Deadly Little Christmas 2009
Directed by: Novin Shakiba
Starring: Felissa Rose, Monique La Barr, Noa Geller
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
I used to think when I was watching all these slasher features that the directors must have been massive genre fans. In my youthful foolishness, I really believed that they had been as much inspired by John Carpenter’s Halloween as I had been and were paying homage through their own attempt at creating something similar. The reality is nowhere near as romantic though and the truth is that money was the domineering factor behind the production of most releases during the cycle’s heyday. Studios looked at the minimal budget of those hits and the income that they generated and rolled out any director that was willing to work for an agreeable rate. There are very few entries that have been made by people with a respect or true love for the sub-genre, which I guess is human nature. Money always comes first.
But, this one could be slightly different. There’s been a bit of a lull in the popularity of slashers for the past few years, so there are better cinematic avenues for a quick turn of cash. Deadly Little Christmas has a great cover with a tag line that says, ‘First there was Halloween, then Friday the 13th. Now the scariest day of them all’. It was shot in 2009 and I couldn’t help thinking that Novin Shakiba could be a guy just like me. Someone who grew up watching and loving these pictures and now he finally got the chance to make his own tribute to them.
It kicks off fifteen years ago in familiar territory with the murder of an adulterous father and his mistress with a blade on Christmas day. A kid walks outside with the knife in his hand and we are treated to a very similar shot to the one from the opening of Halloween and an almost identical score (just played in a slightly different key). Go to modern day and we learn that he has been in an asylum for the past fifteen years and has become mute. You know what’s coming next, right? He breaks out the day before Xmas and heads back to the town where his family reside…
There have been so many DTV quickies released since 1996 that even most true category enthusiasts don’t bother with them and focus more of their attention on the rarities from the eighties. I must admit that even I have trouble sitting through films like Camp Blood and its numerous bottom shelf sharing counterparts, but every now and then you can come across one that makes the hunt worthwhile.
Deadly Little Christmas certainly looks cheap and shows obvious signs of being rolled out on the lowest imaginable budget. This is most evident in its choice of location for the majority of the action, which is a community hall; probably the one most local to producer David Sterling’s house. Now Sterling has a bigger list of B-movie titles under his belt than Ron Jeremy has porn appearances, but some of them are so obscure that they’re not listed on most film sites. I have spoken to directors that have worked with him and been told that he sticks to the tightest of budgets, once not fronting a measly $20 for a prop that was essential to the story. I was also informed that he had managed a shoot that had finished some five minutes under the required runtime, so he decided to chuck in a lesbian sex scene that had no coherence to the story whatsoever. There is of course a market for this kind of thing, but it’s not one that particularly interests me.
As you can imagine and being that slasher movies are relatively simple to manufacture, he has been involved in quite a few and many of them are the worst kind. Deadly Little Christmas is another of that ilk, which only separates itself by having the right ideas, but nowhere near enough of what’s needed to realise them. Shakiba is ambitious with his method of allowing his plot to dictate the flow of the movie, but it is hampered by awful performances and a notably weak script. There’s a twist that was hinted at a number of times and therefore given away far too early, which means that it is everything but a shock when finally revealed.
Between all the lame drawn out dialogue there are a handful of lamer murders. One of them is hilarious as the actor shakes for about fifteen seconds after being stabbed in the ear (you can see it above). The weapon of choice seems to be a retractable blade and the effects mount to a few litres of red stuff and little else. The lack of budget is reflected in the killer’s guise and there’s nothing intimidating about a hooded top and dime store mask. They went for the age old slasher chestnut of lining up all the corpses around a table for the conclusion, but any atmosphere that could have been built soon vanishes when it results in a shouting match between the remaining cast members, which plays more like a let’s see who can be the least convincing competition. Felissa Rose has been in numerous budget flicks (including Sleepaway Camp), but is really bad and unconvincing here. All of the characters lack charm and allure and most scenes are over written and the point could have been conveyed much quicker. This means that the movie feels tired very early on in the runtime and fails to maintain intrigue.
I think that Novin Shakiba is a fan of the category and it can be seen by the amount that he borrows from Halloween that he wasn’t just in this one for the pay-cheque. But his good ideas don’t stand out because they have been surrounded by poor production values and rancid dramatics. How much of this is the fault of the director himself is questionable. But for whatever reason, there is nothing to raise this one above the rest of Sterling’s back catalogue and it is sadly yet another DTV throwaway; albeit one with a Christmas theme.
Final Girl √