Once Upon a Time at Christmas finds a killer Santa and Mrs. Claus wreaking havoc on a small town in the twelve days leading up to the Christmas holiday.
I love holiday horror. And I was really looking forward to Once Upon a Time at Christmas when the project was first announced. With some seriously solid holiday horror efforts coming out over the past few years, I had high hopes. As such, it’s a real shame that Once Upon a Time at Christmas turned out so bad. Really, really bad. I’m at a loss to name one thing I liked about this flick. So, I’ll stick to what I didn’t like. I’ve got plenty to say in that regard.
It seems as though director Paul Tanter didn’t care if he got a believable performance out of anyone. The acting is terrible and unconvincing. All of the performances are bad but the actors portraying the teenage characters are perhaps the worst offenders. There isn’t a convincing or sincere scene amongst the entire group. They all come across as inauthentic and out of place in every scene in which they appear. As for the adult thespians, they spend most of their screen time chewing scenery and reciting half-baked dialogue.
Nearly half of the core cast is comprised of sex-obsessed teenagers with no redeeming qualities. And the other half is made up of clueless adults that lack the common sense God gave an ant. Most of the secondary and tertiary characters are only introduced for long enough to be killed off as quickly as they appeared. There’s really no one to invest in here.
The dialogue is all cringeworthy. Actual excerpt: “Please. I have boobs. Boys are dumb.” Who talks like that?
It often feels as though the film has an identity crisis: It can’t make up its mind if it wants to be a police procedural drama, a teen sex romp, or a horror film. There are elements of each written into the lackluster screenplay but none is fully (or successfully) realized.
The final straw is that the ‘big reveal’ is a well-worn and tired trope that’s been done to death a million times and it has been done much better on nearly every other occasion.
The production values are piss poor and the gore effects are amateur at best. The severed fingers looked like they were made of wax and the CG blood is not much better.
This paint by numbers slasher effort falls flat in every possible way. The whole film is just painful to watch. You’re much better off getting your holiday horror fix from a superior effort like Better Watch Out. Once Upon a Time at Christmas is now available on DVD.
WICKED RATING: 1/10
Director(s): Paul Tanter
Writer(s): Christopher Jolley, Simon Phillips (story), and Paul Tanter (story)
Stars: Simon Phillips, Sayla de Goede, Laurel Brady,
Release: December 12, 2017 (DVD)
Studio/ Production Co: LionsGate Home Entertainment
Budget: $1 Million (estimated)