28th Mar2018

‘Once Upon a Time at Christmas’ Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: Simon Phillips, Yana Gold, Sayla de Goede, Laurel Brady, Robert Nolan, Jeff Ellenberger, Devon Mary Doherty, Brook Fletcher, Barry Kennedy, Susannah Mackay, Blue Bigwood-Mallin | Written by Christopher Jolley | Directed by Paul Tanter


Christmas horror is one of my favourite sub genres. It of course includes such classics as Gremlins, Black Christmas, Silent Night, Deadly Night and Krampus. But with a collection like mine, it also includes lesser known or cult classic titles such as P2, Santa’s Slay, Jack Frost and Rare Exports… to name but a few. So I am always on the look out for new holiday horror. Which is the reason I watched Once Upon A Time At Christmas well outside of the usual November/December time frame.

Once Upon A Time At Christmas is, in very basic terms, a slasher movie set at Christmas – which is no bad thing. Santa Claus and Mrs Claus are on a killing spree in a small town, seemingly not caring who hears and sees them because they are heading for one person in particular who links all the previous kills. It doesn’t take a genius to work out where this one is heading quite early on but that doesn’t ruin anything (the lead girl does however take a lot longer to realise what is happening even when it is practically spelt out for her). The link between all the deaths is a very Christmas-related one (without spoiling things too much) but it gives the writer some difficulties in reasons for the characters to be killed. Because of that, some scenes feel a little forced, while others are quite cleverly written.

A low budget does put some restrictions on each death scene. Seemingly to make up for this there are plenty of deaths and the ones that show the gore are by far the most entertaining, although the CGI blood is as awful as it normally is . Whereas the ones that cut away and simply don’t show the kill, don’t really build any tension to make up for it. The film on the whole looks good though. The picturesque snow covered landscapes are a perfect setting and even though it borders on overuse, the shots with the use of a drone do look fantastic.

The highlight of the acting performances goes to Barry Kennedy as Sheriff Mitchell and Jeff Ellenberger as his deputy. Both seem very comfortable in their roles and I enjoyed the scenes with them together. As Mr and Mrs Claus, Simon Phillips and Sayla de Goede put in mixed performances but this is more to do with my dislike for the characters than anything else. Mrs Claus is just a cheap festive version of Harley Quinn and not as entertaining, whereas Santa Claus just isn’t….. well ‘Santa Clausy’ enough for my liking. A white beard and bigger belly would have done!

Paul Tanter seems to be a busy director and I’d happily see him make more genre movies. Once Upon A Time At Christmas is for the most part fun and entertaining, and the runtime speeds along nicely. It does have its faults but fans of low budget slashers and festive horror will certainly enjoy it more than most.

*** 3/5


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