The Christmas Tapes


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Christmas Tapes
"A likeable little anthology."

It’s that special time of year again. Snowflakes softly falling, sleigh bells jingling, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, and seasonally themed horror anthologies making their way onto your favourite viewing platforms. Amongst this year’s chilling concoctions is this five-part collection from Robert Livings and Randy Nundlall Jr, whose premise is a gift to any critics feeling short on goodwill to all men. Its wraparound story features a family being literally tied down and forced to watch Christmas horror videos. This is not, however, the worst fare of its kind, and for certain viewers, even the bit about being held at gunpoint may seem preferable to having to endure another Santa Claus themed kids’ comedy on the TV.

We don’t really know much about this family – only that they’re enjoying their usual Christmas Eve traditions, that the event is being filmed by young artist Rachel (Ruby Setnik), and that they are naïve enough to have let a stranger with really bad patter in at the door. The kind of guy who bases his self worth on how much he knows about very specific bootleg videos, and probably spends the rest of his time on Twitter telling people thst they’re wrong about their own experiences, he’s all twee Eighties haircut and vacant eyes, but if he can make this family feel something, even misery, then he’ll know he still exists. So out come the VHS tapes, and everybody needs to pay attention, because there will be a test.

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First up is Travel Buggies, set on a bright winter day when the sunlight is glittering off crisp white snow and icicles frame the entrance to a scenic tunnel. This is Donner Pass, site of the historic Donner Party incident (those of you not in the know should probably set aside the seasonal snacks before you look it up). Our heroine wants to film the place for her vlog. Thereafter, she had her companion go camping, but they haven’t thought it through, it’s very cold and they’re seriously underequipped. In due course it all goes a bit Blair Witch. There are no surprises here and not much plot, but on a certain level it functions as a useful public information film.

Next we move onto The Christmas Gift, the strongest of the segments. Herein, a father tries to giive his kids a festive surprise by having himself delivered to them in a box, but he hasn’t really thought it through, nor visited the right websites (being transported like this is a surprisingly common fetish and there’s all sorts of cautionary advice out there). It doesn’t help that he’s claustrophobic, but his more serious mistake lies in his failure to look into the background of the delivery driver. Social satire mingles with light gore in a piece which is elevated by capable lead actors and good comic timing.

The third tape (Untitled) is very short and decidedly odd. Showing clips of a man who appears to be involved in video dating interspersed with the adventures of an unseen individual – presumably the same guy – waking up outdoors and hearing a voice which tells him he has a chip implanted in his head before ordering him to deliver a gift-wrapped bomb, it’s like one of those TikTok videos where if you don’t know the joke beforehand then you’re going to be completely lost.

Finally (before the conclusion of the wraparound story) there’s The Christmas Spirit, which mingles fairly formulaic paranormal horror with what, for many viewers, will be the altogether more terrifying business of moving house and finding that the removal company has screwed up. To make it worse, this has happened at Christmas, and almost all of our protagonists’ possessions are three states away. Deciding to focus on dealing with their immediate problems, they hire an exorcist, Paranormal Perry (Dave Sheridan), but when his behaviour proves uncomfortably clingy, they find that he’s just as hard to get rid of as the ghost. This mixture of social awkwardness and sinister things happening in the background works well enough but goes on a little too long, diluting its impact. Nevertheless, it’s a serviceable horror short which will remind you of the perils of Santa Claus themed comedies.

The Christmas Tapes doesn’t do anything special, but overall it’s a likeable little anthology with production values which are above average for the subgenre, and some decent performances.

Reviewed on: 15 Dec 2022
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The Christmas Tapes packshot
In this Christmas-Horror Anthology, a family's movie night on Christmas Eve is interrupted by a stranger, insistent on making the next Christmas 'classic' film himself.
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Director: Robert Livings, Randy Nundlall Jr

Writer: Robert Livings, Randy Nundlall Jr

Starring: Ruby Setnick, Dave Sheridan, Janice Angela Burt, Larry Glenn, Louise Harding

Year: 2022

Runtime: 100 minutes

Country: US


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