Christmas is that time of the year to be with family, give presents, eat good food, and just have an overall good time. When it comes to cinema and the Christmas season, what defines a Christmas movie is exactly trying to recreate the feeling that comes from doing all those things. Making Christmas movies very uplifting and positive, almost to a fault. However, some filmmakers also understand that contrast generates conflict, and this is exactly what happens in The Christmas Tapes, a new horror anthology film for this year’s Christmas.
The Christmas Tapes is a film written and directed by Randy Nundlall Jr. and Robert Livings. The film tells the story of a man adamant about creating the next big Christmas movie classic. However, his ideas are not particularly well suited for what could be a familiar and Merry Christmas. The film tells four horror stories in the most classic Christmas fashion. Some stories are better than others, but the film manages to be consistent with its tone and ideas. Which range from the truly creepy to the hilarious.
Anthology films are not really the most mainstream of genres. The Coen Brothers released one just a couple of years ago, and that was maybe the most important one to be released in many decades. It seems people find that having a consistent, continuous story is much more entertaining than a number of short stories put into the same package. The Christmas Tapes doesn’t really avoid the pitfalls of standard anthology films, but thankfully, the ideas on display are funny and disturbing enough to warrant a watch and have a different type of Christmas night.
The film is produced and started by Greg Sestero, who plays the infamous man who comes to crash the Christmas night of a very normal family. It is great to see Sestero still starring in movies after his mythical participation in The Room. He is quite charming, even when he is trapped in this type of production. His role as a creepy Christmas psycho is good enough to compel you to get into the tapes, which contain the rest of the stories. This framing device is good enough that you want to see what is on the next tape, and you want to see how the framing device closes at the end of the movie.
The film also includes the participation of Dave Sheridan and Vernon Wells, actors who are definitely not outsiders to the genre. These are actors who have had very small roles here and there during their careers, but keep on working because they truly love the craft of making films. Many people only pay attention to the big blockbusters that appear in cinemas or the latest HBO or Netflix TV show and don’t realize that there is just so much more to see out there. The Christmas Tapes might not be up to the technical standards of mainstream projects, but it does have a soul and lots of heart.
The Christmas Tapes takes lots of inspiration from the V/H/S series of films. These films have been able to deliver almost yearly releases, and some of them come up with really cool stories. However, they are inconsistent. It is very strange to see an anthology movie where all stories have the same quality, for better or worse. The Christmas Tapes suffers from the same problem, and it is really hard to pinpoint which one will be the audience’s favorite. Let’s just say that one of the stories involving a freaky, unhinged Santa is one of the best.
When it comes to the visuals, the movie takes a page from the V/H/S series and goes for the found footage style. This is the style was made famous by series such as Paranormal Activity and, of course, the legendary, The Blair Witch Project. Sometimes, found footage can feel a bit forced, but thankfully all the stories make it seem like they could actually have been recorded by it. This is not the case with something like Chronicle, where you ask why the movie decided to go this route, as it makes no sense.
So, it is better if you don’t expect some truly amazing display of visuals for amazing cinematography here. This is not that type of movie, and it doesn’t make any sense to have that level of vision care in a movie that is all about being raw and uncomfortable. The directors also do a great job of creating consistency between the different stories. It is expected for them to handle different parts of the project, but the entire effort really films like one single unity and that might be the strongest element of the film.
In the end, The Christmas Tapes, is not the Christmas movie you were expecting. However, in a world where every single Christmas movie seems to be following the same exact formula over and over again. It is great to see that some filmmakers are able to jump forward and take the risk of doing something different, and that should be applauded. This is a low budget film, but it will keep you entertained more than you expect.