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Once Upon a Time at Christmas - Lionsgate Print E-mail
User Rating: / 2
Written by Jay Creepy   
Monday, 11 December 2017
Severed Cinema Review of Once Upon a Time at Christmas from Lionsgate


Directed by: Paul Tanter
Written by: Christopher Jolley, Paul Tanter, Simon Phillips
Produced by: Mem Ferda, Paul Tanter, Simon Phillips.
Cinematography by: Jamie Bailey, Daryl Gilmore
Editing by: Robert Gajic
Music by: Darren Morze
Special Effects by: Anthonia Bejide
Cast: Simon Phillips, Sayla de Goede, Laurel Brady, Brook Fletcher, Barry Kennedy, Jeff Ellenberger.
Year: 2017
Country: UK/USA
Language: English
Color: Color
Runtime: 1h 37min

Studio: Alpha Hollywood Studios, Hollywood Media Bridge, Runaway Features
Distributor: Lionsgate Home Entertainment

It takes nearly two minutes of the running time to get through all the production companies and their logos involved in this low budget release from Paul Tanter. Paul is known on the UK underground indie circuit for the White Collar Hooligan trilogy, Essex Boys Retribution and He Who Dares. Low in glamour, big in brutal violence and a lot of shouting. Straight to DVD five quid jobs for a night in with a beer. Paul has bagged one of his regular go-to fellas, and known face on the British scene, Simon (Bonded by Blood, The Last Seven, Alien Uprising) Phillips, who also co-wrote this ditty, as Santa.

Once Upon a Time at Christmas opens with a lady in a cell dressed in a Christmas suit. She's seducing a police officer. I was a bit bewildered why everything is so American sounding and looking. Then I figured, they've headed over to the USA and chewed some of the apple pie. She's quite entertained by his threats of “the chair,” plus there's mention of somebody else who's still outside and free. Credits and an eerie simple piano rendition of Jingle Bells sets the mood for what will hopefully become a cult classic family X-mas flick. Then we're introduced to Sheriff Mitchell and Deputy Fullard who are on the snowy scene of an incident. Severed head in a bag. As they speak we see brief flashes of the killing, courtesy of the lady at the beginning, then a stocky bloke dressed as Santa with an axe. She's clearly a Harley Quinn knock-off in her mannerisms and performance.

Young and nubile, Jennifer, wakes up to an argument between her parents and an amusing text message. Life isn't great at her household in Woodbridge. “Mom! What is this?” she enquires after her Pops leaves. “It's complicated.” Mom replies. That is a nice predictable answer right there. Cheers, Mom. They're gonna stay together until after the festive season. Jennifer is quite downtrodden, understandably.

Hey, we're in a Dawn of the Dead mall. Jennifer and her posing girl chums see there's no Santa in the mall. His chair is vacant. She was to be his Elf. Ah well, onto normal teen girl chit chat. “I don't know what I want for Christmas.” “Erm, a boyfriend with a big cock!” says Megan. Ah yes, pure Shakespearian. Megan's fella tells them that Father Christmas is dead outside surrounded by police. The fact that these teens can act fairly okay, then along comes a robotic sounding tool playing Jennifer's boyfriend and he totally cripples their skills gang. He reminded me of Stephen Lack in Cronenberg's, Scanners. There's going to be a party on the eve of this film's special day. Meanwhile, the odd one out continues to drag the scene downwards.

Anyway, back to the action. The hulking brute dressed as Santa and Harley Qui.... I mean, the girl known only as Mrs. Claus, carry on their rampage around the small town with such joys as burning a couple in their car, and performing a killer home invasion. Sheriff Mitchell and his Deputy follow whatever leads they can get, convinced that -- even though there's all different M.Os -- they must be connected.

Most of the teenage girls in this town must be constantly thinking about cock, because 'cock' comes up in many conversations! A gaggle of them are decimated in the toilets of a bar. Fast, but dimmed by crappy CGI splatter. Santa is happy to leave one survivor, Jennifer's friend, Courtney. “Let's not be greedy, Missus Claus. Four is enough for one day.”

Our Sheriff now has a description. Mr. and Mrs. Claus, or “Two freaks dressed up as...” which is a start. The FBI become involved. They have CCTV images and one FBI agent assumes that Santa could be ex-military, or a cop, with the ability to take down many victims and move fast. As for the FBI, they don't last very long in a bloodbath police headquarters horror classic ingredient. After this, many residents flee the town. A new little ditty emerges when the cops discover that fingers have been removed from each corpse at the police headquarters. One officer did get a shot fired so they begin to search for blood amongst the mass of blood on show. Marshall figures that the killings are by chance, the number doesn't matter, though it is escalating. He feels the murderers are getting close to something.

At the mall, Jennifer closes Santa's Grotto for the evening and discovers two things waiting for her. There's a card from St Nick. 'See you on the 12th' it says, plus a jack-in-a-box filled with fingers. Afterwards, Marshall believes that Jennifer is being reached out to for some reason. She has no idea why.

Christmas day is growing ever closer and the plot is thickening. The killers are tormenting the cops who are chasing them. Jennifer needs to know more about what is going on. The citizens are in panic. Then Mr. and Mrs. Claus really step up the game...

Had it not been for the moments of CGI bloody bollocks, Once Upon a Time at Christmas could be viewed as a great homage to the ‘80s Santa slashers. It has killings, mixed acting and above all, fun. Simon Phillips towers as the murderous jolly man in red, with one white blind eye. In fact, both he and Sayla de Goede (Mrs. Claus) rack up the tension in parts and there is certainly a healthy body count. They don't care. There's a slaughterhouse section in a strip club witnessed by crowds of people. “Merry Christmas, everyone!!” Santa yells in demented rage.

I truly enjoyed this festive family soon to be favourite. It has more structure than a lot of recent films doing the same thing, and, as I said before, it could slip nicely into an ‘80s stocking. Once Upon a Time at Christmas has inventiveness, tons of crimson juice (I don't mean cranberry either), plus a convincing unstoppable beast.

Where it falters is characterisation. The cops are cookie cutter shapes, whilst the teens are stereotypical. However, that makes the killers far more interesting. Let's face it, did anyone want the cast of the Friday 13th or Chain Saw Massacre films to live? More to the point, can anybody recall all the victims in Christmas Evil or Silent Night, Deadly Night? No! Why? We just wanted them all to be cut down and writhe in agony for maybe a few moments.

So, gather your family old and young. Leave the dishes after your meal. Curl up around the raging fireplace as the cold wind lashes your home outside. Stare across at the TV screen. Blessed all as you watch Once Upon a Time at Christmas and your loved ones cry and become totally mortified. That is, unless your family can enjoy a great violent bloody slice of madness with their mince pie.

Who needs Mickey's Christmas Carol anyway? A sequel has already been announced for December 2018. By the way, what goes Ho Ho Ho -- bonk? Santa cutting someone’s head off.




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