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DVD Review

DVD cover

Secret Santa


Starring: Michael Rady, Drew Lynch. Debra Sullivan and Adam Marcus
Distributor: Signature Entertainment
Certificate: 18
Release Date: 05 November 2018

When a young woman turns-up at her mother’s house for Christmas with her new boyfriend in-tow, the reception is a little frosty. Her mother is already arguing with her aunt, her frumpy sister has invited her estranged dad, and her brother brings a black gay friend. All of this makes for a volatile mix, but the worst part is someone has put an experimental concoction of sodium pentothal in the fruit punch. As everyone is forced to tell the truth, the arguments turn to physical fights. One of them turns psychotic, but they won’t be the only one. This gory clash gives new meaning to a family get together with the outlaws...

A work colleague once told me that he hates the time leading up to Christmas, because he feels obliged to visit – or be visited by – relatives and ‘friends’ with whom he doesn’t get on, and who he doesn’t see – or want to see – throughout the year. It’s a sentiment which most families can relate to. After all, you can’t be expected to hit it off with everyone, and going through the motions can just create a colder atmosphere than the seasonal ambient temperature. Secret Santa takes this scenario to the extreme, when truth serum in the punch puts the whole gathering at each other’s throats.

It has been labelled a horror comedy, but the humour emerges through the ridiculousness of the situations – particularly opinions on the characters’ lifestyles. The reality here is that it is not so much the obligation to be brutally honest which gets them all in trouble, as the removal of their inhibitions. Telling the truth wouldn’t necessarily make them kill each other. What makes this film different from other Christmas-themed horror films is it takes those sometimes amusing/sometimes twee American family Chevy Chase-type movies and turns them into a gory, blood-soaked slasher movie where relatives are both victims and aggressors.

Evidently, someone involved in the making of this film is a John Carpenter fan (as am I), because the music is very close at times to Carpenter’s score for Christine, the film adaptation of the Stephen King story which he directed. Furthermore, there is a homage to Carpenter’s The Thing when the sister responsible for spicing the punch quotes a line verbatim from the film: “I know you’ve been through a lot, but I’d rather not spend the rest of the Winter tied to this f**king chair!” There is a nice touch during the opening credits when each of the names metamorphoses into a word associated with the horror genre.

The Secret Santa process of buying one of the group a present and the recipient trying to guess who it’s from is only briefly touched upon here before trouble raises its head; so the title isn’t really a good reflection of what occurs on the screen. The director is Adam Marcus, who helmed Jason Goes to Hell. The blurb here refers to it as a fan favourite, but in truth it was the worst of the Friday the 13th films. However, Marcus has at least attempted to create something a little different in the realms of both the seasonal horror and the slasher film. I would describe Secret Santa as stark raving bonkers. It’s just mental. It’s quite telling that on the extras featurette, when asked separately, none of the actors has the faintest idea how to describe what the film is about.


Ty Power

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