less than one minute of the 90 minutes of the film. Otherwise, there are no real weak links here, and the production value is excellent for an independent film.
Highlights include the opening credits, where Rankin & Bass-like puppets are intermixed with holiday scenes, both of shopping and of home and church. Even before the opening credits roll, the movie sets the tone of horror with an unforgettable segue into the director’s disturbing but engaging world. In a church scene, Brooke Wasenda plays a sexy young nun who puts on a show of exposed thighs and luscious lips for a hapless boy. Jim Terriaca puts on a wonderfully comical show as the gluttonous landlord who shows no mercy to his tenant, and Geretta Geretta convincingly plays a mother who just lost her son to murder. Perhaps the most watchable moment is the shower murder scene, a nod to “Psycho.” Nova Lox is excellent in it, and not solely because she is very easy on the eyes.
The sole element that the director might have left out was the inclusion of words flashing across the screen when certain characters where introduced. We see “The Gift Giver” after Rich’s first scene as Santa, “The Priest” after the first scene with Father Michael, and “The Cops” after the first scene with the detectives. These banners seem to be taken from an ’80s television show and should probably have been dropped. The technique might have worked if the director had followed up on the tone, but as the movie stands, it would have been better off without.
One missed opportunity occurred when Rich tried to cash a check that had been dated for the following week. He clearly looked upset at the young man who worked in the check cashing place. A daydream murder sequence would have been highly appropriate here, though one wonders if the director was overly cautious about keeping the scene short to move the story along.
Despite these minor flaws, “Bloody Christmas” is an excellent alternative to the slop that sometimes pours out of Hollywood these days. 4.5 out of 5 stars.