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The Christmas Tapes (2022) Review

Surprisingly not titled A V/H/S Christmas, or as close to that as the lawyers would allow, The Christmas Tapes is an anthology film that reunites actor/producer Greg Sestero (The Room, Miracle Valley) with Infrared’s writing/directing team Robert Livings and Randy Nundlall Jr.

The Christmas Tapes consists of four found footage segments and a wraparound in which a family, Bill (Todd Lubitsch, Patchwork, Lost Fare), his wife Lisa (Janice Angela Burt, Man of Sorrows, Hello Stranger) and their kids Eli (Joshua Rose, Closure) and Rachel (Ruby Setnik, Sundays) have their Christmas Eve interpreted by a stranger (Greg Sestero). He holds them at gunpoint. Since Rachel is an aspiring filmmaker, he has the perfect gift, four VHS tapes that should inspire her.

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The first of these, “Travel Buggies” starts with a familiar premise, a pair of vloggers, Dave (Caleb Lush) and Jess (Louise Harding, Remember Redfield, Tubes) filming another episode of their show. This one is a bit of an improvisation, since their plans to do a Christmas in Europe series didn’t work out they’ve gone camping instead. And since by their own admission neither of them are campers things go downhill fast. The only thing that actually works is the summoning ritual they do as a joke.

This segment is fairly lightweight and takes its time getting to the point. There are several jump scares worked into it to keep the viewer’s attention until it does. Overall it’s not too bad but suffers from one of the most unbelievable “They kept filming through that?” moments I’ve seen recently.

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The second of The Christmas Tapes, “The Christmas Gift” revolves around a father (Jason Kuykendall, July Rising, Homeland) whose kids love watching unboxing videos on YouTube. So he decides to have himself sent to them in an oversized box. Unfortunately, the couple he hired to deliver him dressed as Santa (Vernon Wells, Commando, Frost) and Mrs. Claus (Lori Richardson, Wall-E, Stolen Moments) have other ideas.

Christmas Horror is a subgenre that we feel deserves more attention, and this film came about from us discussing the classics and how we could possibly bring something new to the table. From day one, we were aware that this film had to be fun and could not take itself too seriously.

Robert Livings and Randy Nundlall Jr.

This is a decidedly darker tale which revolves around the most dangerous advent calendar since The Advent Calendar. This segment should appeal to fans of Hostel and the Saw franchises, while Tarantino fans will spot a reference to his best film. On the other hand, what should have been a gory highlight is ruined by lousy CGI.

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“Untitled” is a quickie about a man who wakes up with an experimental chip implanted in his head and fifteen minutes, give or take, to deliver a package before it explodes. It’s shot from his POV and features a meanacing, and unexplained, figure trying to prevent him from making the delivery. There’s an amusing bit with bits of what it was taped over popping up, but it really feels more like a test for a segment than a completed short.

The last segment of The Christmas Tapes, “The Christmas Spirit” is a haunted house tale. Ian (Ian Hopps, You Can Run, King of California) and Devin (Devin Valdez) are spending the holidays in their new house waiting for their furniture to arrive. When it becomes clear they’re not the house’s only occupants they call Paranormal Perry (Dave Sheridan, Massacre Academy, The Resort). They might have been better off dealing with the ghosts themselves.

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Dave Sheridan is the highlight here. If Bruce Campbell had been cast in Ghostbusters, the result might have been something like this. It’s easily the best of the segments and ties into the wrap-up of the wraparound. That lasts just long enough to let Sestero ham it up a bit more in The Christmas Tapes’ second-best role.

Overall, The Christmas Tapes is a fun collection of shorts. Granted, the first segment could have used a bit of tightening up, and the time used to make “Untitled” a bit more complete. But it’s a lot better than I expected after having seen Infrared, and an amusing way to pass some time.

Terror Films will release The Christmas Tapes on Digital Platforms worldwide on December 16th. And if that’s not enough to stuff your stocking, FilmTagger can suggest a few more treats.

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