A Christmas themed indie horror flick from writer/director Troy Escamilla (Party Night) originally released under the name Stirring prior to its pick up by indie distributor extraordinaire Wild Eye Releasing, Mrs. Claus continues my long-standing history of up close and personal attention to holiday-themed horror, a tradition that began years after the suicide of my first and only wife during the holiday season many years ago and my inability to, as a result, embrace a lot of the Hallmark Greeting-style holiday flicks that flood the market this time of year.
So yeah, I'm morbid as fuck.
I won't go quite so far as to say that Mrs. Claus is tailor-made for the morbid as fuck crowd, but it's an unabashedly brutal holiday killfest with a thin story that holds it all together about as much as is really needed.
I mean, seriously. Do you watch holiday-themed horror for the storyline?
I didn't think so.
The film pretty much kicks off with a seriously demented rage kill as a new member of a college sorority house completely breaks after a series of hazing/bullying incidents and goes seriously whupass on her tormentor before killing herself. Flash forward 10 years and Amber (Kaylee Williams), the murdered girl's sister, joins the exact same sorority as some sick ass form of personal therapy.
Um, yeah. That's advised.
Not surprisingly, someone isn't quite happy at Amber's presence in the sorority house and this leads to our film's namesake, good ole' Mrs. Claus, showing up and creating more than a little merry fuckin' Christmas mayhem.
Since those seemingly long ago years when I immersed myself in films of holiday mayhem and massacre, the truth is I've become a more peaceful and healed human being. Do I grieve? Of course. Truthfully, I've never much enjoyed the holiday season and that continues to this day. However, I'm not quite as morbid as I used to be and I have more than a little appreciation for the ways in the holiday season can bring us all together.
However, one tradition has continued. Every Christmas morning I sit myself down and I watch another horror film, preferably a holiday themed one, and I purge myself of the Christmas season negativity.
Then, I go try to be happy.
Mrs. Claus is definitely a candidate for the kind of film that I would watch on MY Christmas morning.
Escamilla returns quite a few familiar faces from his Party Night debut, most notably the winning Drew Shotwell along with such folks as Billy Brannigan and Lawrence McKinney. It's also good to be able to say that nearly everyone returning here gives a strong performance in this film, though that's also partly due to Escamilla's own growth as a director and his ability to tighten the film up and simply create a much better film. Helene Udy (The Dead Zone, My Bloody Valentine) and the iconic Brinke Stevens (The Slumber Party Massacre) are the obligatory indie horror vets here with Stevens, in particular, being the film's true stand-out as a campus security officer. Stevens clearly understands the indie horror vibe and gives just a spot-on perfect performance that makes you wish she could be around just a bit more.
While the acting is never quite "the thing" in an indie horror flick, between the improved performances from Party Night and an overall consistency in tone Mrs. Claus benefits greatly from a tonal consistency that enhances the film's vibe. Kudos, as well, to Kaylee Williams. Williams gives the film an essential core and had some layers you don't always experience in indie horror.
Indie horror isn't really indie horror without some really good kills and Escamilla obliges with some giggle-inducing holiday themed films including a ginormous candy cane being slammed down an unwilling victim's throat and the somewhat predictable yet massively over-the-top Christmas light strangulation kill. Escamilla tends to go for scenes that are excessively bloody, a particularly noteworthy approach when your badass killer is dressed as Mrs. Claus.
I'll admit it. I laughed.
Mrs. Claus had some cool successes on the fest circuit before being picked up by Wild Eye with Escamilla picking up the Best Director prize at Crimson Screen Horror Film Fest and prizes also received from San Antonio Horrific Film Festival, Something Wicked Film Festival, and the Independent Horror Film Awards. The film was also nominated for Best Horror Feature at Action on Film.
Mrs. Claus may not claim a place amongst the true indie horror holiday-themed classics like Black Christmas, but for those seeking a holiday horror newbie this holiday season it's a dark and delicious view and easily worth your time.
Now then, back to the Hallmark Channel.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic