Adam Marcus / USA / 2017 / 89 mins
As part of Glasgow Film Festival
Christmas: a time when families gather together and put any grievances aside for a short time and instead allow themselves the opportunity to eat gluttonously and drink feverishly. In Secret Santa however, things take a much more murderous turn than your normal get-together.
Unfortunately for director Adam Marcus and co-writer Debra Sullivan, things never really surpass the expectations of such a simple premise. First of all, the Pope family are disgustingly awful people and spending time in their company is a chore. During their overly long conversation/arguing scenes things become less about crafting real life characters than they do about playing bingo with horrible traits. Racism? Check. Incest? Check. Homophobia? Check. And how could a woman possibly overpower a man without being a transsexual? The film delights in rubbing our faces in its un-PC nature, especially through the character of Jackson (Nathan Hedrick), whose twisted sexual appetite is infuriating to watch.
Thankfully, these scenes do come to an end once too many family members drink some spiked punch and the movie shifts into familiar (but entertaining) slasher territory. The dialogue begins to illicit louder and longer laughs, and the deaths become more and more ridiculous.
Whilst nobody is truly exceptional, it’s worth mentioning A. Leslie Kies as April and Drew Lynch as Kyle who are well cast as the most relatable characters on screen. Lynch in particular, whose real life stutter is used surprisingly well in order to bring about both humour and sympathy, is clearly having a blast in his first feature role.
Secret Santa knows how to have fun, but the film is far too loose in its construction. Why, for example, after a clear conclusion to our story, are we briefly introduced to five new characters? The film makers might argue that it’s for one last kill or scare, but the scene is neither scary nor do we actually see a death occur. Add to this, the annoyingly long first act and you end up with a movie that you wish had undergone one or two more re-writes. In the end, it’ll give you some slasher joy, but you’ve seen it before and you’ve seen it better.