Perhaps sometime between refining pages of a man getting axed in a toy shop and the badass electrocution of a robot Santa, writer-director Joe Begos told his dad about the Christmas movie he was developing.
His dad, Begos told Downright Creepy in an interview, expressed relief that he could finally ditch the neon lights aesthetic that’s come to define the Joe Begos visual style. “And I’m like, ‘well, let me tell you something. It is going to be so goddamn heightened you’re gonna need sunglasses to watch this motherfucker, Dad.’”
And so we’ve been gifted with a neon-soaked nightmare this holiday season: ‘Christmas Bloody Christmas.’ A collision of holiday nostalgia and grim Begos aesthetics, the film follows the gruesome Christmas Eve rampage of a killer robotic Santa Clause and the humbug hero Tori (Riley Dandy) who’s tasked with taking him down. And like Begos recent films ‘Bliss’ and ‘VFW’ before it, is seeped in his signature style: a vibey score, cinematography that screams heavy metal, and underground scene that the writer-director knows all too well. They say your movie characters shouldn’t all be like you — but Joe Begos has no interest in heeding that warning. “It’s a bullshit argument,” he says. If he wasn’t a filmmaker, he says, he’d probably be working in a bar or record shop. Why not lean into the world you’re most familiar with?
“In my world everyone I hang out with is like me because I seek out people who dress like me, who go to the same shows as me, who like the same music and movies as me… There’s definitely a huge crossover between people who like death metal and people who like horror movies but were never quite represented onscreen. I think it’s my duty to properly represent my people onscreen.”
The familiarity of the world shines through, making ‘Christmas Bloody Christmas’ feel more like a hangout film in the spirit of one of Begos’ writing inspirations, Richard Linklater — killer robot be damned. Thus, the character of Tori feels organic to the world Begos builds (with a little help from cinematographer Brian Sowell and longtime musical collaborator Steve Moore, who’s provided already-iconic synth scores for films like ‘The Guest’ and multiple Joe Begos features). Tori would rather go on a Tinder date than sip whiskey by the fire on Christmas Eve. She’d rather have a fuck-filled argument on the sacred nature of long hair in metal bands. Alas, she winds up fighting for her life against a decorative Santa-gone-wrong, complete with green laser eyes and military technology.
Despite the seeming reawakening of the “killer Santa” trope in 2022 (between action-comedy ‘Violent Night’ and the Grinch parody ‘The Mean One,’ it’s one Begos has been set on reimagining for many years. He initially took interest in the iconography of 1980s slasher and holiday horror staple ‘Silent Night, Deadly Night,’ calling it his “dream remake.” A couple of years ago, he was asked to pitch just that, a reimagining of the murderous Santa film for the fans of today. What he originally pitched later became the basis of ‘Christmas Bloody Christmas.’ As for the RobotSanta+ mythology of it all? Well, thankfully for us, Begos turned to the key films that first turned him on to the magic of movies as a child to give it a vibe-driven and techy twist: the ‘Terminator’ series. That, and his favorite piece of holiday horror filmmaking:
“The pilot episode of ‘Tales from the Crypt’ — ‘And All Through the House’ with Larry Drake as Santa… It might’ve been the first thing I saw with a killer Santa as a kid, with the kid trusting Santa because he’s Santa. You see a kid with a killer Santa like what’s gonna happen but it’s like, ‘Oh, I know what’s gonna fucking happen.’”
And so it does in ‘Christmas Bloody Christmas.’ Grab a glass of eggnog, buckle up, and spend a night amongst the neon and gore.
‘Christmas Bloody Christmas’ is now in select theaters and streaming on Shudder.