The Nights Before Christmas (2020)

Director: Paul Tanter

Running Time: 103 Minutes

Certification: 15

Starring: Simon Phillips, Sayla de Goede, Kate Schroder, Samantha De Benedet, Keegan Chambers, Anne-Carolyn Binette

It's that time of year again, where Halloween is behind us, and the festive season approaches. As everywhere starts playing that Mariah Carey song, and the TV channels show the seasonal mainstays, what's appreciated are festive items what feel worlds apart. For better or worse, Paul Tanter has delivered exactly that.

In the run-up to Christmas, a murderous Santa and Mrs Claus (Simon Phillips and Sayla de Goede) slaughter their way through their own naughty list. Tracking them is Special Agent Natalie Parker (Kate Schroder), trying to discover what links their victims.

As you could probably tell, this isn't your typical depiction of jolly Saint Nick, and his loving wife. They have a list they're checking twice, seeing who's naughty or nice, but their victims get worse than a lump of coal. The pair are on a revenge-fuelled road trip, leaving a gruesome trail in its wake, and the snow painted in blood. Bringing these figures to life are Simon Phillips and Sayla de Goede, who resemble a Rob Zombie take on The Joker and Harley Quinn.

It's a set-up which promises a blinding good time, to revel in the lunacy of these characters reimagined with such sheer nastiness. What a shame that it all feels subdued, rarely matching the tone which the set-up warrants. There's a point where Santa pulls out garden shears at a urinal, where the film reaches those heights with such glee. How unfortunate it doesn't reach those heights more often, instead feeling like chaos going through the motions.

It often feels like a stone-faced affair, as we mainly follow the FBI agents that are tracking these serial killers. It's a fair idea to follow the human element, get a look at those intent on ending the slaughter, but they appear to be the focus over the films selling point. What doesn't help is how key elements disappear for long stretches, to the point they're forgotten about. In spite of a rising body-count, the scattershot approach makes it feel like little happens. As the plot becomes a commentary against the healthcare system, and how it fails those it should help, what should be a natural culmination feels like a sudden inclusion. It's a shame, as this could've been an intriguing alternative to the usual festive fare. At least it's more welcome than Bad Santa 2.

The Nights Before Christmas is available to watch on Amazon Prime, and to rent from Video on Demand services.