The Christmas Tapes – Film Review

It is Christmas Eve and budding filmmaker Rachel (Ruby Setnik) has just been gifted a brand-new video camera. While she is breaking it by recording her family discuss which Christmas movie to watch, there is a knock on the door.

Geoff (Greg Sestero) claims his car has broken down and is in need of a phone to which Rachel’s father obliges. Before the family know it, this stranger has them at gun point and is forcing them to watch his collection of ‘original’ Christmas movies!

Writers and directors Randy Nundlall Jr. and Robert Livings have put together 5 varied stories of Christmas themed terror. There is no shortage of violent Christmas films but the anthology format, usually exclusively Halloween centred, makes The Christmas Tapes especially unique.

Greg Sestero of The Room fame breaks free of his inevitable connections to ‘Tommy Wiseau’ here. He feels like he is channelling serial killer Ted Bundy as our host Geoff, this handsome psycho in a Christmas sweater. Often the bumper portions in between shorts can be the least interesting parts of compendium films. Although, thanks to Sestero‘s performance, this family movie night(mare) is always entertaining.

The shorts themselves while keeping with a found footage motif are all very different from one another. There is Travel Buggies, which follows the ill-fated camping trip of Dave (Caleb Lush) and Jess (Louise Harding), two wannabe vloggers who inadvertently summon ‘Hans Trapp‘, the German folklore punisher of wicked children. The collection hits the ground running as this was definitely the scariest of all the shorts.

The Christmas Gift gives us Dean (Jason Kuykendall) who wishes to box himself up as a surprise gift delivered to his children. This short features cult Aussie actor Vernon Welles as a ‘Santa‘ delivery man who wants to have his own fun with Dean first. This short wasn’t nearly as scary, however Welles is always a joy to watch.

The standout of the bunch would be The Xmas Spirit, by virtue of its complete tonal shift. Also, it is clearly inspired by ‘Paranormal Activity’ to the point it could have possibly worked as a Christmas themed film in that franchise. Moving into their new home devoid of furnishings Devin and Ian (played respectfully by Devin Valdez and Ian Hopps) make do with what they have. After decorating with found Christmas ornaments, they’re quickly overcome by a supernatural presence. In comes the unconventional ‘Paranomal Perry‘ (Dave Sheridan) to cleanse the house of spirits.

While the entire rest of the film is horror this short changes gears to be a straight up parody. This happens immediately upon Perry‘s entrance, and I’m surprised by just how much I liked it. Between Scary Movie and Frank McKlusky C.I, Sheridan always reminded me of Jim Carey. He obviously had a great time on set during filming and somehow makes the sudden comedic spin work in The Christmas Tapes tail end.

I’ve highlighted the film’s three stars, but the entire cast lend credibility to the scares. Even during the slower moments there is a voyeuristic element in how believable these characters come across.

Now while all these storylines are incredibly varied, I am a little disappointed by just how alike all the ‘tapes’ feel. While the similarly themed anthology franchise V/H/S benefits from multiple filmmaking teams working independently, The Christmas Tapes does not. It’s a small issue but there’s little contrast between any of the ‘tapes’. As they’re mostly all filmed the same way by the same team, they lack individuality.

The Christmas Tapes is still a fun found footage-style horror anthology which does not take itself too seriously. I simply adore these compilation thriller features and sadly we don’t see enough of them from major studios. Indie filmmakers have not dropped the ball however and continue on where such classics like Creepshow or Cat’s Eye left off.

The Christmas Tapes will be available digitally from December 12.

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