This EVIL Santa is Ho, Ho, Horrible. “Slayed” reviewed! (Terror Films / Digital Screener)

Five years after a murderous, Santa Claus-cladded maniac massacred a couple of young women in the dank basement of a water treatment plant in Harris County, AZ, the stigma of the plant being open has caused enough controversy, heartache, and notoriety for the local residents and will soon close the chained-link gate forever to soon transform into a car dealership. On the last day of operation, Christmas Eve night, the lone survivor of that night five years ago walks vigilantly around the perimeter with a tingled sense that something just isn’t right as he stashes weapons around the facility…just in case. With the last administrative staff gone for the night and a novice guard at the helm of watch, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse, until there arose such a clatter and who did the guard and the survivor find? It was the return of Jolly Old Saint Nick with an axe to grind.

Merry Christmas, readers! You can’t spread Christmas fear without watching at least one, count them one, homicidal Holidays flick starring our favorite Yuletide strangler, Santa Claus. This year, the Fatman reins down upon a few unfortunate recipients on his coal gifting list in Jim Klock and Mike Capozzi’s “Slayed” that was released digitally this last month of 2020. The script is penned by Jim Klock following another Klock and Capozzi collaboration, the 2019 released Devil trickery detective-thriller, “Red Letters,” that has the unconventional atmospherics of a Christmas themed slasher set in the fictional location of Harris County, Arizona even though the climate of Arizona is semiarid and “Slayed” appears to be taking place in a lush, semi-tropic climate that’s perhaps more in tune with a Floridian winter. However, production company, Jim Klock and Darrell Martinelli”s Code 3 Films, is based out of New Jersey with offices in Los Angeles, suggesting a summer shoot with the cut off shorts, short sleeves t-shirts, and the wicking sporty running attire being worn amongst the limited primary characters.

Klock not only directs, writes, and produces the serial killer Santa but also co-stars as a new-to-the-area, aspiring actor standing in for a regular security guard. Klock enacts a classic clueless constitution for a baffled and bumbling outsider caught in the middle of historical notoriety having returned from the grave. Standing side-by-side and opposite is co-director, Mike Capozzi, who institutes a doomsday prepper’s fantasy come to fruition as the lone survivor of the 5-year bygone Harris County water plant massacre. The role of a water plant operator turned lone wolf of misanthropy never truly fleshes out of a state of rigid inflexible measures that stagnant the character’s mysterious backstory of surviving Santa’s bloody red-handed carnage and extend his development into an explanation of his long-awaited revenge obsession. Klock and Capozzi only bookend the film being in the same scene together, leaving much of the midsection, essentially the second act, for distressing females as hunting game for Santa’s slay. Coel Mahal and Kyra Kennedy, who have previously worked with Klock and Capozzi on previous projects, adequately fill in those rolls to an extent. Mahal’s masculine bity, water plant administrator acutely shifts into trope slasher-fodder of hapless articles of loosely bound prey. Things worsen with Kyra Kennedy’s rando abductee with an uncontrollably irritating sniveling in unprompted immediate danger as she sits in the passenger seat of a truck and just inconsolably cries, cries, and cries. Luckily, “Slayed” is a indie-reined in production that doesn’t swarm with halfhearted and ill-deserving characters as the film rounds out with minor roles casted to Delton Goodrum, Chuck Roberts, and Jennifer Meakin and Crystal Cameron as half-naked, strung up torture toys for a deranged Kris Kringle.

In a peeve already mentioned, “Slayed” rarely invokes as a Christmas chronicled horror film, striking lukewarm resemblances to that of “Silent Night, Deadly Night” or “Christmas Evil,” to which those films set a very low bar to emulated, unless you’re a trash-loving, so-bad-it’s-good, cult film enthusiastic, like yours truly, than its nothing but top shelf quality. However, the unexplained warm weather upholstery cripples “Slayed’s” genre-blend construct that’s been in august status of next level output over the last few years to dispel the happiest time of year into a certifiable time of fear in an apparent hostile seasonal takeover in a return of spite that Halloween shortens every year with Christmas nipping at the heels as soon as the first brown leaf hits the ground. If the shooting location is truly set in Arizona, winter months typically hover around a light jacket and shorts 60 degrees during the day and nippy 40 degrees at night, but the sweaty, wintery deficient clothing worn suggests a sweltering otherwise. Klock and Capozzi’s good faith effort into “Slayed’s” festive fare is in the garish Holiday decorations and ornamental lighting production design denotes the showy display of Christmas spirit, held in which season is not exactly clear. To speak more on the lighting, Emily Adam, another patron believer of Klock’s work, uses a restrained soft fuchsia lens tint, among other vivid primary colors, to elevate the seasonal veneer and Adam’s lighting is especially a favorable hallmark of the season with the use of the soft, but brilliant glow of Christmas string bulbs utilized to lash and tie up up naughty listers. Yet, up to scratch cinematography can’t fix what’s inherently broken with a story penned as a sequel structure that assumes the audiences’ knowledge of past events when, in fact, leaves viewers in blackout darkness with many questions: Why the Harris County water plant? Where did maniacal Santa go for five years? How did the water plant survivor make it out alive and is now determined to end not only maniacal Santa’s life but also his own? Why did maniacal Santa kidnap this random young lady from her house? What’s the significance of Christmas for maniacal Santa and why this period in time to return? I enjoy Christmas horror as much as the next genre votary but wrapping your head around “Slayed” topples any chance of actually enjoying the disgruntled, menacingly muttering “Ho Ho Ho” catch-phrasing, maniacal Santa terrorizing an unjolly skeleton crew on Christmas Eve night.

Ho Ho Horror! Santa delivers the gift of sufferable tidings and killjoys in the Terror Films distributed “Slayed” digitally only onto Prime Video. If you didn’t catch “Slayed” before Christmas when released on December 18th, then no worries! Quickly nosedive into your laptop or television set and catch Santa axing away on Prime Video today! An interesting tidbit about the crew of “Slayed” comes from the music department with composer Jojo Draven, former guitarists for a number of Las Vegas shows such as performance artists, the Blue Man Group, and Gothic street illusionist, Chris Angel. The Indonesian-American female rocker’s agreeable experimental-industrial sound comes across professionally astute toward the context with unbuckling tension baked right into the scene. There were no bonus material included with the screener nor where there bonus scenes during or after the credits. Instead of racing down the stairs, excited by the prospect of unwrapping that one main horror-inspired Christmas movie on Christmas Day, “Slayed” turns out to be a disappointing hefty lump of coal with a few diamond patches sparkling through the sedimentary rock and catching our eye in a rather humbug holiday horror falling short of that so-bad-its-good set bar.

Watch “Slayed” on Prime Video by clicking the poster!

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