Yuletide horror double feature: Nutcracker Massacre (2022) / Christmassacre (2016)

In the interest of jolliness, as well as continuing the Stream Warriors (formerly Slasher Search) project of scouring for unknown slasher gems, I spent last night searching for watchable holiday horror obscurities on Tubi.

For my tastes this can be rough going. There’s a whole cottage industry of boring, off-brand Krampus movies and shit, but that’s not even the biggest threat. Their library is also a bottomless well of no budget, non-professional movies of the current digital video era, and so far in my experience not many of those have the same appeal as the regional horror movies shot on film in the ‘80s with hopes of a drive-in or VHS release.

Film had a magical power not just because of how it looked, but because of the difficulty of acquiring and properly using it. If a movie was made by some weird dude and his friends from work but he was able to pass the test of shooting it on 8mm or whatever, then that was a weird dude and his friends from work worth respecting. They were true dreamers, if not artists then at least romantics reaching from something outside of their small town, day job existence. So even their worst movies might be interesting, maybe even fascinating. I don’t think that’s the case with many of these.

I sampled some modern no budget slashers that I’ll tell you about in a bit, but the first entry in this holiday massacre double feature is comparatively slick, like a TV movie. Pretty good actors, very professional production values, even a few moody, atmospheric shots. Where it goes wrong is really the part you’d assume would be a layup for a movie with this particular title.

NUTCRACKER MASSACRE (2022) is from English director Becca Hirani, who was actually a cast member and producer of MOTHER KRAMPUS, which I reviewed via Tubi last year. She’s a prolific director and producer of the kind of movies you find on there, including PET GRAVEYARD (2019), CANNIBAL TROLL (2021), and THE GARDENER, starring Gary Daniels and Charles Bronson lookalike Robert Bronzi. Oh shit, I think I might’ve watched that one.

This story centers on Clara (Beatrice Fletcher, THE LEGEND OF JACK AND JILL, EASTER BUNNY MASSACRE), a young romance novelist whose latest manuscript accidentally made her realize that her long time boyfriend Paul (Andy Dixon) cheated on her. Wanting to get away from it all she accepts an invitation to come stay for the holidays with her beloved American aunt Marie (Julie Stevens, MEGA LIGHTNING). There is some character melodrama about her hiding that she broke up with Paul, and then him showing up, and also her cousin Mousey (May Kelly, WINNIE THE POOH: BLOOD AND HONEY, MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMB), who absolutely hates her for some reason. And most of that stuff works okay. The trouble is with the evil nutcracker.

Clara stops at an antique store to buy Aunt Marie a gift. Top-billed Patrick Bergin (PATRIOT GAMES, LAWNMOWER MAN 2: JOBE’S WAR BEYOND CYBERSPACE) plays Dmitri, the shop owner who sells her a nutcracker and then literally twirls his mustache. Before Marie opens the gift though she shows Clara the six foot tall nutcracker she found in storage that belonged to Clara’s parents.

Up until this point NUTCRACKER MASSACRE has been, if not good, then at least very competent. I think Fletcher is compelling in the lead role and I like that it takes itself completely seriously. But then they talk about this nutcracker, which we’re supposed to accept as a huge wooden nutcracker, but it is very clearly a guy wearing clothes and a rubber or plastic Halloween type mask. He’s trying to stand still next to the tree, but can’t quite do it. If it was actually a nutcracker of that size staring at her it might be unnerving, but when it’s clearly just a dude (Christophe Monplaisir) in a mask it’s just goofy.

For reasons I didn’t understand, when Marie opens her gift it is not the same soldier nutcracker that Clara thought she bought, it’s a sugar plum fairy. They leave it by the Christmas tree and at night its eyes light up and then the star on top of the tree glows and the tree wiggles and the man in the nutcracker costume’s eyes glow and now he’s possessed I guess, and the massacre begins. I did laugh at this part so I will tally that as a plus.

But I think it is reasonable to expect that a movie called NUTCRACKER MASSACRE would have some funny parts where a nutcracker bites off or crushes very body parts. You would think that would be a given, right? But they couldn’t do that here because they never constructed a working nutcracker. It’s just this sculpted mask that clearly doesn’t have jaws that open, and when it goes into horror mode then he switches to a separate mask where the mouth is open with sharp teeth poking out (see poster above). Which is a funny image that I enjoy, but let’s face it, you can’t crack a nut without leverage. You need jaws. This is undeniable.

In fact the nutcracker has no choice but to use a regular non-decorative nutcracker to rip the nuts off of Mousey’s boyfriend James (Stephen Staley, DINOSAUR HOTEL, CONJURING THE GENIE 2, SNAKE HOTEL). I do give them credit for having the audacity to graphically show this, weirdly early in the movie with a character who hasn’t even been built up to “I want to see this guy get his balls ripped off” status. But it’s a symptom of the fact that this nutcracker is a phony. It’s like if Gamera’s enemy Guiron, who has a head shaped like a knife, only ever stabbed him with a smaller knife he held in his hand.

The nutcracker apparently realizes he’s associated with Christmas and winter, so he slashes a person with an ice skate, stabs candy canes into a guy’s eyes, strangles somebody with garlands and Christmas lights, and (my favorite) gift wraps a full upright corpse and leaves it next to the tree to be slowly, horrified-ly unwrapped.

I got kind of a kick out of that stuff, as well as the sleazy touch that the first victim is a guy who comes to deliver a package but then starts sneaking around in the backyard trying to peep on Clara. On paper I also enjoy that the character of Dmitri returns to explain a convoluted mythology about a German soldier who thought he was The Mouse King possessing the nutcracker and eating diamonds (?) or some shit. But any slow momentum the story was building just drops off in the middle and it turns into a slog. Maybe for some people the weird clash of serious drama with decent acting and such a half-assed horror idea would be kind of a hoot, but unfortunately I found the gloomy tone to mostly be a drag.

Let me give you an idea of my process here. I searched terms like “christmas” and “santa” on Tubi, scrolled through everything that came up, added ones that seemed to have potential to my viewing list. Then I went through and tried to at least watch 5-10 minutes before giving any of them the gong. Every single other thing I looked at was much cheaper and less professional looking than NUTCRACKER MASSACRE. They include:

CHRISTMAS CRAFT FAIR MASSACRE (2022). Something about a satanic guy in a Buckethead mask killing people at a school, I think. I didn’t have patience for the mix of leftover Halloween decoration gore and “have your mom read from this card” style of acting, so I moved on.

CHRISTMAS WITH COOKIE (2016). This one might be worth checking out for some people. Cookie is I guess an elf who looks and sounds kinda like Freddy. He lives on the moon in the year 3978 and he’s reading a story that takes place on earth. It has something to do with Santa Claus, whose face is scarred by climate change so he also wears a Buckethead mask (but painted green). The movie is less than an hour and very knowingly uses crude CG and puppets and stuff to comical effect. It might be a fun backyard movie if you’re in the mood for its brand of comedy, but last night anyway I found the acting style of what seemed to be the two leads too grating.

BLACK SANTA (2023) is shot to look more like a real movie than the last two I mentioned, but its crude edits give it away. It’s about a deranged dude in a Santa costume who off screen kidnapped an entire family, has them tied to chairs in a storage unit crying as he beats one of them with a baseball bat. When they ask why there is a brief awkward flashback to him being bullied as a child. I’m sure other stuff happens after I turned it off but it did not seem good enough to be worth the unpleasantness.

The one I actually did watch all the way through, CHRISTMASSACRE (2015) was just as home made looking as the others, but it had a tone and level of effort that pulled me in and made me root for them to pull it off. I believe it’s shot on video with a fake scratchy or “grindhouse” filter over it, which doesn’t end up looking actually good like PLANET TERROR did, but honestly the psychological effect of it made it a little better than your standard clean, bright digital video look.

This image does not relate to anything in the movie

Shot in Ontario I believe, it’s about some college students who have a small Christmas get-together after exams, not knowing somebody in a ski mask is slinking around ready to brutally murder them one by one. If you find it on IMDb it’s under the title SECRET SANTA, and though I prefer the audacious awkwardness of CHRISTMASSACRE, the original title fits its premise well. The victims are having a Secret Santa gift exchange, but the killer replaces their gifts with a power drill, an electric kitchen knife, etc. and they’re like “What the fuck? This is weird” and later he shows up and uses the gift to kill them. The best is the one who gets a rusty blow drier, which he later attempts to throw into the bath tub with her but the cord isn’t long enough so he then hits her with it. It’s that FRIDAY THE 13TH type physics where heads are as soft as butter when hit with things, so it’s more delightful than maybe it sounds.

It’s obviously kind of an ‘80s throwback in spirit, though not a period piece. The secret weapon is a cast that’s funny and likable enough that even though a bunch of them are assholes they’re kinda fun to watch before the very bloody murder scenes. Nicole (Annette Wozniak, “Young Mom with Son,” IT TAKES A CHRISTMAS VILLAGE) is particularly charismatic, and I thought it was interesting that her subplot is about having a secret life as a camgirl. I think even in modern, more enlightened horror that would usually be the friend character who gets killed early on, but Nicole ends up being the final girl, and even has a sex positive scene where she explains to her dumb boyfriend Bryan (Brent Baird, EXORCISM OF THE DEAD) that she initially did it for money but decided she enjoys it and wants to keep doing it. And she gets her way.

More importantly though there’s a scene where the killer is chasing her and she bonks him on the head with a huge dildo. Even better (but not horror related) there’s the scene where she stands helplessly as her roommate makes and drinks a smoothie with a cucumber that was a, uh… screen used prop in her show. Whoops.

This imagery actually is from the movie but I guess it was easier to ditch the whole thing than to change the logo.

There aren’t really red herrings or much of a mystery set up around the identity of the killer, and when the motive is revealed it’s kind of a throwaway joke, which seems like a missed opportunity to me, enjoyer of variations on classical slasher formula. But it’s pretty short and well paced, has some funny jokes but isn’t too parodic, has a pretty well done retro synth score, and impressive-all-things-considered gore effects. As far as Christmas content, it all revolves around gift giving and merry making, there are Christmas carolers, and there’s lots of real snow. The murders and killer costume are not Yuletide themed, however.

Writer/director Mike McMurran had done two shorts previously and has done one subsequent feature, a 2019 horror/comedy anthology called THE FINAL RIDE, featuring much of the same cast. I’ll try to remember to watch it.

* * *

I might have another post tomorrow (not sure yet), but if not, Merry Christmas and happy Life Day to all who celebrate, merry anything else for everyone who doesn’t. Try not to stress too much, and appreciate being with or not being with your family if you can. If this time of year is hard for you, I’ve been there, hang in there, you have friends here, if not elsewhere.

I’m gonna take next week off (unless I finish a best of 2023 post), but let me know what you’re watching, how things are going, etc. Thanks for reading and commenting this year, I love and appreciate you all, and look forward to trying to pay you back with more good shit next year. (Probly not as good as the Ronny Yu series though. That was special.)

This entry was posted on Thursday, December 21st, 2023 at 5:17 pm and is filed under Reviews, Horror. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

11 Responses to “Yuletide horror double feature: Nutcracker Massacre (2022) / Christmassacre (2016)”

  1. CHRISTMAS CRAFT FAIR MASSACRE is a great title, and I’m a Buckethead fan, but I’m duly warded off. Sounds like the title packs more entertainment value than the rest of the film, so, I’ll stop there and quit while I’m ahead. Thanks for everything, Vern and Chris! Still the intercontinental champion of websights. Happy holidays to all.

  2. Patrick Bergin? Holy shit.

  3. Does CANNIBAL TROLL mean he eats other trolls?

    Anyway, happy holidays, everybody! This is still my favourite place to read and talk about movies and more or less related random shit.

  4. Happy holidays, Vern and fellow readers/commenters! This is the only place online where I engage anymore. I’ve nuked my social media accounts, I haven’t commented on articles elsewhere for years at this point. And yet, I still (albeit not very often) come here to post thoughts and such. Why? Well, it’s simple: As most of you know, this is pretty much the best little community online. Vern, you continue to grow and improve each year and I’m always excited to read your thoughts on any movie, regardless of whether I have any interest in the movie itself. Its crazy to think that you were my favorite film writer 20+ years ago and yet it seems like I enjoy your work more now than ever. And the rest of you guys, gals, and non-binary folks also continue to impress with your thoughtful comments and the overall sense of respect and maturity which seems to mostly be the standard here and possibly nowhere else in the virtual hellscape the internet has become. So, thanks to all. If you’re celebrating (or even if you’re not) I hope you all have a wonderful, safe holiday season!

  5. CJ Holden, I think the cannibal troll asks cannibals a bunch of annoying, but seemingly benign questions like whether it’s kosher to eat a Jewish person or if human beings count as cruelty-free meat if they’re having a sad life before they’re eaten.

  6. thanks for another awesome year of reviews, you’ve been my favorite film writer for over a decade at this point. keep up the great work and happy holidays!

  7. I’d also like to echo everyone else. Thanks for continuing to make the web a brighter place, Vern, and happy holidays to everyone.

  8. I mentioned this on X/Twitter but for those of you who don’t hang out there I wanted to share some work-in-progress features for everyone to check out. These are meant to coincide with a new theme that’s in development but figured they’d be of some use as they’re expanded.

    In the past some people have requested a way to browse the various Review Series that Vern has done. It will take a while to go through all the old posts to dig them out but you’ll find some that are already complete:


    I’m also creating entries for every film and TV show that Vern has covered. I also ported over all of the requests that were added using the old suggestions feature. These pages list every review to catch the many times the same film was reviewed more than once. In addition these pages have resource links, trailers and streaming information. It will take even longer to finish this but there are already more than 1,000 Film entries. Another bonus is you can explore Films alphabetically, by decade and by year. You can check this feature out here:


    The old Icons pages are being updated and a new page will gather a variety of links and community information to replace the current menus. Hope everyone checks them out and feel free to share any feedback.

    Hope everyone has a great New Year!

  9. Nice, thanks for keeping this websight in shape

  10. Vern, are you aware of the recent, Swedish slasher movie “The conference”? It’s quite good, and worthy of the Slasher Search.

  11. No Tuukka, have not heard of that one. Writing it down. Thanks!

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