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Santa Isn’t Real (2023) Review

While Santa Isn’t Real is only his second film as a director, the supernatural slasher #Float being his first, Zac Locke is no stranger to the genre. He has a long string of credits as a producer on film ranging from Mercy Black and Climate of the Hunter to, for better or worse, the most recent version of Black Christmas.

Santa Isn’t Real opens with Nikki (Kaya Coleman, Come True, Dangerous Game: The Legacy Murders) ignoring a text from her boyfriend Nathan (Trey Anderson, Performance Anxiety) to celebrate with spiked eggnog and a bottle of Zoloft As the clock strikes midnight Santa comes down the chimney and attacks her before eating the cookies, laying a finger aside his nose and going back up the chimney.

The attack leaves her in a coma for nearly a year. She comes out of it days before Christmas, to find that everyone thinks it was the result of a suicide attempt, not an assault.

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It’s a great opening, leaving the viewer wondering if this time the killer really is Santa, or if we’re seeing what Nikki thinks she sees through a fog of booze and pills. If it was the real Santa, why would he wear a mask? And even if she was on the naughty list, isn’t it Krampus’ job to do the killing?

The other thing that stands out is how unsympathetic Nikki is. When Nathan and their friend Jess (Scarlett Sperduto, Those Who Walk Away, The Letter) visit her in the hospital, she greets them with suspicion. The next day, she is again nasty to them and also says she would rather be back in the coma than have Christmas dinner with her parents and their friends. She is not joking.

And having such an unlikable protagonist makes it difficult to get invested in the film, even if we suspect there’s an explanation for it.

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Eventually, they join their friend MJ (Cissy Ly, Soft and Quiet, Sad Eyes) at her parent’s cabin in the woods. The weather turns bad, and guess who shows up to finish what he started the year before? Or is he? I mean, we all know Santa isn’t real.

Santa Isn’t Real certainly had plenty of potential, but the script seems determined to throw it all away almost from the start. Nikki was in a coma for a year, after a year of inactivity, all her muscles would be atrophied and weak, she’d need a wheelchair and physical therapy. She’d also have to get used to solid food again after being fed by IV that long. But she is able to check out right away, seemingly fine apart from needing crutches.

If that was its only fault it wouldn’t be so bad, but Santa Isn’t Real also suffers from some really poor performances and some terrible dialogue, something that’s never a good combination. Occasionally the combination results in some unintentional laughs, but most of the time it just made me cringe as characters had the most unlikely responses to the film’s mostly predictable events.

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By the time Santa finally starts his seasonal slaying, it feels like the movie has dragged on for hours, but Santa Isn’t Real only runs seventy-five minutes including credits. In the closing minutes we do get a bizarre pastor (David Mitchum Brown, The Blair Witch Legacy, 10 Days in a Madhouse) delivering a sermon about the evils of Santa that’s good for a chuckle, but that’s about it.

The film’s effects are quite good, although due to the small cast there aren’t that many of them, and they all come in the last few minutes. The killer’s identity is painfully obvious, though, and an attempt at a final scene surprise is just as obvious. There is a post credits scene, but it’s nothing special, just a weak joke.

A big step back from #Float, Santa Isn’t Real will have you wishing the film wasn’t real.

Santa Isn’t Real is available on Digital Platforms via XYZ Films.

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