Two of my favorite holidays easily have to be Halloween and Christmas. So what better way to celebrate the month of October-going-into-December than by watching a movie that celebrates both holidays? Here is The Christmas Tapes, a horror-comedy anthology film written and directed by both Robert Livings and Randy Nundlall Jr., and starring Greg Sestero from Infrared!
A family is enjoying Christmas Eve when Geoff from Infrared (played by Greg Sestero) arrives at the house carrying a mysterious box. While initially pleasant, things quickly go sour when he brandishes a gun and holds the family hostage. Now with the family at his mercy, he opens the box to reveal some nefarious-looking Christmas tapes which he forces them to watch.
To begin, anthology films have the liberty to tell a wide range of stories from different perspectives that all tie into one major theme. While I was a bit skeptical on how this will play out in The Christmas Tapes, I was pleasantly surprised at how well edited and balanced the film is. The first short encapsulates the weird transition between Halloween and Christmas by having a couple record themselves hiking in the snow-covered woods while jokingly summoning a scarecrow demon called Hans Trapp. I love how the incantation is “Hans Trapp, Hans Trapp! Come out and snap the necks of naughty kids!” When I heard this summoning incantation, I couldn’t help but chuckle. Forget telling naughty kids about coal or Krampus, parents should tell their kids about the true demon of Christmas: Hans Trapp! Better behave or instead of just giving you coal, he might just kill you…
The second short initially has some claustrophobia, as a father tries to gift himself to his kids with the aid of a Santa and Mrs. Claus. When he is placed in the box, I thought we were going to get a Christmas-themed version of Buried, but that is thankfully not what we get. Instead, we get something more akin to a Christmas-themed Hostel, with Santa and Mrs. Claus terrorizing the man via a twisted game show for being ‘selfish’. The tension builds nicely with the game show having a rather benign beginning, but soon spirals into a more sadistic game akin to Saw. Perhaps the only one of the shorts to borderline on snuff footage, this one in my opinion is the most sinister of the bunch as there are people who could do this to unsuspecting victims in the real world.
Moving on to both the third and fourth shorts, the third film drew the shortest stick of the bunch in both quality and length. It just revolves on a delivery man being forced to deliver a package to a specific address before the package explodes. If he leaves the package, a chip implanted in his brain will explode and kill him. Despite being the shortest and least entertaining film, I think it has promise as an indie horror game, especially with the film being completely shot in a first person POV with a clear objective, timer and a fatal consequence should failure occur.
Finally, the last short has got to be my favorite film of the bunch. It centers on a couple staying at a haunted cabin where strange occurrences involving a cursed Christmas ornament happen at night. Why is this my favorite short? Because of one man: Paranormal Perry! This guy is a ghost expert who is hired by the couple to exorcize their cabin. And he is absolutely hilarious. He radiates the competence of a marginally less bumbling Inspector Clouseau and acts like he lives in a car which I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he actually does live and work from a car. Besides Geoff, Paranormal Perry is easily the most engaging character to watch in the movie, and I would really have liked to see more of him.
One thing that brought my attention to this film is that Greg Sestero reprised his role as Geoff from Infrared. His sudden appearance and Christmas tale further intrigues me to ponder more about his origins. Geoff is quite the enigmatic figure, initially appearing as a harmless school teacher only to be revealed as the true villain during Infrared. Here, we see him holding a family hostage on Christmas Eve while forcing them to watch disturbing tapes which he mysteriously acquired. How did he get the tapes if he wasn't the one recording them? I feel that this won’t be the last time we’ll see him, and to that I only have one thing to say: good. Greg Sestero once again delivers a solid performance and it would be a crime against humanity if he doesn’t return in future films Robert and Randy create.
In general, The Christmas Tapes is not only a superb horror film but also another strong entry by both Robert Livings and Randy Nundlall Jr. The individual shorts themselves are all uncomfortable and tense. The ending, which I will not give away, will not only leave you horrified, but makes you curious on who Geoff truly is. Packed with traditional found-footage style editing and horror, along with a fair share of humor and unique characters makes The Christmas Tapes an engaging and thrilling anthology film that serves as the perfect bumper for that awkward limbo between Halloween and Christmas.
Co-Written By: Owen Gonzalez