Mrs. Claus (2018)

NOVEMBER 13, 2018

GENRE: HOLIDAY, SLASHER
SOURCE: STREAMING (ONLINE SCREENER)

If you're not a discerning slasher fan and want to start diving into your seasonal horror collection, then I've certainly seen worse than Mrs. Claus (formerly Stirring). It's watchable, it's got plenty of kills (and they're done practically), and even if the mystery is so obvious the killer didn't even really need the mask, it's still a whodunit as opposed to some lame attempt at a new wisecracking "icon", which sinks so many of these things. Also, I have to give it props for hiding an additional twist in the audio for those who watch the end credits - there's no "post credits scene", but if you listen you'll hear a line of dialogue that suggests the killer had an additional helper. That's kind of novel!

But if the movie hadn't made a huge blunder I probably wouldn't have caught it, because the only reason I was watching the end credits all the way to the end was to see if it listed the filming location, because while the plot (and pretty much entire film) is set in a sorority house, it looked more like a two bedroom apartment to me, and it kept the movie at bay the entire time. Alas, it didn't list any of its locations, but I did learn that there were apparently more producers on this movie than actual crew members, and I can't help but wish one of them produced a better location for the bulk of its action.

See, location is crucial for a slasher of this sort - we need to know how far apart people are, the killer needs room to stalk/chase his victims, etc., but none of that stuff works here because everything seems so cramped. There are no chase scenes at all, really - someone will just enter a room or their car and then the killer pops up and kills them. We never see Mrs. Claus unless she's about four seconds away from offing someone, which further undoes the need for a mask at all - we barely ever get to see it, so they might as well have just taken a cue from the original Friday the 13th and done everything with POV and feet. And without any sense of geography for the "house", there's not a lot of tension the director or editor can manage when someone's in danger: are their friends in the next room, another floor? The way it looks in the movie, it shouldn't even be possible for Mrs. Claus to make her way around without being seen by the other characters.

It doesn't help that everything is a direct lift from To All A Goodnight, right down to the identical setup (a tragic death at the sorority), and motive for the killer. Hell it even cribs the same damn twist (spoiler: they're not acting alone), so it started to rub me the wrong way since To All A Goodnight is a pretty obscure entry in the slasher canon and thus could be stolen from without some folks noticing, unlike Halloween or Friday the 13th where the filmmakers tend to make those films' influence more apparent to avoid any such "ripoff" claims. I'm sure the "sorority house during Christmas break" setting will make more folks think of Black Christmas, a film that this one otherwise shares little in common with, but there aren't enough grains of salt in the world to make me believe that David Hess' film wasn't on the minds of this one's screenwriter.

But again, at least the kills are practical! And plentiful - I was worried they blew their fake blood budget on the first one (the obligatory "tragedy", in which a picked on sorority sister viciously stabs the meanest one before hanging herself) as it was almost unsettlingly bloody, but I don't think they hold back on any death scene - everyone gets stabbed or impaled in some manner or other, with the red stuff pouring/spraying in a manner that suggests they wanted to rub it in to MPAA-mangled predecessors like F13: The New Blood. Occasionally the deaths are Christmas-themed, like a guy who gets a giant decorative candy cane shoved down his throat, and I started to wish they embraced this sort of thing more often to help make up for the movies' lapses. If someone got beheaded by a giant nutcracker or run over by a reindeer, I would have forgiven all that other stuff.

Oh well. Even though I wasn't expecting a classic, it didn't quite do it for me even when I factor in its low budget hurdles. The bad acting and non-existent production value I can look past, but when they're swiping so heavily from another film that had its own issues (and wasn't exactly a big budget affair itself) it's hard to really get excited about it. There's zero excitement or engaging material to be found unless someone is being killed, and with no buildup to these moments, you'll find yourself just waiting for the next one. Luckily they're never too far apart (possibly the one thing it has over To All A Goodnight), but still - keep your phone or a magazine handy, as there's little reason to bother with anything in between. Hell they even bungle a defense of Christmas Vacation over other holiday staples by leaving it to the film's resident douchey asshole guy to say it! I find that offensive! Let the male hero be the one to rightfully acknowledge its merit!

What say you?

2 comments:

  1. "but I did learn that there were apparently more producers on this movie than actual crew members"

    It was crowdfunded, they've already started a new campaign for another slasher.

    ReplyDelete

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