A Creature Was Stirring, Elves, and To All a Good Night: (Ch)Op-Ed #17

Christmas horror is such a mixed bag. Some can be iconic (Silent Night, Deadly Night), some can be funny (Rare Exports), some can be spooky (Krampus), and some can be terrible (Mean One). Three films today, one hot off the press, one PG-13 cult classic, and a slasher by a first-time famous B-movie actor, will be discussed at length. Which is the best? 

A Creature Was Stirring (2023) 

Synopsis: 

A nurse taking care of her daughter’s mysterious affliction struggles to hide her secrets when uninvited strangers take shelter in her house during a lethal blizzard. 

IMDb: 4.8 

Rotten Tomatoes: 50% 

Damien LeVeck, primarily an editor, directs just his second full length picture, and I must say, he truly does an excellent job. The colors are amazing, from the blues to the reds to the greens, the colors completely saturate the screen in such a way, that it’s incredibly difficult to take your eyes off it. The Christmas lights even shine so brightly in the house that they reflect little white streaks. It’s dark, as the absence of normal light is so intriguing, allowing the colored lighting to steal the show. The film is truly beautiful to watch.  

It sets up enough of an interesting premise that you want to watch more and see where it’s going. We don’t fully understand what is going on, but we want to know. So many questions arise, and we are on the edge of our seats, waiting for them to be answered.  

Chrissy Metz (This Is Us) plays the nurse and really draws us into the potential danger that these strangers have stumbled upon. Something sinister might be lurking beneath her surface. Scout Taylor-Compton (Halloween) plays one of the mysterious strangers, who might not be as wholesome as she appears. And Annalise Basso (Slenderman, Ouija: Origin of Evil) plays the girl with the strange affliction.  

The film is very dialogue heavy and relies on the performances of the actors to carry it. There is very little in terms of horror or even the “stirring” creature, outside of glimpses here and there, but there are little camera tricks that lead you to think the girl and the creature might be one and the same. It’s more of an uneasy feeling mystery that you suspect might end with an M. Night Shyamalan twist. 

There’s enough intrigue, mood lighting, and fitting ambient music to accompany the story, that it never gets boring. One might get a little impatient, but that isn’t always a bad thing. The small cast, single location setting, really showcases how much you can do with so little, without even alerting the audience to its small budget. I wonder how much of the budget went to DC for the appearance of Green Lantern. 

The third act is when things pick up, with a great little transformation scene. Where most people might get turned off is the ending. I am not going to divulge it here. The whole movie is building to the end, so whether you like the ending or not, spoiling it negates the fun ride to get there. It’s about religion. God. The afterlife. Addiction. Motherly love. Mental illness. There are metaphors and symbols everywhere. It gets pretty whacky and out there for the finale. But it makes you think. It makes you question. And isn’t that what good movies do? 

6.5/10 Stab Wounds 

Elves (1989) 

Synopsis: 

A woman finds she is part of a Nazi breeding experiment with elves to create supermen. She and friends are trapped in a store with an elf. Only a renegade Santa Claus can save them. 

IMDb: 4.2 

Rotten Tomatoes: 29% 

Tagline: ‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the town, Blood-thirsty Elves are about to get down! 

Having never been released on DVD or Blu-Ray, Elves may be one of the most sought-after titles for collectors. However, that does not indicate that it’s a good movie. It’s been described as mean. Bad. Pointless. Ridiculous. Strange. Sounds like a lot of fun to me. So much fun, that I’m willing to watch it fullscreen in 480p! 

A trio of middle-aged women known as The Sisters of Anti-Christmas, accidentally summon a guy in a rubber mask with his mouth wide open in a perpetual silent scream. In a span of two minutes, this poor girl, who I thought was middle aged but is apparently in high school, gets smacked by her grandfather twice, her savings account taken away from her by her mom, and her 8-year-old little brother spies on her in the shower and says he has seen her “fucking big tits.” Then we get someone drowning a cat in the toilet. 

For a PG-13 film, there is a whole lot of the “f” word, a woman in the shower a millimeter away from a nipple shot, Santa asking a young girl for oral, cocaine use, and animal cruelty. I guess that’s the 80s for you. 

And where are the elves? We have ONE, count ‘em, ONE elf. And it looks like a gargoyle. And Dan Haggerty (The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams), the top billed dude in the film, can’t act his way out of a paper sack. He looks and sounds like alive Kenny Rogers, but he acts like dead Kenny Rogers. Cause his acting is lifeless. Get it? 

THIS is the movie collectors are going nuts over. I would rather lick a dead raccoon’s crusty butthole than own this movie. The acting is horrid. The music doesn’t fit. The directing is just awful. People speak offscreen while the actors onscreen just stand there looking like dopes. It is mean spirited, which I don’t mind, but the story itself is just unbelievably weak. There’s no reason for everyone to be such dicks. The logic of these people and the way that they act are the opposite of the way normal people behave. Did AI write the script? 

Jeffrey Mandel wrote and directed this film, and he worked for a number of years in the business, but mercifully, he stopped in 1998. He doesn’t have any credits after that, and we can all be thankful. I would feel like a total asshole if he quit the business because he died. Oh, well. Fuck him and his singular Elf. 

2.0/10 Stab Wounds 

To All a Good Night (1980) 

Synopsis: 

A group of teenagers at a party find themselves being stalked by a maniacal killer in a Santa Claus costume. 

IMDb: 4.6 

Rotten Tomatoes: 17% 

Tagline: You’ll scream till dawn! 

David Hess (Last House on the Left, House on the Edge of the Park, Hitch-Hike) makes his directorial debut here, casting Jennifer Runyon (Ghostbusters) with an appearance from porn star Harry Reems. 

It’s very reminiscent of Black Christmas. From the school sorority setting, to the slasher element, to the girls being on break. It also features a killer Santa Claus, 4 years before Silent Night, Deadly Night. Hess adds a bit of trash to it, from the nice POV shots and the B level acting, to the pointless nudity and overly lit glow of the feature. 

The film is set at a finishing school, aka charm school. This was mostly dropped in the 60s, as the roles of women in society were changing, but it still exists in certain parts of the world. It’s basically a training ground for girls after school to integrate them into high society. 

There’s even a great dub when the guys get off the airplane that was obviously done in post-production. Everyone’s voice is just so loud and nowhere near matching their lips that it’s laughable. I almost lost my lunch in the following scene when a dude plays an out of tune guitar and grunts through a song while all the girls swoon over him.  

The acting is rough (an understatement to say the least) in spots, and the caretaker guy is like a cross between high as fuck and special ed Will Ferrell. But Hess had a good casting agent for the girls, as they’re all attractive and charismatic. But the guys are annoying and obviously older than they should be. It is the 80s after all. 

The gore is good. The kills are fun. Some of the logic is questionable. On more than one occasion the question is asked, “Where is everybody?” Then they split up and go off to have sex. Without spoiling a 43-year-old film, the reveal is fun, similar to Friday the 13th which was released earlier in the same year. The motive is a lot more common these days. 

It’s not bad. If you want to see a slasher that you’ve never seen before, check this out. It checks all the boxes. It’s not Shakespeare, nor will it go into the Horror Hall of Fame. It’s just average. Nothing special.  

5.0/10 Stab Wounds 

About RetRo(n) 54 Articles
I like the 80s, slasher films, Italian directors, Evil Ed, Trash and Nancy, Ripley and Private First Class Hudson, retro crap but not SyFy crap, old school skin, Freddy and Savini, Spinell and Coscarelli, Andre Toulon, and last, but not least, Linda Blair.