Twas the nights before Christmas and all through the town stalked a big psycho killer with a blood-covered frown.

It’s the time of year for holiday cheer, but for one small town, it’s death that draws near.

THE NIGHTS BEFORE CHRISTMAS is a sequel to the 2017 film Once Upon a Time at Christmas. In the first film, a serial killer dressed as Santa Claus wreaks havoc on a small town as he relentlessly pursues a young woman who works as a mall elf. The police are at a loss to make a connection between the victims until it’s revealed that the mall elf, Jennifer, is Santa’s daughter.

Flash forward to present day in THE NIGHTS BEFORE CHRISTMAS and Jennifer (Shannon Cotter) is in witness protection after the traumatic incidents from the first film. But Santa (Simon Phillips) is still on the loose, and he still has murder on the mind.

How is this psychotic Santa choosing his victims this time? And is dear Jennifer on the list? As the body count grows once again, FBI agent Natalie Parker (Kate Schroder) must discover what’s motivating his crimes to stop the Christmas chaos.

I’m a sucker for Christmas horror, and writer/director Paul Tanter has put together a fun holiday horror gift with this film by combining the serial killer/FBI subgenre with the gory good cheer of a modern slasher. All the holiday horror elements are here from the blood-soaked Santa suit to festive kills. Death by Christmas lights, anyone? Fellow fans of holiday horror will enjoy the nods to other genre classics like Santa visiting a six-year-old girl a la Silent Night, Deadly Night.

A good villain is hard to develop, and Tanter and co-writer Simon Phillips do a good job of keeping their killer appropriately mysterious in his motives. What do these killers want? “The same thing they always want,” agent Parker says, “to play a game.”

Although THE NIGHTS BEFORE CHRISTMAS packs plenty of punch, it’s simple storyline is a double-edged sword. I appreciated their lean approach, but it lead to repetitive scenes with characters re-sharing the same pieces of information to each other several times. Had they tightened these scenes, I think I would have enjoyed the film even more.

Filled with hyper serious police dialogue, melodramatic villain monologues, betrayals, and blood, THE NIGHTS BEFORE CHRISTMAS is the spiritual sister to the down and dirty Lifetime exploitation movies of Christmas past. Check it out in that sweet spot two hours before Christmas dinner. After all, you’ll need time for your stomach to settle.


Adrienne Clark
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