Keep That Elf on the Shelf!
A decade or so ago, a small family is celebrating Christmas Eve when the youngest daughter goes into the basement to retrieve a bottle of wine for her parents. It is there she encounters a strange (unseen) creature. When she comes back upstairs, she knifes her father to death with glorious glee in her eyes. Jump ahead to modern times and a nurse is doing her rounds in an old-folk’s home. It is Christmas Eve and she is in charge of a peculiar old man who holds a special book in his lap. From this book he tells her a couple of odd and horrific stories of past Christmases when evil struck. The nurse delights in the stories, until it is time for her shift to end and she returns home to her domineering mother and the misery that is their Christmas Eve dinner. As per tradition, the mother locks the nurse in a closet. But this Christmas, the nurse’s old friend from the basement reappears, and it’s time to make mother die, just like daddy did a long time ago…
Unholy Night is an anthology movie with two stories in the middle and a long wraparound that serves as the third story. It’s very low-budget but well-acted, and the stories are pretty good, if not wholly original. There’s little gore and little action, most of the stories dramatic, with a Tales From the Crypt vibe, only in a modern setting. That’s not to say there isn’t some good stuff in here. The mushroom trip the character goes on in the first story is pretty damned good, although you can see the cheap FX from a mile away. But hey, they’re doing the best they can with what they’ve got and it actually works, so kudos. And the scene where the ghost-girl drowns a victim in her own vomit is one for the ages. One interesting thing here is that this is a mostly female cast, and the stories revolve almost exclusively around female characters. The single story that features a man at its center he plays a victim, which is a nice role-reversal. It may be that seeing so many of these low-budget, DIY Christmas Horror films has made my brain go soft, but I actually really enjoyed this one. It dragged in a couple of spots and yeah, you’ll see the payoff at the end coming from a mile away, but there are some really creepy moments, and a few funny ones, too. I’d like to see what this crew could do with a bigger budget.
In the end, this isn’t essential viewing. If you never see it you won’t be missing out. However, it can be a fun little addition to your Holiday Horror if you decide to include it. Not a dud by any means, but also not a stunning, hidden classic. Unholy Night falls into that netherworld where it could easily be lost and forgotten, only to be rediscovered two decades from now by some other Horror Nut who is plumbing the depths for hidden treasure. While that would be cool, I think it deserves a little appreciation in the here and now. If you get an hour and a half to spare, give it a try.