On the first day of Christmas a movie took from me…97 minutes of my life that I’ll never get back.
Paul Tanter’s ONCE UPON A TIME AT CHRISTMAS is one of the worst holiday horror films I”ve ever seen. In this bloody suck-fest two psychos dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus terrorize the small town of Woodrige in the twelve days leading up to Christmas. With each day of Christmas comes a new slew of murders with increasing body counts, starting with a mall Santa whose surname is Partridge, moving on to two teens who were killed while making out at Turtle Dove Point, etc. At one point the killers murder six geese, literally leaving six geese-a-laying. The local and possibly alcoholic sheriff and his young hot-to-trot deputy bumble about trying to find a pattern in these killings while the sleazy mayor of this sleepy town is only concerned with keeping the mall open so patrons will shop then shop some more.
The film’s concept is absolutely wonderful, but the writing and execution leaves much to be desired. From blinking corpses to Podunk New Yorkers with Canadian accents, the film is riddled with flaws. For instance, while Woodridge is supposedly a tiny secluded town where everyone knows each other, they somehow manage to have a mega mall that is always crowded. The axe wielding maniac Santa is able to take down five trained FBI agents in a matter of seconds without being heard by any of the cops int he next room over. The size of the town seems to fluctuate from shot to shot, the special effects are awful, and I’ve seen better acting come out of 7 year old’s in elementary school plays. There are many errors one can forgive when watching a low budget slasher flick, and often those errors add to the charm of a movie, but each glaring flaw detracted from what could have been a fun ride through a snow-covered hell.
While watching ONCE UPON A TIME AT CHRISTMAS I got the feeling that the film wouldn’t played out better had the filmmakers edited their ideas down to something a bit more concise. A copious amount of tropes are thrown in the mix leaving us with a muddled story of a military veteran who was scorned around the holidays and rotted in a mental asylum before escaping to wreak havoc on the town he once called home. He was once a renowned war hero, yet no one seems to recognize or remember him, and once we formally meet the killer his motivations become even more convoluted. We get the general sense of his main motivation, but it’s bogged down by brief and twisted games that are reminiscent of The Dark Knight‘s Joker.
I’m such a fan of holiday horror films and the camp that inherently comes with the genre and I truly wanted to love this film, but in the case of ONCE UPON A TIME AT CHRISTMAS, Santa and Mrs. Claus fail to deliver the goods.