The Nights Before Christmas Review: The Shite Before Christmas!
Updated: Apr 17
Dir: Paul Tanter
Release Date: 2019
“A murderous Santa and Mrs Claus play a killer cat and mouse game with the FBI.”
In the seemingly endless world of Christmas based Horror, there are some enjoyable and some terrible (I resisted the naughty and nice comparison as this film has made it quite unbearable). This film seemed to be heading to the in between of these two until I realised something. Let us begin…..
Our opening caption states, ‘FOUR YEARS AGO’, which I suppose is at least a bit different to the usual, ‘FOUR YEARS LATER’, which comes after the opening scene. Well, this opening scene is a Doctor looking at a light which goes in and out of focus for too long and then some Harley Quinn wannabe woman with big teeth and a burned bearded guy dressed in Santa outfits and all covered in blood. We get the gist that this an asylum and they show some cuts of staff being burned and the like.
“WHAT’S MY NAME?”, demands the guy many times and eventually the Doc replies with ‘Santa Claus’ and we can all move on.
New caption says, ‘PRESENT DAY’, and we meet a jumpy girl with pink hair sitting in a diner when her dad arrives and tries to get her to come home for Christmas. They talk about a year ago when people were killed or something and she declines to join him. She gives us a Santa jump scare and we cut to her dad driving home. As is the tradition in all movies, her dad is concentrating on everything except driving and swerves off and crashes after seeing Santa in the middle of the road. He then runs through the woods while some throwing axes hit trees near him. He gets cornered by Santa and is killed by a big double axe handle swing from above the head. Sadly, when we see the body, his wounds look awful and more superficial than anything remotely life threatening.
That is when the FBI turn up and take over the case with them letting the audience know that the dad was a survivor of a massacre a year ago and lead us through a flashback. This (being at only 17 minutes) is where I realised who was playing the Santa character and the film was ruined*.
The FBI then declare, “They’re back”, and we pan back to reveal ‘Naughty’ written in blood in the snow. It turns out that this is a sequel to ‘Once Upon a Time at Christmas’ from 2017 with the same team at the helm. I will check my archives and see if I have seen it as I sure don’t remember.
To distract us from everything, we have a scene involving a bit of a dance from a girl in her underwear until she eventually reveals her breasts and then stops when her boyfriend turns out to be dead and Mr and Mrs Claus are in her house. Santa bites her neck, and some crazy blood splatter ensues as he has metal teeth. These teeth are why I didn’t recognise the voice before the 17th minute flashback as they stop him sounding so annoying. 'Naughty'
At the dad’s funeral, Mrs Claus turns up and a car chase ensues which turns out to be a distraction so Santa can get to the church, catch the priest stealing, remind him of him sexually abusing Mrs Claus in hospital and then killing him with the axe. ‘Naughty’.
The best thing about being in the FBI is having the FBI emblem on absolutely everything! Computer screen savers are all the emblem, and these somehow stay on even when people are using the computers, they have flags dotted about the place with the emblem on them, their coats have the emblem, even the walls have the emblem plastered all over them. I guess it must be in case they forgot where they worked.
Anyway, they interview Mrs Claus, and she gets to overact a bit more. We meet the ex-sheriff who fills us in on why Santa has metal teeth, apparently, he pulled his own teeth out so they wouldn’t be able to recognise he was not one of the corpses at the asylum. I’m still not sure how that would work. Surely, he should have removed the teeth of the actual corpses instead of his own but, hey, he was insane, I guess. The ex-sheriff gets killed (poisoned for some reason), his granddaughter gets a visit from Santa, he chats shit with her but ultimately leaves ‘Nice’ with her and she is okay.
Some more FBI emblems and the female Special Agent heads off to the asylum where she meets a former orderly turned caretaker because you often need to retain one of the staff to just wander around an abandoned building for 4 years after you close down.
“Did you beat the patients?”
“It was part of the treatment. It was kinder than electroshock.”
This was just one of the revelations he shares with us. He also told us that the dad who got killed also worked at the asylum! What are the chances?!
Back at the FBI, more people sit in front of their emblem screensaver pcs while the Agents finally figure out the Naughty and Nice references that were so subtly left for them.
WHAT IF IT’S AN ACTUAL LIST???
You can see why they got to become ‘Special’ Agents. They don’t miss a trick.
Back to the Sheriff’s lockup now where Mrs Claus builds a little feeling of sexy menace and then ruins it by overacting all annoyingly again. The Special Agent gets her voicemail from the now dead ex-sheriff saying, ‘It’s an actual list!!’. She questions that out loud as if she doesn’t understand what an actual list is even though they already mentioned the exact same thing themselves in a previous scene.
Such a confusing concept, this list thing.
Asylum Jim (unlikely that is his actual name) is still patrolling the abandoned building when he hears the obligatory noises which he simply must investigate by shouting, “Hello?”, and shining a small torch around. He finds some Christmas decorations and lights on the floor and he continues to snoop around instead of just fucking right off like any normal person. We see a shrine of photographs for about 5 seconds and ‘Jim’ gets hung by some Christmas lights until dead. ‘Naughty’.
Back at the lock-up, they are preparing to transfer Mrs Claus out to somewhere else and we get a rookie cop being spoken to by an idiot wearing some of the smallest spectacles I have ever seen. They are so far down his nose, I doubt he can even see anything through them though, even if they were in the correct position, he would struggle as they are bloody tiny.
He is giving the rookie some of his wisdom regarding transferring dangerous prisoners, or just scaring him with stories of old times, I don’t know what his intentions were, but the focus of the rookie is on Mrs Claus as she is walked past him in mega slo-mo and gives him a looooong wink (checking back to make sure I spelled WINK correctly).
Now, as a rule in films, if they show you a dangerous prisoner being transferred, you can be certain that it will not go according to plan. We get the chat inside the van, some sexual references, the rookie looking nervous, the usual stuff. Sticking with clichés, there is a vehicle blocking the road and they have to stop. It’s Santa of course, coming to bust his wife out! Mrs Claus uses the distraction and kills some cops inside the van with her stiletto heel and still not one of the others just shoots her. Some bloodshed and the rookie gets killed. Poor guy never had a chance. Lots of maniacal laughter from the Claus duo and end of set piece.
My notes at this point get a little sketchy as I had been drinking as quickly as I had been losing interest in this whole film.
‘Tits again’ is what I have written though I can’t remember them, who they belonged to or why we saw them. This is something I will just have to try to come to terms with and live with forever more.
Apologies to the lady in question. You deserve better.
After finally just looking at the clues (a big step for the investigators), we once again realise that it’s an actual list and that it is connected to the Asylum somehow (no shit) so we head off to some corporate boardroom for more babbling and killings.
It’s the stereotypical cut-throat business boardroom scene where everyone is a bastard and talking aggressively chauvinistic shit. The biggest bastard in the room leaves to take a piss. Our blood-soaked Santa is in the bathroom and, after deciding it wise to ridicule and call a clearly deranged Santa names for no reason, this bastard has his penis cut off and is killed. The Claus couple storm the boardroom and take it upon themselves to actually explain the plot to everyone regarding this actual list thing we keep hearing about. Apparently, they have taken umbrage at the way they were treated at the asylum so found the names and addresses of everyone on the asylum Christmas Card list!!
What the shit?
I know they’re insane and all but that is a really stupid basis for any revenge plot.
Well, after the long and ridiculous explanation of it all, they kill everyone in the boardroom in a total massacre and get out of there. The girl with the pink hair discusses the list again at the hospital bedside of her Uncle. Apparently his is the last name on the list!
Tomas Bolan if you’re interested. I wasn’t.
Anyway, she is double crossed by her friend (who I thought was her sister until this point) and when Santa turns up, it is suggested that he is actually her friend’s father. Turns out there is a double-double-cross and Uncle Tomas ends up dead. Naughty.
We get a talky talky standoff and, without giving away the end (I honestly cannot remember it), someone gets shot, we have more blah blah blah chat, and they leave it open for (another?) sequel.
I may not watch it if they do make a sequel now that I know who is responsible and starring in it and, if I have seen the first one, watching this was an honest mistake as I would have made that same decision then as well.
If you do watch this, I can suggest you play a drinking game which is triggered either every time you hear the word, ‘Santa’, ‘list’, or see an FBI emblem. I didn’t play this game, but I still needed alcohol to get through it.
Apologies for the lack of professionalism I have shown here.
FAVOURITE CHARACTER: Mrs Claus. I found it difficult to get it straight as to whether I found her sexy or just annoying, but I will give her the benefit of the doubt here
FAVOURITE MOMENT: I’m just gonna say tits at this point
Everyone in the film: “It’s an actual list!”
FAVOURITE DEATH: I suppose a severed penis always wins this one
*Simon Phillips has been in many a terrible film for just under 15 years now, a lot of them being awful cock-a-ney gangster/football hooligan efforts and, in my humble opinion, the worst of these being, ‘He Who Dares: The Downing Street Siege’ where he gets a lot of screen time being smug and totally irritating. Paul Tanter has also directed most of these shambolic things usually sharing the writing and producer credits with Phillips