BITS 2019: Our Review of ‘The Nights Before Christmas’

Posted in BITS 2019, Festival Coverage, Movies by - November 21, 2019
BITS 2019: Our Review of ‘The Nights Before Christmas’

Director Paul Tanter’s horror film The Nights Before Christmas is quite a mixed bag. In the nights leading up to Christmas, deranged psychopaths Nicholas (Simon Phillips) and Michelle (Sayla de Goede) – who prefer to be referred to as Santa and Mrs. Claus respectively – launch a murderous rampage on a small town in an unfinished revenge plot following the events of 2017’s Once Upon a Time at Christmas

The film’s tone is very uneven. At times it’s a cheesy Slasher B-movie (which is where it’s the most fun), and at other times it’s a relatively serious yet stale police procedural, occasionally punctuated by a strong performance by Kate Schroder as Agent Parker. 

Phillips and de Goede are clearly having a blast playing these ridiculously over-the-top murderers, a festive Mickey and Mallory (the Mrs. Claus character is also obviously inspired by DC Comics’ Harley Quinn), but much of the rest of the acting ranges from adequate to dreadful. 

The screenplay does the actors no favours. Much of the dialogue is hokey, there are beats that don’t make much sense, and considering the sheer number of times the phrase “the list” is used, the words lose all meaning. 

I feel that this movie is not sure what it wants to be. The silly Slasher aspects (while occasionally very bloody) often feel like they’re pulling their punches, and the procedural sequences come across as an afterthought to get us back to the blood. Still, there is some fun to be had with The Nights Before Christmas – particularly when it revels in its own insanity – but I would recommend keeping your expectations in check. 

The movie screens with director Ali Mashayekhi’s short film One in Two People, which I thoroughly enjoyed. At about seven minutes, it’s short, it’s tense, and it bears similarities to David F. Sanberg’s original Lights Out short. Not in plot points, but in similar pacing, cadence, and presentation. I didn’t find it particularly scary, but I got a nice little chill at the end.

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