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  • Rev Horror

Christmas Cruelty!

Dir. Per-Ingvar Tomren & Magne Steinsvoll (2013)

A serial killer and his victims prepare for the holidays.


It took everything in me not to save this one for Christmas, because I’m a huge fan of Christmas horror movies. However, since Unearthed Films was kind enough to send me a screener I figured I better get it up as soon as possible to prepare for their release. If you’re anything like me, you know that as soon as a film gets the Unearthed treatment, there’s a much better than average chance that it’s going to fucking own: they have excellent taste in films and tend to be as loving as possible with their restoration and treatment of films. One can only hope that, when checking out a horror movie called Christmas Cruelty!, it can be added to your yearly holiday rotation. I’m pleased to say, this one is quite good and is an excellent riff on cult genre classics like Christmas Evil and Silent Night, Deadly Night.

Tormod Lien plays Serial-Santa, a character that is exactly how he sounds. The film opens as he is brutally massacring a family, with the scene’s finale showing Santa murdering a baby with a circular saw. Shortly after that we are introduced to Eline (Elina Aasheim) and her friends Magne and Per-Ingvar (played by directors Magne Steinsvoll and Per-Ingvar Tomren), who are preparing for the holiday season by making Krampus masks. They playfully make fun of each other, a slear and refreshing contrast to the carnage in the opening scene. The trio are eventually stalked by Serial-Santa as he prepares this year’s bout of Christmas cruelty, which works well since it’s the name of the film. It is these two worlds that play together within the film, the contrast between Santa’s brutality and the friends’ affinity for each other.

There’s a good bit of the movie that kinda drags, and you’re almost bored by the time you get to the action. But boy, once things kick off, you’ll forget that you were ever struggling to watch. Tomren and Steinsvoll utilize the slow progression of the plot to lull the audience into a false sense of security, somehow managing to make you almost forget the barbarism of the opening scene. The way that the camera follows the killer makes part of the film almost feel like found footage, a jarring and discomforting assault on the senses designed to throw everything just a little off-kilter. It doesn’t fit the film, but you get the feeling that that’s entirely the point: this is supposed to be twisted, and no matter how much it may at times seem to be so, Christmas Cruelty! is no romantic comedy.

Tormod Lien, who by all accounts is a wonderful human being, plays a disturbing sicko masterfully well, his malice and savagery contrasted perfectly with his nuclear family and boring home life. We don’t ever learn why he does the things that he does, nor do we find out how many times he’s done it. All we know is that this isn’t the first group of people that he has ravaged, and I’ll let you watch the film to see if it’ll be the last. While most of the bloodshed is saved for the film’s brutal conclusion, this one, like most of the more disturbing films out there, feels incredibly real, as if this is a nightmarish possibility rather than “just a horror movie.” This horrific “cinema verite” façade is fantastic, further contrasting the humor used in other parts of the film.

For a movie as disturbing as this one, it’s also hilarious and almost entirely offensive. I guess the political correctness movement never happened in Norway, because you’d get your ass kicked in America if you wrote this into a Hollywood film. The dialogue is amazingly written, though, and is funny when it’s not being overtly offensive. Tomren wears his Tarantino inspiration on his sleeve, delivering grotesque imagery during mundanity and focusing on meaningless dialogue rather than exposition. It makes the movie much more effective and realistic, knowing the closeness of the characters in a way that most films’ dialogue doesn’t allow. The film also has an interesting, American-inspired soundtrack, in which most songs are in English with a lot of the songs written by Tomren and Steinsvoll themselves. The movie is a low-budget indie movie, so you have to stretch every dollar as far as you can, and this was a pretty brilliant way to knock some of the expenses off the books.

Were it not for the indie-minded cinematography, this one would feel more like a snuff film than most of its kind. The soundtrack lends very much to the disturbing nature of the film, and the execution of the film’s intent is practically flawless. I can definitively say that this one isn’t for everyone, especially the faint-hearted, but then again, Unearth has a pretty specific niche that it fills incredibly well. For a holiday horror film, Christmas Cruelty! Delivers in a way that is balls-to-the-wall disturbing cinema. Gone is the playfulness of Gremlins, and you won’t find any of the whimsical holiday spirit of Krampus. This one is straight-up disturbing with a comedic sensibility, making it a relatively unique yuletide offering that will make you check the peephole before letting in Xmas visitors.

Who this movie is for: Holiday horror fans, Foreign horror lovers,

Bottom line: Once again, Unearthed knocks their choice in filmography out of the park, delivering a truly disturbing holiday tale of perversion and violence. While this one may not crack your Thirteen Days of Christmas movies, it’s a fantastic offering for someone who wishes Santa was a little bit more Satan. The killer is brutal and disturbing, and Tomren and Steinsvoll do a great job of playing with the juxtaposition of music, humor, and depravity. Highly recommended for fans of disturbing horror, and I definitely encourage you to get this one from Unearthed Films in time for the holidays.

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