Chattanooga Film Festival 2024: ‘Carnage For Christmas’ Takes Big Successful Swings

Credit: One Manner Productions

At not quite 20 years old it is endlessly exciting that director Alice Maio Mackay is already on her 5th feature. Watching a filmmaker grow with each feature is inspiring and Mackay is certainly growing at a breakneck pace. Her latest feature, ‘Carnage For Christmas,’ is not only a fun holiday caper, but also her best work to date. Those following along can see Mackay honing in on her own voice and refining her style. The benefit of youth is the ability to take big swings with less concern about potential failures and Mackay is definitely swinging…and largely succeeding!

Carnage For Christmas’ follows true-crime podcaster Lola (Jeremy Moineau) as she goes back to her hometown for the holidays. This is her first trip back since transitioning and she is apprehensive about how the people in her small rural town will greet her. Once she gets there it quickly becomes apparent that small minds are only the tip of the iceberg as the case of a historical murderer gets stirred up with new murders and many of the victims seem to lead back to Lola. Lola must use everything she’s learned in the true-crime world to track down the real murderer before she ends up dead or arrested.

While staying with, and trying to protect, her sister, Lola navigates reconnecting with people who only knew her before she transitioned. She learns that the town has a tight knit queer community who are particularly vulnerable not only to this dangerous murderer, but also to the indifference of local authorities. As the murder spree continues the kills get increasingly creative and more grisly. Mackay is dedicated to the use of practical effects and that dedication undeniably pays off in the largest showpiece kill that I will not spoil here.

My first thought as this film concluded was “this is Murder She Wrote for a new generation.” I would follow Lola’s podcast version of JB Fletcher through a full series where she solves small town murders while reminding us that community is where we create it. While there may be nothing particularly groundbreaking in the story itself, the lens through which we are seeing it is one that has been needed in horror, and filmmaking in general. I don’t know if there are any plans for a sequel, but the thought of a franchise that follows the continued adventures of the final girl rather than the repeated butchery of a slasher is intriguing.

There is, of course, still room to grow. There are times where the budget constraints still show through on the effects and not all of the acting is quite where it needs to be, but most of that was easily overlooked for me. The storytelling is on the right track and the editing keeps the film moving at an exciting pace.

The biggest gift that Mackay brings to the table is her ability to effortlessly center the trans experience of the lead while letting the rest of the action intertwine smoothly into that facet of the story. No one is treated as a character trope or a token. This is why it is critical to open the doors to more queer voices, they are the ones most capable of telling their stories with care. I can’t wait to see what else Mackay has in store for us, and what other storytellers she inspires as her career progresses.

Chattanooga Film Festival 2024: ‘Carnage For Christmas’ Takes Big Successful Swings