27th Aug2018

Frightfest 2018: ‘Secret Santa’ Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: Michael Rady, Drew Lynch, Debra Sullivan, A Leslie Kies, Ryan Leigh Seaton, John Gilbert, Pat Destro, Nathan Hedrick, Michelle Renee Allaire, Curtis Fortier, Freddy John James, Petra Areskoug, Tracy Drolet, William Dixon, Scott Burkett | Written by Adam Marcus, Debra Sullivan | Directed by Adam Marcus


Just behind horror, believe it or not, my second favourite genre of film is ‘Christmas’. I will watch anything if it has a Christmas theme or is set at that time of year. So obviously when these two genres mix, I am over the moon! And there’s plenty of great Christmas horror movies out there. Even in the last few years we’ve had Krampus, A Christmas Horror Story and Better Watch Out. And I was hoping Secret Santa would be added to the list of films I will watch once a year.

Opening with a blood-filled fight which we see through the ‘eyes’ of a snow globe, the film then rewinds four hours so we get the build-up to this event. Similar to Krampus, the movie starts with a family gathering. We are introduced to all the relatives and their partners and while they talk to each other over the dinner table, we soon get an idea of what kind of person they all are. Things soon get heated though when the Secret Santa begins. For anyone that doesn’t know Secret Santa is when a group of people all put their names in a hat and then pick a name out and have to buy that person a present. Normally with a price limit. But here, it doesn’t go as nicely as planned and past history soon gets bought up, eventually leading to someone getting stab with a fork! Yes things escalate pretty quickly. From there we see a whole lot more fighting, blood and death!

If you hadn’t have guessed from that description, this is all done with a healthy dose of comedy. Not every joke hits home but a pretty good percentage does and it all adds a sense of fun to proceedings. The deaths come thick and fast but you’ll soon be unsure why certain people are killing other people. Thankfully things do get cleared up pretty quickly and the movie takes a bit of a different direction for its final third. There are some practical effects but a lot of the blood is CGI but it doesn’t look as bad as other times I have seen it used. Things do get a little bit gross and vile at times to. For people that are maybe not die-hard horror film watchers, things like blood being spewed from one persons mouth to another or a character doing unmentionable things to a decapitated head, might seem a little bit too much.

Director Adam Marcus has had a slightly strange career as a director. Starting with a bang, his debut feature was Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday but then he didn’t make another film for six years and then it was a romantic comedy. Now in 2018, twenty five years after his Friday the 13th film, he returns to horror (although he did write the 2013 Texas Chainsaw prequel). But he seemingly still knows what makes genre fans tick and it’s hard to imagine those fans not taking plenty of enjoyment from Secret Santa.

Secret Santa has indeed been added to my list of films I will watch in December each year. It’s not just set at Christmas, the whole things is based around families getting together for the holiday, there’s many shots of snow and decorations and lights and maybe most importantly it uses Christmas music to perfection. Secret Santa is up there with the best holiday horror.

**** 4/5

Secret Santa screened at Arrow Video Frightfest on August 27th.


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