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Nightmare on 34th Street (2023) Review

Nightmare on 34th Street was a film I thought I’d never see. I first saw the title back around 2017 when I was reviewing writer/director James Crow’s films House of Salem and Black Creek. It was listed on IMDB and there had even been a trailer released. And then it pretty much dropped off my radar until an email landed in my inbox asking if I wanted a screener. I think you can guess the answer.

The film appears to have been edited, reedited and edited some more over the years with segments added, subtracted and their order reshuffled. The final version was apparently only finished a couple of weeks ago with a new screener, the two hour and ten minute cut I’m reviewing here, being sent out at the last minute.

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The first segment “Toby & Cloe’s Christmas Nightmare” sees Santa and his helpers pay a visit to Carly (Danni Thompson, The Pocket Film of Superstitions, Cowgirls vs. Pterodactyls) and her family. Only these three are serial killers out to celebrate the holidays. The attack on the family barely lasts five minutes, but a “Five Years Later” coda ups the running time and the body count in rather nasty fashion.

This leads into Nightmare on 34th Street’s wraparound, “Santa’s Story” wherein Santa (Pierse Stevens, Pericles by Shakespeare on the Road, Dark Cloud) tells young Peter (Jude Forsey, Creek Encounters, Ghost Track) the backstory of the murderous trio. Anyone who’s seen the infamous British proto-slasher Killer’s Moon will recognize the story, and Mr. White’s (Jeff Kristian, Spidarlings, A Reasonably Good Bloke) outfit.

The third Nightmare on 34th Street is “The Ventriloquist Who Stole Christmas”. It’s the story of, you guessed it, a ventriloquist by the name of Henry White (Mark Beauchamp, The House of Godd, Six Years Gone) and his dummy, a snowman named Dr. White. He’s not a very good ventriloquist and after another failed audition and a beating by a group of thugs, his wife Jade (Bibi Lucille, Deadly Perfect, Vipers) leaves him.

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At this point Dr. White starts talking to him, telling him he should be more like his father Oscar (Jon Vangdal Aamaas, Cannibals and Carpet Fitters, Ghost Crew). He was a successful ventriloquist and an even better serial killer.

“Merry Krampus” is up next and features Lucy Pinder (Strippers vs Werewolves, Fanged Up) as Louise who has several kids by several men, the most recent of which, Jonathan (Marc Zammit, Dragon Kingdom, Homeless Ashes) has left her and their son Luke (Rafi Wilder, Born a King, Deep State) just before Christmas. Luke blames himself and becomes convinced Krampus will be coming for him because of it.

The nastiest of Nightmare on 34th Street’s segments, this goes to some disturbing places. And so does the next one, “12 Kills of Christmas” which features Jeff Kristian again, this time as Father McShane whose past includes accusations that he molested members of his choir and worse. Now suffering from dementia and cared for by his daughter Maria (Olivia Hespe, Killerhertz, Nemesis), he’s going to get a visit from that past.

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“Santa’s Revenge” tells us how our storytelling Santa came to be this way. He actually was a department store Santa until one Christmas his wife left him and took their son with her. Well she would have if he hadn’t snapped and killed them. He goes into work only to find out he’s been replaced, which only makes matters worse and he embarks on a full scale slay ride.

Was Nightmare on 34th Street worth the wait? Yes and no. The stories are a very mixed bag quality wise with the longest, “The Ventriloquist Who Stole Christmas” being the weakest. At fifty minutes long it feels like Crow wanted to make a feature length slasher version of Magic but ran out of funds before the connecting footage between the kills could be shot.

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Several of the other stories however do hit the target, especially “Merry Krampus” and “12 Kills of Christmas”. Both touch on real life evil and manage to hit some disturbing notes. “12 Kills” does end up going off the deep end and trading some of that impact for a twisted last act that feels like something out of an 80s Italian religious horror film such as The Sect, but that ends it with a different kind of disturbing image.

At two hours and ten minutes, Nightmare on 34th Street is without a doubt way too long. The original screener apparently was seventy five minutes and I’m guessing omitted “The Ventriloquist Who Stole Christmas”. It would have been better off if it had stayed that way, but even with it the film is still worth it for the other segments, and there’s always fast forward if you need it.

Nightmare on 34th Street is available on Digital and VOD Platforms via Wild Eye Releasing. You can check for more information including the UK release date on the film’s Facebook Page.

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