Dir. Zac Locke (2023)
A girl is attacked by Santa Claus and put into a year-long coma, and when she finally regains consciousness, she must convince her friends that Santa is evil before he comes for them all.
I'm gonna say the thing that Gen X/Y folks are never supposed to admit: Gen Z gets a bad rap. Sure, there are some silly causes du jour, some ridiculous wardrobe choices, and more celebrities-that-are-barely-celebrities than you can count. By and large, however, they're an effective generation, one that has not only fought for their rights but have actually made some real change in the world. You can't take that way from them. I may not agree with all of their causes, and I may think some of their methods are downright stupid, but they've done more to change the world at this point in their generational age than any before. All that said, if you didn't hate Gen Z before watching Santa Isn't Real, it's quite likely that you will afterwards.
Nikki (Kaya Coleman) finds herself attacked by Santa Claus, who nearly does her in. He puts her in a coma, where the doctors and her friends and family believe that she failed in a suicide attempt. Upon awakening, she tries to warn her friends that it was Santa who tried to kill her, and she goes away with them to a cabin for the weekend to celebrate the holidays. Once there, the friends are stalked and killed one by one, and Nikki tries to convince her friends that she is actually telling the truth about her attacker before its too late.
Santa Isn't Real fails nearly from inception. The idea that Santa Claus could attack someone by slitting their wrist, sure, I can buy that that's a suicide attempt. But then he hits her in the head with a snowglobe. I am unaware of that as a potential means of killing yourself. Regardless, once Nikki awakes, her unlikable group of friends become more and more of a representation of their generation, commenting on everthing from religion (and linking it to the belief in Santa Claus, of course) to sexuality and polyamory. The "twist" of the movie, which I won't spoil here, is hardly a twist at all for anyone paying even a modicum of attention to who is in the room throughout most of the violence. There is a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor, but it almost completely falls flat through the majority of the film, a major no-no for a movie that is supposed to be somewhat of a self-aware comedy (I think?).
I hate to be so negative about a film, at least not without having something good to say. What this film does have going for it are a few moments of shocking violence. Despite most of the film being a relatively bloodless showing, the ending ratchets up the violence in disturbing ways. We get a strangulation via Christmas lights, a candy cane through the eye that feels like it was shot by a slightly-less-adept Fulci, and a few other goodies for your Christmas horror thirst. Unfortunately, these moments are few and far between, not nearly enough to save the film from becoming what it is: a lackluster effort at holiday horror that will be worth a watch for fans of the specific genre but not one that will earn a spot in your yearly rotation.
Who this movie is for: Christmas horror fans, Slasher lovers, Gift givers
Bottom line: I wasn't a fan of this one. It's got a creepy Santa, a few moments of queasy gore, and a general sense of holiday spirit. The barely-there humor, the unlikable characters, and the cringey, awkward acting ultimately makes it fail to achieve its goals, however, and it becomes a forgettable Christmas horror that's good for one watch only. If you're a particular fan of the holiday horror genre, you'll want to check it out just to see what all the fuss is about. If not, this one might be best left alone.