Dir. Derek Braasch, Marcelo Fabani, Phil Herman, James Panetta, & Joel D. Wynkoop (2023)
A man finds four pinecones in the forest that each reveal a different tale of holiday terror.
SOV, a term for films from the golden age of amateur horror films from the 1980's and beyond and meaning Shot On Video, is a genre of horror that is often unexplored by even the most ardent fans. As a general rule, they're terrible, films that are made for friends and family of the director and that usually don't have much of a run beyond perhaps a premier at a local theater or a school gymnasium that's been rented out by the filmmakers. Occasionally, however, you run into films with streaks of brilliance that transcend the terrible production values and subpar acting and become something out of legend. Films like Sledgehammer, Things, and Video Violence become cult classics in their own right, and while Phil Herman's I Slay on Christmas may never reach these heights, it's still an entertaining and watchable microbudget anthology holiday horror (that's a mouthful) with something for everyone.
The shorts range in quality, with some looking like they're straight out of the early 80's and some having a modern, artistic flair. From the trailer park serial killer, portrayed by one of the directors Joel Wynkoop, to the more stylized and arthouse short about a Latino killer who aims to build a Frankenstein that only a mother could love, this Christmas anthology film is an excellent example of the ranginess and creativity of indie horror. The stories are guided by Herman himself, who has found an ethereal (and another oddly place sexual) guide to these four tales of Christmas horror. As per usual, the wraparound is the weakest segment, but even it is interesting and holds the audience's attention.
Don't get me wrong: I Slay on Christmas is cheap as hell. The sound quality is perhaps the worst sin, as some of the dialogue is hard to understand due to the echoey, poor quality of the audio. The quality of the video is likewise subpar at times, but that's hardly a crime in a film that prouldy boasts the SOV moniker. In fact, Herman calls himself the Godfather of SOV Cinema, so it's definitely something the movie wears on its sleeve. This alone is going to be a turnoff for a great many horror fans, but in this case, they're missing out. I Slay on Christmas is worth a watch for fans of cheap horror, and it's not one that will be nearly as boring as most of the films in the genre.
One other gripe that I'd have about the film is the editing near the beginning. Some of the ultra-short shorts near the beginning of the film are also a little out of place, feeling more like snippets of a story that they didn't complete and decided to jam in where they could. In reality, they're teasers for Doomsday Stories, in which a mysterious virus called Meanies turns people into killer zombies. They're out of place, however, and they serve to extend the movie just a little bit longer than it probably should have run. At the very least, however, they're entertaining, so their inclusion doesn't hurt the film all that badly.
There are some excellent practical effects, however, and while they don't always hit, they're a lot better than I expected. This is a full-on Christmas horror, one that does its best to remain in the holiday spirit throughout and one that will hopefully find fans this Christmas. Herman and his merry band of filmmakers do a great job, and while I wasn't the biggest fan of their previous film that I reviewed (Doomsday Stories), this one hit the mark. It's far from perfect, and in fact never had a chance to be. But for what it is, which is a modern SOV classic, it works incredibly well. Check it out this holiday season.
Who this movie is for: SOV horror fans, Anthology movie lovers, People who saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus
Bottom line: For a Christmas anthology film, I Slay on Christmas is one of the better examples. For an SOV, it's perhaps even better. It has its flaws, to be sure, and not all of them are because of its SOV qualities. Regardless, if you're a fan of the genre, or if you can just tolerate ultra-low budget practical effects, as well as some bizarre CGI snowflakes, this is one you definitely want to check out this Christmas.