There's some who say it's a holiday tradition that has long since worn out its welcome. In the days and months and years following my first suicide attempt, I began to possess a curiously morbid approach to the holiday season that included within it the annual tradition of watching a horror film, preferably Christmas themed, on Christmas morning.
My devotion to the admittedly dark tradition only intensified following the death of my wife during the holiday season, by suicide, and our newborn while she was away visiting relatives.
Over the next few years of complicated grief and its increasing association with the holiday season, I woud find myself increasingly in a deep funk over the holidays. It's a funk that has always worsened up to and including Christmas Eve before waning on Christmas morning and completely dissolving by December 26th.
I've never figured out how to make it go away. I have simply learned how to avoid my impulsive behaviors and anything that intensifies the negative emotions, such as alcohol, but I have continued this tradition, of watching a horror film Christmas morning as a way to allow myself the intense darkness and a method through which to purge it.
Today, it is Christmas morning.
Santa has once again not delivered a damn thing to my house. It has been a particularly challenging Christmas season, mostly owing to the leftover remnants of another dear friend's suicide (Yeah, for whatever reason suicide is a theme that runs through my life) and to the far too young death at 23-years-old of another dear friend with my same birth defect, spina bifida.
I guess you might say I have survivor's guilt.
However, because I am a healthier human being than I was when I began this dastardly and dark tradition many years ago I've also brought people into my life who are aware of my dark cloud. They understand it. They don't so much embrace it, but they embrace me as I go through it. They're there if anything intensifies, though they're also there to gently nudge me away from the darkness.
This includes old friends and spirited newcomers.
There are some who think I should let go of this tradition, though I cling to it like a little kid clinging to the belief in Santa despite all the evidence pointing toward mommy and daddy being the real holiday Santas mostly owing to the fact that you accidentally saw daddy's sexy Santa dance that made momma giggle before, well, you know.
This brings me, after a far too lengthy prologue, to this year's entry into my holiday tradition - the recent Artsploitation Films release Christmas Blood, written and directed by Reinert Kiil, creator of such films as The House and Whore, a Norway-set psychological slasher flick with more than a few hints of the original Halloween but far more demented kills and a not so friendly reminder that kids ought not try to open their presents before Christmas morning.
Nissen (Jørgen Langhelle) went on a killing rampage in Norway for 13 years, killing every Christmas Eve while dressed in a Santa outfit before finally being captured by Detective Rasch (Stig Henrik Hoff), whose 13 years on Nissen's trail left him a fractured and broken man and eventually led to his retirement. It has been six years since Nissen's capture and well, you probably know the rest of the story. Nissen escapes from a mental asylum a few days before Christmas and Detective Hansen (Sondre Krogtoft Larsen) knows that there's only one detective who can help him find Nissen and stop him before he kills again.
Meanwhile, a small town in northern Norway is about to play host to a serious reunion for a bunch of teens. While we see the set-up coming a mile away when Katja (Yassmine Johansen) finds out boyfriend Christian (Andreas Nonaas) had an affair with Ritika (Haddy Jallow) and kicks them both out into the snowy Norwegian streets, the simple truth is that even a rather paint-by-numbers approach to its slasherific horror can't hide the fact that Christmas Blood is a seriously fun, dark, and disturbing holiday thriller with kills that should please most slasher fans and enough suspense to make you jump and scream - especially if you're sitting there in the dark on Christmas morning with chestnuts, or maybe that's Jeff's nuts, roasting on an open fire.
Norway makes for a beautiful, somewhat eerie yet picturesque setting for a holiday-themed slasher flick and the cast is almost uniformly strong in portraying the horror of it all. Christmas Blood isn't a perfect horror film, the story of the detectives is far more involving and satisfying than that of our rather bland teenage partiers for example, but Kiil is a quality filmmaker and the scenes of Santa slowly yet intentionally haunting his victims down the snowy Norwegian streets are simply mesmerizing.
Christmas Blood is plenty gory, though the special effects occasionally don't always drive that horror home as effectively as one might hope. That said, the film's generally dark setting, which appears both intentional and a product of the shooting location, helps to amp up the suspense and anticipation.
While Christmas Blood may not quite enter the upper tier of holiday horror, it's a competently made and entertaining entry that I don't regret saving for participation in my annual holiday "tradition," dark as it may be. Currently available from Artsploitation Films, a growing voice in the world of indie horror, Christmas Blood deserves to be on the shelf of any of us psychos who purge our demons and celebrate the sub-genre market of holiday-themed horror.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic