Tuesday 6 December 2022

Letters To Satan Claus (2019)

There are a lot of Christmas comedy horror movies you can choose from, whether they involve killer Santas, a dangerous Krampus, or even pets that you shouldn’t get wet or feed after midnight, but Letters To Satan Claus is a bit different from this films. It is a comedy horror movie that derives a lot of the comedy from the very familiar tropes of the hundreds of Christmas TV movies we see filling up the schedules every year.

Karen Knox plays Holly Winters, now keeping busy as a TV reporter under the name Holly Frost. In order to move up in her career, Holly must take on an assignment that she doesn’t relish. She has to head back to her small home town, named Ornament, and report on the Christmas festivities. Karen doesn’t really like Christmas cheer, mainly because of the time she wrote a letter to Santa when she was very young and asked for her parents to disappear. That letter had one word mis-spelled, leading to her parents being killed by, well, Satan. As the big countdown to Christmas begins, Satan comes back to torment Holly and ruin the season for everyone in her home town.

Although director Emma Jean Sutherland and writer Michael Zara don’t have extensive filmographies, to put it mildly, the two certainly seem to know their way around any Christmas TV movie checklist. People with festive names, everyone working on a mood of “maximum Christmas cheer”, single parents/handsome widows, and life lessons accompanied by oversized hot chocolates. The fun to be had in Letters To Satan Claus is two-fold, you get the hilarious overuse of these things AND you get some great subversions as everything moves towards a genuinely funny and entertaining finale.

Knox has a blast in her lead role, always desperate to find an alcoholic drink to numb the pain of being back in her hometown and always sizing up the potential available men around her. Joseph Cannata and Jessica Clement play Chris and Faith Pringle, the former being an old flame and the latter being his cloying “young” daughter (part of the gag being that she’s not as young as she should be, considering her behaviour and naïveté). Alex Harrouch is Chad Pringle, the brother of Chris (and a gay man who ends up with a better developing storyline than you would expect for his supporting character), Franco Lo Presti is a hunky cameraman named Sam, Michael Xavier is the hunky Sheriff Noel, Morgan Lever is the hunky John Smith . . . I think you get the picture already, and Miriam McDonald is a good laugh as Mayor Danica Bells, wandering around wearing her mayoral sash at all times. Juno Rinaldi is the cookie-baking Aunt Becky, Perrie Voss is Cookie Winters (Holly’s sister), and Rashana Cumberbatch is Joy Wreath. I didn’t intend to namecheck so many people, but everyone knows how to pitch their performances and all of the names are enjoyably silly enough to mention. Those who are earnest and cheery do their best to act overly earnest and cheery, which makes the eye-rolling disdain from Knox all the funnier.

I expected to like Letters To Satan Claus as soon as I first heard about it, and I did. That was no surprise. What did surprise me was how much I liked it. The low budget may affect things slightly, even when it comes to the seasonally-themed death scenes, but it is so well-crafted that it actually layers every minute of the runtime with a sly mix of obvious gags and subtle details that make it not only a satisfying viewing experience, but also one I look forward to revisiting.


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