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Review: Christmas Bloody Christmas – “Plays like a gonzo The Terminator Christmas Special”

New festive horror film Christmas Bloody Christmas is now available to stream on Shudder. Joe Begos (Bliss) writes and directs, while Riley Dandy (That’s Amor) stars alongside Sam Delich (Spiderhead) and Jeremy Gardner (The Leech).

All record store owner Tori (Dandy) wants for Christmas is to get wasted and hook up with a Tinder date but, thanks to an unrecalled robot Santa Claus full of department of defense firmware going beserk in her small town, she risks getting wasted in precisely the wrong way.

Begos wisely glazes over the how and why of the killer robot Santa set-up with some cool fake adverts and blasts of news reports. He knows what the good stuff is and that we don’t really care and just want to see Cyber Santa powered up and pissed off. And, when it all kicks off, Christmas Bloody Christmas is a blast.

Begos’ neon and blood-drenched, shot-on-film, rock and roll aesthetic is perfect for Christmas decoration garnered cat and mouse action-horror, so Christmas Bloody Christmas looks incredible. Action chops honed on his previous film VFW also add a confidence to the style during set pieces that see Tori fighting for her life through houses, stores, bars, cars and finally a police station.

Riley Dandy is excellent as Tori too. Clearly channeling Sarah Conner and Ripley but also a bit drunk, a bit high, and a lot pissed off. She’s a cunning, cool character believably able to dig deep and go all out to try and survive the relentless pursuit of this killing machine in a red suit.

Santa is great too. Played with threatening, clanking, imposing, programmed-to-kill menace by Abraham Benrubi (Open Range), the Santa Bot is a mix of masks and thrillingly old-school practical effects that evoke Hardware and Cameron’s first T-800. Making a ridiculous on-paper idea work, let alone be super cool to see in action and in various states of still deadly decimation, is testament to Benrubi’s performance, Dandy’s faded but furious heroics and Begos’ not just playing it straight but going fucking hard all combining brilliantly.

I very specifically said “when it all kicks off” earlier, because as gnarly and fun as the second half is – the first half is a snooze. Tori and her co-worker that fancies her, Robbie (Delich), spend what feels like forever talking about movies and records, arguing, flirting and drinking. We’re clearly going for an edgy Before Sunrise vibe, but they don’t have anything interesting to say, it feels like we’re just treading water until it’s time for Robot Santa fun and you will be checking your watch while Tori and Robbie argue about Blair Witch Book of Shadows.

Stick with it through the first half though. It’s very worth it. Just, for best results, maybe use it as an opportunity to pre-game with an egg nog or two and your patience will be handsomely, festively rewarded with a third act which is full of big stunts, lasers and hardcore raw robo carnage.

Not consistent enough to be a yearly traditional watch, as you won’t want to watch the first half again, Christmas Bloody Christmas is still punk as fuck counter Christmas film programming thanks to a killer second half that plays like a gonzo The Terminator Christmas Special and will blow your stockings off.

Christmas Bloody Christmas is streaming exclusively on Shudder from the 9th of December.

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