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Review: The Nights Before Christmas (2020)

The Nights Before Christmas is the new film from writer director Paul Tanter. The sequel to 2017’s Once Upon a Time at Christmas; it picks up three years later where serial killing partners Santa and Mrs Claus have escaped their asylum and are out for revenge.

First thing to say this is a genially enjoyable movie. There is really good story here, which seems to have come from two writers with genuine love for the character of Santa Claus. Having not seen the first film at no time did I feel lost, nor was there an over use of exposition. For the most part the director has got the pacing right. The fast pace of the film is controlled just right so, for the majority of the movie, it doesn’t feel rushed. That is up to the last twenty minutes, where some of the scenes feel crammed together. There are also some good performances from the cast. Most of the main players put in a good shift, with Keegan Chambers as Courtney worth a special mention.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t some problems. Most of the characters seem to be fulfilling some sort of cliché. Whilst this does allow the film to continue on without spending too much time on introductions, at times it just feels lazy. Mrs Claus as a caricature of Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is kind of strange, but just doesn’t work how it should. As I said the story is strong, but the script less so. Some of the lines made me recoil in their cringeyness. The boardroom scene is so badly acted by those playing the board that, if it wasn’t so important to the plot, I’d suggest deleting it. The ill-advised comedy moments during this scene feel out of place and nearly ruined the darkness built during the rest of the film. Speaking of comedy I can’t work out if the striptease was meant to be funny or if that was unintentional.

What The Nights Before Christmas does have going for it is Simon Philips. The films co-writers portrayal of the psychotic Santa Claus is just spectacular. He is a truly menacing and terrifying presence. Phillips is so strong that the film almost feels like it’s suffering when he’s not on screen. It’s a shame that this version of Santa is not better known, as it deserves to be put alongside some of the great horror villains. Santa could more than hold his own with Michael Myers.

Tanter and Philips Santa Claus deserves a higher level of exposure. The end of the film teases a third instalment. I really hope there is. If the third film is an end to this particular story arc, I’d love for them to find another vehicle for their horrific creation. Maybe a new arc would give the character a chance to really flex his diabolical wings and take his place amongst horrors elite.

Marks out of 10: 7

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