The idea of an anthology of holiday horror films that would act as a sort of an advent calendar of horror is a fantastic idea. I sat in theater 4 at Screenland Armour during Panic Fest with this knowledge in my head and excitement in my holiday horror-loving heart. That’s the thing about expectations though, they can make you disappointed really quickly and that’s what happened to me during my screening of DEATHCEMBER.
DEATHCEMBER advertises that it is 24 horror films by 24 directors, each acting as a day on the advent calendar. However, the film cut off after 12 films without giving us information as to why. While I appreciate and respect how difficult it is to make a film, I wish we were given more information about the film going in. The confusion among the crowd was palpable as the credits rolled after day 12 and no one knew if we were done or not. It wasn’t until I researched the Kickstarter that I saw the calendar.
For the most part, the short films were pretty interesting. My favorite was Getting Away from it All directed by Pollyanna McIntosh. It followed a guy that just wants to get away from the commercialism of Christmas. It was so simple and funny and I related to his distaste. Another amazing one was All Sales Fatal which was directed by Michael Varrati. It showcased the importance of bringing your receipt when trying to return a present to the store. As someone who has worked retail during the holidays, this made me belly laugh. The last of my favorites was Villancicos directed by Isaac Ezban. This followed a family whose little boy was dying but his heart would start beating when he heard the Christmas carolers. Guess they just have to stay around caroling…forever.
On the opposite side of the coin, there was a short film that was so disturbing that it made the entire film unenjoyable. It was called Crappy Christmas: Operation Christmas Child directed by Juergen Kling. It was about a child who gets kidnapped by a pedophiliac clergyman who rapes him repeatedly. The film thinks that because it is in Gumby-like claymation that it will soften the blow but seeing a claymation rape of a child isn’t something I am interested in seeing in any medium. What is unfortunate is that this short film was so unnecessary that viewers leave the film only thinking of this instead of the other, more enjoyable films. There was nothing Christmas-y about the film and it was included just for the reaction and that just isn’t intelligent horror in my opinion.
In between each film, the camera swooped through a CGI room filled with items and opened like a door to an advent calendar. While I appreciate the idea, I wasn’t a fan of how it was done because there was just too much movement. I would have rather seen the door open as they did in Christmas Vacation: an actual calendar that someone is physically opening the door to. It would give it a vintage feel and would have been more impactful than the CGI camera movements.
I wish I had more positive things to say about DEATHCEMBER. There was very little that screamed the holidays and the few that did were completely overshadowed by one short film that shouldn’t have been included at all. If I wanted to watch graphic and disgusting acts, I’d watch A Serbian Film (which I have never seen and never intend to). What I wanted to see was 24 funny and scary holiday films and what I got was 3 really good holiday shorts, 8 moderately interesting ones and 1 film that should never have been made in the first place.