ONCE UPON A TIME AT CHRISTMAS
Directed by: Paul Tanter
Starring: Simon Philips, Sayla de Goede, Barry Kennedy, Jeff Ellenberger, Laurel Brady, Susannah Mackay
In the sleepy town of Woodbridge, a pair of serial killers are at work. Dressed as Mr and Mrs Claus, they are killing seemingly random people each and every night in the run up to Christmas. The local sheriff and his deputy are baffled as to the MO or motive, but friends Jennifer and Courtney are going to both find out that they have a link to the carnage.
There was a time when I would have approached a Paul Tanter film with serious caution - my ire of He Who Dares 2: Downing Street Siege is no secret at all. However, I was impressed with his follow up movie, Kill Ratio, and now even more so with Once Upon a Time at Christmas.
This is very much a police procedural crossed with a horror movie. There are plenty of dead bodies, probably more than most horror films I've seen this year, and thanks to the killer's MO (which the audience is able to figure out about an hour before the poor old sheriff puts it all together), there is a lot of invention to it.
The inventiveness of the kills are paired with some good characterisation - Sheriff Mitchell and his deputy Sam are a strong pair, despite their (and the FBI) being completely non-plussed by the killer's thematic killing spree. There is some strong banter that makes them very likeable and sympathetic to the audience.
The technical filmatism on display is very strong, too. There are a plethora of overhead drone-shots which help to give the production values a boost, and there's a very good one-take inside the police station which works really well and gives the film another strong twist.
Our killers have a pretty strong outing as well. While Sayla De Goede's Mrs Claus is very much styled on Harley Quinn, she at least gets to act a lot more violent and evil than her DC counterpart. Simon Philips' Santa remains silent for much of the film, until the last quarter when his plan is finally revealed. Philips is very good at this sort of monologue and does a good job here.
Once Upon a Time at Christmas is a very entertaining horror movie, for all the right reasons - an interesting and fun gimmick, solid characters and strong kill scenes. Definitely worth a look.
8 out of 10 (Recommended) MikeOutWest
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