The first, true holiday slasher to hit the masses this year is Paul Tanter’s The Nights Before Christmas. The film recently screened at FrightFest and is awaiting its DVD & VOD release this winter. While I feel like I’m cheating on Halloween by writing about Christmas in October, I do want to say that I believe The Nights Before Christmas will be the Santa slasher of the 2020 holiday season. It has everything you’d want out of a holiday horror narrative, from a high body count to plot twists you won’t see coming to nostalgic cop drama elements seen in the 80’s. Kate Schroder, Marc Gammal, Simon Phillips, Sayla De Goede, Keegan Chambers and Anne-Carolyn Binnette star in a quasi-sequel where a deranged killer hunts the survivor of his last massacre in a film produced by Paul Tanter, Simon Phillips and Ken Bressers with co-producer Toby Meredith. Look for it on November 2nd 2020 in the UK courtesy of Kaleidoscope Entertainment, with a United Stated, Australia and New Zealand December release currently pending. Now, let me really break down this review.
Written and directed by Paul Tanter, and co-written by Simon Phillips, it’s one year after a murderous Santa butchered all of those close to a young woman he obsessed over. When the killer returns, an FBI agent is tasked with tracking him down and bringing him to justice before he leaves dead bodies under anymore Christmas trees. Only this time, things are different, and the psycho Santa finds himself in a Joker/Harley Quinn relationship with an equally bizarre Mrs. Claus. As Christmas nears, the couple slaughters their way through a small town, leading the FBI into a cat and mouse game of epic proportions. It’s literally ghosts of Christmas past in The Nights Before Christmas, and this is not the type of story you want to share around the fireplace. There’s a lot for me to champion here in terms of story-telling. The relationship between Santa and Mrs. Clause was so unexpected and I’m always happy to see a female villain in the world of horror. Not only did the cop drama give The Nights Before Christmas a nostalgic feel, but doing it as a mock-sequel helped to skip all the “world building” and get right to the good stuff.
This film finds cinematography by Julian Garofalo and editing by Robert Gajic. As a production, I have to say that this one transcends the realms of independent cinema. I was incredibly impressed by the set locations, set decoration and even the amount of extras they used to bring certain scenes to life. The camera work was amazing, which I noticed right from the start, and the team working on this production were so lucky to shoot while there was snow on the ground. I can tell just by watching it that The Nights Before Christmas had a lot of effort, work and dedication put into giving it a real cinematic flare. What’s going to make it stand out from the pack in 2020 is this Hollywood, star-quality. The level of professionalism here is absolutely outstanding, as is the level of gore and depravity depicted throughout. I can’t think of one criticism to give the cast and crew, except for the fact that I wanted more everything. More games. More massacres. More backstory. Just great work all around.
The Nights Before Christmas sets the bar for any other Santa Slasher releasing in the next two months. It’s a calculated thrill-ride that paints the snow blood red. Highly recommended. Final Score: 8 out of 10.