Baker Chase Powell - Mark Turner
Leah Wiseman - Emma
Nina Kova - Sam
Austin Bosley - Travis
Danielle Doetsch - Katie
Marla Van Lanen - Joan
Johnathon Krautkramer - Justin
Scott Seagren - Frank Fuller
Genre - Horror/Slasher
Running Time - 74 Minutes
A group of college kids decide to spend Christmas and New Year's away from their families, shacking up at a lake house in the middle of a snowy nowhere. As these friends party and reveal things about each other, the feel good mood is thwarted by a couple of locals who warn these kids about a killer on the loose from years past. As the day goes on and the kids don't really listen to the warnings, the group begins to go missing one-by-one due to a masked killer who decides to celebrate the holidays with blood.
It's been a while since I've done an Indie Horror Spotlight review, but fortunately it's for the latest film from my friends at Slasher Studios. The last time I discussed Kevin Sommerfield and Steve Goltz was for their first feature-length film, DON'T GO TO THE REUNION, from 2013. For a first effort, DON'T GO TO THE REUNION was a good [yet flawed] film that showed potential for a much better one down the line. When I read their multiple social media posts about their next feature, DISMEMBERING CHRISTMAS, I was looking forward to seeing it.
As a fan of holiday slasher films, like SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT and BLACK CHRISTMAS, I was excited that Slasher Studios were going to make one of their own. Both Sommerfield and Goltz, who write the screenplays for their films, are massive fans of the slasher sub-genre, giving me hope that they would deliver with a memorable holiday horror flick. And while DISMEMBERING CHRISTMAS isn't a perfect holiday horror film, it's a definite step-up from DON'T GO TO THE REUNION. As a matter of fact, DISMEMBERING CHRISTMAS is a ton of fun and worthy of a Christmas watch every year.
As you can tell from the plot, DISMEMBERING CHRISTMAS is a pretty standard slasher film. It doesn't change the wheel or attempt to create a new twist on the sub-genre. Instead, the film gives viewers what they would expect from a movie like this - inventive kills, a strong Final Girl hanging out with expendable characters, a masked killer, and a cool Winter atmosphere that heightens the season and the desolate setting. The atmosphere alone makes DISMEMBERING CHRISTMAS a better film than DON'T GO TO THE REUNION, as the snowy location captures the cold, bleak mood that creates a lot of tension as the characters are in the middle of nowhere against a crazed killer. Even the characters are more fleshed out here than in the previous film, giving the audience a clue as to who these kids are and their relationships [good and bad] with each other, adding to the suspense and tension in the second half of the film. None of the characters will be the next Laurie Strode or Nancy Thompson, but you have a clue as to what their roles are - all archetypes played well within the context of the story. I especially enjoyed the fact that I didn't expect certain characters to live and/or die, making me wonder who would end up surviving by the film's end. We need more slashers that try to be a bit unpredictable within a predictable premise.
On the technical side of things, I thought the visual presentation throughout was absolutely fantastic, considering the budget. Austin Bosley's direction was really great. Instead of using jump scares, Bosley relied on building tension to create some much needed dread. I loved certain angles in the film that showed the killer hiding in certain areas, while an unsuspecting character is totally clueless as to what is going on. The final act of the film, with the sweeping camera work as characters hide behind objects while the killer looks for them, is just simply beautiful. Bosley, who also plays a character in the film, definitely has an eye for the camera and I think Slasher Studios ought to keep the guy around for future projects. And the cinematography was just picture perfect. DISMEMBERING CHRISTMAS is a great looking indie flick.
The gore scenes are also pretty cool. We get the usual slashing of throats and stabbing of body parts. But that snowman scene with the sharp candy cane through the gut and mouth is just a clever kill. And I love a good beheading scene while a character rides down a sled into barbed wire. And the lasso sequence - it just has to be seen to be appreciated. I'll never look at Christmas wreaths the same way again. Pretty inventive stuff.
The acting is decent-to-good here. The standouts for me were Nina Kova as Sam and Leah Wiseman as Emma. Sam played the Final Girl very well. I also enjoyed her lovesick jealousy for Johnathon Krautkramer's Justin, who was pretty good as well. As for Wiseman, I thought she had the most to play with. She was witty, funny, sassy, and just fun to watch onscreen. I would like to see more of her work. I thought she had chemistry with everyone she interacted with.
Any issues? The sound levels were a bit uneven at times. The exterior shots sounded a bit more hollow than the interior shots, due to different ambient levels. The soundtrack, which is cool by the way, also overshadowed some of the dialogue at time.
I also felt that some of the actors were kind of flat. Thankfully, they weren't really in the film long to really ruin things. They weren't bad per se, but just not as good compared to some of the others with beefier roles.
I also felt the film could actually be a bit longer. The last few minutes, while interesting, felt a bit rushed and could have been fleshed out more for better impact. I felt the scenes with the killer could have been extended a bit. When you actually want a film to be longer than it is, you know you got something good.
THE FINAL HOWL