Title: Dead by Christmas
Director: Armand Petri
Starring: Holly Bonney, Dawn Streeck, Maggie Buck
Runtime: 59 mins
What It Is: Recently released on Amazon Prime and Vimeo On Demand, this holiday horror follows a group of close-knit orphans as they are being picked off one-by-one by a killer Santa Clause.
What We Think: There is a story. Unfortunately, it’s not a very good one. Flashbacks are a great way to establish the rule of law in the film universe of the film you are viewing. In this film, the frequent flashbacks alluded to what orphans experienced, but they don’t help explain why a character makes a certain choice or takes a certain course of action. For example, if a child is forced to drink something they don’t like as a child, why would they so easily agree to drink the same thing as an adult with a better understanding of choice and agency. With that said, the perverted priest is not an original idea. Where the characters should have exhibited some sense of trauma, they instead delve into cheesy monologues. It would have been nice to see the story unfold through action.
The framing and lighting in this film needed a lot of work. Most shots were illuminated by Christmas lights which made the video very grainy and constantly gave off shadows. The flickering Christmas lights were extremely distracting as well. As far as the framing (unless the shots were meant to sit at a dutch angle), they struggled to be level and steady. In addition, there was an overwhelming amount of ‘Christmas scenery’ shots that were used to fill up space rather than move the story along. On a positive note, the Christmas oriented weapons of choice were comical and appreciated, especially when it came to the oversized candy cane.
Our Grade: D, Where I think the film really fell off was that it never established whether or not the orphans were good people or bad people as adults. They did something in their past as children that may not have been morally sound, but they didn’t continue that behavior into adulthood. Their killer was seeking vengeance on actions carried out by 6-year-olds and that doesn’t make any sense.