Benjamin Edelman and Manual Camilion’s Santastein delivers a comedic and bloody Christmas riff on the classic tale of Frankenstein. Laced with laughs and some revolting gore, Santastein sleighs his way through a Christmas Eve filled with murder and mayhem.
Every Christmas-stricken child wishes to prove their mean classmates wrong. Santa does exist! While attempting to gather that fleeting proof, young Max Causey accidently kills Santa, his contraption causing St. Nick to fall into a badly placed fireplace poker. Cut to present day, the Christmas holiday has ceased to exist, along with any merry cheer whatsoever. Not forgetting the pain he’s caused, Max (Jared Korotkin) attempts to resurrect him using stolen cadavers and the unwitting help of his friend Paige (Ophelia Rivera). The two friends successfully revive a dead rat for a science project, providing all the confirmation Max needs to right the wrong from his childhood. The experiment is a resounding success, and Santa walks the Earth once more.
“…embraces the tongue-in-cheek humor [of] a murderous, zombie Santa Claus”
Only this isn’t the Santa that Max remembers. The stakes if you’re naughty or nice couldn’t be higher as Christmas Eve devolves into a comedic battle of life and death with Santastein (Michael Vitovich) terrorizing the town. Coroner Edgar (Damian Edwards), who’s been tailing Max for the stolen corpses, joins the fight as the zombie unleashes holiday hell upon a high school house party. It’s a race against time, as Santa will only grow stronger as time passes. Max must confront his past and put an end to his abominable creation once and for all.
In a time where horror films have embraced twisting Christmas cheer with screams of fear, Santastein travels a familiar comedic road. At it’s heart, the film is a dry comedy draped in colorful lights and blood, perhaps best suited for a younger crowd. A bit slow going early on, the laughs arrive in droves beginning with a hilarious sequence inside a closed convenience store when Santa’s gift sack is filled with bottles of booze, forming a weapon straight out of Full Metal Jacket. Santastein delivers the painful present to an unlucky teen, who just prior stumbled upon a Christmas-themed nudie mag titled Slayboy. Edelmen and Camilion, who both co-wrote and co-directed the film, embrace the tongue-in-cheek humor to Santastein‘s betterment. After all, how straight-faced can you play a movie about a murderous, zombie Santa Claus?
“The gore factor is alive and well…”
That’s not to say Santastein is tame. The gore factor is alive and well, with some fantastically gnarly shots of victims who find themselves on the wrong end of a sharpened candy cane. While not every effect is done practical, the ones that were look terrific and stomach-churning. Not to be outdone, the humor exceeds gags and one-liners as well. The story of Santa Claus is…expanded…by Paige‘s grandmother, reading from a book illustrated suspiciously similar to the Necronomicon. The two proceed to whip up explosive-laced Christmas cookies in a baking montage that would make Walter White blush.
Vibrant colors and some stunning shots further accent Santastein. Most of the film takes place at night, providing a perfect backdrop for dazzling scenes lit only by Christmas lights and bright white snow. Max‘s garage lab, fittingly themed to that of Dr. Frankenstein, may be the most impressive set in a film with several deserving nominations for the award. Glowing under dim Edison lightbulbs, the mad scientist lair is cobbled together by an amateur teenager, like a PBS version of TNT Monstervision. Santastein really thrives when it hands out these giftwrapped presents of comedy and charm, even if it makes us wait for them like the impatient kids on Christmas Eve we are.
“A bit slow going early on […but] terrific and stomach-churning”