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Christmas Blood (Movie Review)

Christmas Blood (Movie Review)
5 10

PLOT: A killer wearing a Santa Claus costume stalks partying youths in a snowbound Norwegian town while a detective tries to track him down.

REVIEW: A mishandled franchise if there ever was one, SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT gave viewers hope for a series built around a slasher dressed like Santa Claus and then failed to live up to its potential. Thankfully, plenty of filmmakers have proven quite willing to pick up the slack and make their own killer Santa movies over the years, the latest being writer/director Reinert Kiil with his slasher CHRISTMAS BLOOD (a.k.a. JULEBLOD in its native Norway).

The setting is Christmas, but the set-up Kiil crafted is very HALLOWEEN. After a 13 year spree that left 121 people dead in towns around Norway, a man who liked to murder people on Christmas while dressed as Santa was apprehended (and nearly killed) by a detective named Thomas Rasch (Stig Henrik Hoff). For 5 years he sat in a mental institution, staring at a wall, waiting for the day when he could kill again. After all, there were still more than 200 names left on his "naughty list". Just in time for Christmas 2006, this killer - whose psychiatrist considers him to be "the manifestation of pure evil" - escapes, puts on a Santa costume, grabs an axe, and goes back to work.

As it turns out, the next intended victim has recently committed suicide, but her college-age daughter Julia (Marte Saeteren) is still in their house, along with her school friends, who are visiting with the intention of bringing her some comfort and joy over the Christmas break. This bunch wasn't on the killer's naughty list, but he can find plenty of reasons to knock them off anyway.

Unfortunately, this slasher takes his sweet time getting to the slashing. More than an hour of the film has passed by before anyone at this Christmas party gets killed, and the brief flashback that gives us a couple more deaths between the opening sequence and the start of the party attack does little to save this stretch of the film from feeling tedious. CHRISTMAS BLOOD moves along at quite a slow pace, dragging itself through scenes, wasting minutes on extraneous moments, and forcing us to spend too much time with Julia and her awful friends.

I don't have high standards when it comes to slasher fodder characters, but Julia's friends are, for the most part, terrible people to spend time with. Kiil gives us little reason to like or care about any of them, aside from Julia and a girl who discovers her boyfriend has been cheating on her. The group gets even worse when the girls invite a couple creeps from Tinder to join them, but at least they liven things up for a while. Maybe the characters are unlikeable on purpose, so we'll understand why the Santa killer decides to target them, but that doesn't make it any easier to stomach their scenes.

While Julia's pals spend their last hours partying, a detective named Hansen (Sondre Krogtoft Larsen) is slowly... everything in this movie happens slowly... working on tracking the killer down and bringing him to justice. Again. To do this, he seeks the help of Rasch, who is now an irreverent alcoholic. Rasch is a fun presence at times, but still not a character I could really connect with at any point.

CHRISTMAS BLOOD has a very moody atmosphere and feels deadly serious, but there is some evidence that Kiil intended the film to be somewhat humorous. It's tough to tell, because everything is presented with a straight face. For example, there's one of those scenes where the detective discovers that the killer's pattern of murder forms an image on a map if you draw lines between them. I can't imagine that the scene where Rasch realizes this killer's pattern forms a Christmas tree on a map of Norway wasn't put in here as a joke, but it's not played like the viewer was meant to laugh. Is Hansen's weak stomach meant to be funny? I'd guess so, especially when he pukes on one of the slasher's dying victims. But then again, maybe that was just supposed to be disgusting. The same could be said for the huge splashes of blood that come out of the victims, and the scene where Kiil takes the "coroner eats food while dealing with a corpse" cliché to ridiculous extremes. I don't know if the comedic elements felt awkward to me because of a language barrier or if the tone Kiil captured was just too heavy for the comedy he tried to drop into it.

Slow, off-putting, and odd, CHRISTMAS BLOOD was not a great viewing experience for me. The pace stretches the film out to an overly long 105 minutes, and there's a chance I would have liked this movie a lot more if the filler was trimmed out and Kiil had a better handle on the comedic moments. If this were 15 to 20 minutes shorter it could have been a bit more entertaining to watch - but then again, the characters would still have to be written differently for me to really enjoy the movie, so it would likely be getting a middle-of-the-road score anyway. There are some things to like in here, a couple nice kills, but overall I was disappointed. For me, the pay-off was not worth the build-up.

CHRISTMAS BLOOD is now on DVD and VOD, courtesy of Artsploitation.
 

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