Deathcember (2019)

Deathcember (I saw the version split into two films)
Part of: /slash Filmfestival Christmas screening
Seen on: 19.12.2019

Deathcember is an advent calendar in movie form, giving us 24 (plus some extra) Christmas-themed films to count down until Christmas. The films vary in style and tone, but they are all filled with (a) holiday spirit.

As with most anthologies, Deathcember has some clear winners and a few that were not for me (with the former being more present in the first volume and the latter more in the second volume), but I assume that the favorites and unfavorites will vary from person to person. It was definitely nice that they included more than the usual token female director (although there could have been more people of color involved). I was a little worried that so many short films in less than three hours would get a little too much, but it was surprisingly not-exhausting (I was glad that they showed the version split into two volumes). In short, it was a very fun evening. There are definitely worse ways to pass time during the holiday season.

After the jump, I talk about each of the segments individually. If you prefer to be surprised what’s behind those doors, you probably shouldn’t continue. But I won’t give away spoilers.

Volume 1

Getting Away From It All
Director: Pollyanna McIntosh
Writer: Pollyanna McIntosh
Cast: Casey Van Maanen, Dana Cornelius, Lisa Ferris, Christine Hughes, Rey Marz, Regan Mears, Bailee Bob Sveen

A man (Casey Van Maanen) trying to get away from the holiday things in a holiday home. But his thoughtful hosts have prepared Christmas for him.

Getting Away From It All was a fun start to the collection. The carolers were particularly fantastic. It probably won’t become a holiday favorite for me, but it was fun enough.

Director: Andreas Marschall
Writer: Andreas Marschall
Cast: Detlef Bothe, Sandra Herbich, Julita Witt

A group of women hunting down a pig (Detlef Bothe).

Pig left me uncomfortable. It seems like a comment on #MeToo, and a pretty unnecessary one if you ask me. It is fine until the twist comes along (not that it was a particularly surprising twist), but then it just lost me.

A woman in a short top in a bar.

Director: Isaac Ezban
Writer: Issac Ezban
Cast: Soledad Amido, Verónica Cisneros, David Codville, Celic Contreras, Natalia Frausto, Ana Silvia Garza, Samantha Gómez, Walter Kapelas, Pablo Guisa Koestinger, Simón Mejía, Armando Mendoza, José Micha, Fiona Muñoz, Ramón Ochoa, Patricia Rojas, Irene Román, Camila Sánchez, Bruno Vendichetis, Dana Zamudio

A little boy lies dying in bed – until he hears carolers.

Villancicos was really funny and it managed to be just long enough to not overstay its welcome, but flesh out its concept to the full extent (not always easy when you have a short that builds on one idea). And the huge cast here was impressively coordinated. Very nice.

All Sales Fatal
Director: Michael Varrati
Writer: Michael Varrati
Cast: Ryan Fisher, Tiffany Shepis, Julia Marchese, Logan Allison, Jeffrey Reddick

Claire (Tiffany Shepis) wants to return a gift she bought. Things get out of hand.

All Sales Fatal moves along at an excellent pace and builds nicely off the soccer mom trope. It shouldn’t have been any longer than it was, but they managed to end on a pretty good joke.

A Christmas Miracle
Director: Vivienne Vaughn
Writer: Vivienne Vaughn
Cast: Barbara Crampton, Clarke Wolfe

A woman (Clarke Wolfe) praying for a miracle. And to her surprise she gets it.

A Christmas Miracle was extremely nice, one of my favorites from the collection. Barbara Crampton is great. The atmosphere is creepy and sad, just as it should be. Plus, it has a strong cinematography. Excellent.

A woman dressed in black with her hands in front of her mouth.
A Christmas Miracle

Crappy Christmas: Operation Christmas Child
Director: Juergen Kling
Writer: Juergen Kling

CN: sexualized violence, pedophilia

A little boy gets kidnapped on Christmas. Help comes from strange places.

Crappy Christmas is claymation, and its very well animated. It has a very crude sense of humor, and I can imagine that it is pretty divisive: many people will think it’s too crude. I’m hovering right around that line, I have to say. It’s definitely not “just fun”, but then again, when you make jokes about abuse and pedophilia, it better not be all fun and games anyway. For my taste, they did push it a little too far, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t love the final twist.

A clay figure in front of a house with holiday lights.
Crappy Christmas: Operation Christmas Child

The Hunchback of Burg Hayn
Director: Bob Pipe
Writer: Bob Pipe
Cast: Richard Glover, Stephen Evans, Louie Bayliss, Axel Loh, Nadine Neumann

A disabled man (Richard Glover) has been found guilty and has to face execution by being burned at the stake. But maybe there is still hope?

The Hunchback of Burg Hayn was shot as a silent film with title cards, in black and white and also in the narrative style of the 1910s or 20s, which makes it stand out from the rest. But honestly, I hated the ending, it was cruel.

Kill Santa
Director: Sadrac González-Perellón
Writer: Sadra González-Perellón
Cast: Haydée Lysander, Sara Tresserra, Jose Corpas

Two sisters (Haydée Lysander, Sara Tresserra) are in a hardware store when they stumble upon a familiar face.

I didn’t love the premise of Kill Santa and why the two girls react the way they do, but I did love pretty much everything else about it. I’m here for girls getting things done and the two sisters were characterized nicely.

Family Feast
Director: Rémi Fréchette
Writer: Rémi Fréchette, Audrey Meubus
Cast: Isabelle Giroux, Jonathan David Bedard, Joseph Bellerose, Marie-Danielle Boucher, Albane Chateau, Zach Evrard, Claire Gagnon, Jillianne Gignac, Max Houle, Jean Drolet

Rose (Isabelle Giroux) has come home for Christmas, as has the entire rest of her family who are more or less unbearable.

Family Feast captures what it means to feel ill at ease at a family gathering and how things become ever worse, but I would have liked a bit more innovation in this one. Still, it’s decently done.

A demonic looking Santa.
Family Feast

Casetta Sperduta in Campagna
Director: Ruggero Deodato
Writer: Ruggero Deodato
Cast: Carlotta Morelli, Gianni Franco

The family gathers for Christmas, but things don’t go as planned.

I had honestly trouble formulating what this segment was about. Not because the plot is super complicated or can’t be understood, but rather because I have trouble remembering anything about this segment at all. If I didn’t know that I didn’t sleep or go pee during the film, I would think I just missed it. Would have expected more from a segment by Deodato.

Milk and Cookies
Director: Sam Wineman
Writer: Same Wineman
Cast: Kue Lawrence, AJ Bowen, Barkley Harper, Biqtch Puddin

Jack (Kue Lawrence) lives with his dad (AJ Bowen), though neither of them is particularly happy with the arrangement. So Jack sets out cookies and milk for Santa and wishes for a change.

Milk and Cookies was nice. I liked that particular take on “Santa” that is somehow sweet in a very disturbing way, but also simply disturbing and creepy. Definitely one of the more memorable ones in the collection.

A boy sitting on his bed in a dark room, lit only by Christmas lights.
Milk and Cookies

X-mas on Fire
Director: Florian Frerichs
Writer: Florian Frerichs
Cast: Rodney Charles, Steven E. de Souza, Bruno Eyron, David Burnell IV, Sasha Di Capri, Kai Fung Rieck, Taryn Nelson

A group of robbers plan a heist on Christmas.

X-mas on Fire is obviously inspired by Tarantino movies, Reservoir Dogs in particular. Fitting that narrative style into a five minute segment is rather impressive, but at the same time there are so many Tarantinoesque films, why not do something else?

Director: Annika Marx
Writer: Annika Marx, Dominik Ostler
Cast: Marie Nasemann, Patrick Dewayne, Peter Kotthaus, Hans Morgeneyer

An office Christmas party. An important memo. And a young office worker (Marie Nasemann) who gets sent around.

Christmas is fun when it isn’t uncomfortably realistic about casual sexism at the office. And that is a compliment.

Ring My Bell
Director: Alyosha Saari
Writer: Alyosha Saari
Cast: Janine Piguet, Frédéric Moulin, Johanna Bros

A family Christmas dinner gets interrupted with a surprise guest.

I did enjoy Ring My Bell that is one of the shorter segments. It’s fun and well-paced. But I also had trouble recalling what it was about exactly, so it obviously didn’t have much staying power with me. (I should have written things down as I usually do.)

Volume 2

Santa Is Coming
Director: Sang-woo Lee
Writer: Sang-woo Lee

A little girl wishes for nothing more but to meet Santa. But her father is not equipped for that.

Honestly another case where I had trouble coming up with a plot summary, but not because I didn’t remember the segment properly, but because I was already confused about what was happening as I watched it. This also leaves me at a bit of a loss about what I think of the segment.

Director: John Cook Lynch
Writer: John Cook Lynch
Cast: Johnny Vivash, Leila Wetton, Amy Newton, Jennie Lathan, Alan Mandel

A family celebrating Christmas and the time for Christmas crackers is quickly approaching. But why is everybody so tense?

Crackers was a lot of fun, probably the funniest, most comedic segment of them all, with a nice twist at the end, good gore and cheesy jokes. Also, Lynch was at the screening and even brought some crackers with him. I got one that I definitely will not open.

a pudding bowl with a bloody eye in it.

They Once Had Horses
Director: Lucky McKee
Writer: Charles Horak, Lucky McKee
Cast: Sean Bridgers, Justin Stone

Two cowboys trapped in the middle of nowhere and something is prowling the night.

Lucky McKee’s segment was the one I looked for the most, I think. While it wasn’t quite as great as the features of his I know, that’s probably mostly because I’m just not much of a Western fan. It definitely had a nice, off-beat sense of humor and Bridgers and Stone have good chemistry with each other. Very enjoyable.

Five Deaths in Blood Red
Director: Ama Lea
Writer: Marc Gottlieb
Cast: Brianna Barnes, Laura Dromerick, Galen Howard, Barbara Magnolfi, Matt Mercer, Peter Stickles

A rich, eccentric mother (Barbara Magnolfi) gathers her children around her for Christmas. Then people start dying.

Five Deaths in Blood Red is entertaining enough, though I wasn’t particularly taken with the final plot twist. But there was some creative gore that made up for the not entirely charming low-budget feeling to some moments.

A Door Too Far
Director: Dominic Saxl
Writer: Dominic Saxl
Cast: Heinz Harth, Fynn Kempf

David (Fynn Kempf) loves chocolate. So much so that he isn’t content with just one piece a day from is advent calendar. But his greed has consequences.

A Door Too Far feels much shorter than it is and the final twist pretty much turns it into a fairy tale – but definitely one of the early, unsanitized ones where people don’t get away with anything unscathed. It’s a bit Charlie and Chocolate Factory meets the Grimm Brothers.

Bad Santa
Director: Julian Richards
Writer: Julian Richards
Cast: Daisy Ashford, Bella Berridge, David Price, Simeon Willis

Children should be good or else, Krampus will come to get them. But Leo (David Price) will not let himself be taken without a fight.

Bad Santa was fun and for an Austrian it’s always nice and weird, when Krampus makes an appearance in not-Austrian/German media. But I have to admit, I had to rack my brain pretty hard (and A. had to help) until I remembered what this segment was. So, probably not my favorite.

December the 19th
Director: Milan Todorovic
Writer: Momir Milosevic
Cast: Helen Babic, Tamara Radovanovic

CN: homomisia

Annie (Helen Babic) and Dunya (Tamara Radovanovic) are cousins who meet at a family gathering and hit it off, so they decide to bail and make a nice evening for themselves.

At first, I was like “oh, nice, a queer love story (did they have to be related tho?)” and then I wanted to scream because they get punished so very thoroughly for daring to go on a date with each other and the segment thinks that’s funny for some reason? No, definitely not.

Joy to the Girls
Director: Sonia Escolano
Writer: Sonia Escolano
Cast: Haydée Lysander

A young man gets an invitation to an exclusive party. He only needs to be punctual. But what he gets when he arrives there is very different from what he expected.

Joy to the Girls was glorious. It had a distinct mystic flavor to it that was nicely offset with a good sense of humor, never getting too lofty. And as I said before, I’m here for women getting things done.

An image from above of three women holding a half-naked man over a bowl.
Joy to the Girls

Director: Lazar Bodroza
Writer: Dimitrije Vojnov
Cast: Nabi Tang, Stefan Kapicic

Christmas on a spaceship and there’s a contamination.

Aurora is apparently set in the same world as Bodroza’s feature A.I. Rising. I haven’t seen that one, and maybe because of that, I had difficulties getting into Aurora (or maybe not because of that, who knows). I found it mostly boring.

A woman with a gas mask on a spaceship.

Before Sundown
Director: Jason Rostovsky
Writer: Jason Rostovsky
Cast: Charlotte Alexis White, Blake Borders, Pappy Faulkner, Dustin Pewitt

Kids really should be home before sundown. And that’s not just a myth.

Before Sundown has kids roaming the suburbs on bikes, which immediately puts it into the tradition of the 80s adventure films that have seen quite a resurgence in the last years. I could understand if people have enough of it by now, and I’d count myself more among that group than not. But I found Before Sundown to be an utterly charming entry into that genre.

A girl with a blue liquid splattered on her face.
Before Sundown

Family Matters
Director: Steve De Roover
Writer: Steve De Roover, Jasper Vrancken
Cast: Aza Declercq, Victor Peeters, Hannelore Stevens, Vince Van Gossum, Mathias Van Mieghem

It’s time for Matt (Mathias Van Mieghem) to become part of his fiancée’s family.

Family Matters has some nice body horror and it is a fun take on the “family induction” situation, but it never moved past okay for me.

Operation Dolph
Director: Trent Haaga
Writer: Trent Haaga
Cast: Sam Eidson, Karen Gorham, Jackie Rae Aubel, Brett Hamilton, Jeff Hamilton, Eric Podnar

Santa (Sam Eidson) is on a mission, and nobody better get in his way.

Operation Dolph takes place in the most amazing rainbow colored house I have ever seen. For the house alone, it is worth watching. It’s really a sight to behold. Apart from that hosue, the setting of the story has a few too many stereotypes, but I had fun.

They Used to Laugh And Call Him Names
Director: B.J. Colangelo, R. Zachary Shildwachter
Writer: Wes Allen, R. Zachary Shildwachter
Cast: Cash K. Allen, Wes Allen, Becca Ciamacco

A father (Wes Allen) takes his son Ryder (Cash K. Allen) on the hunt. But then something starts hunting them.

This segment was enjoyable, though I didn’t love it. Cash K. Allen was really good for someone so young, but the “hunting as a rite of passage thing just doesn’t speak to me. Even when it’s subverted (a bit).

Summarizing: A fun anthology that brings together diverse voices in a surprisingly cohesive way.

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