On the surface, and judging by the posters, Perfect Sense is just a steamy romantic drama tinged with light science fiction. The bare-chested woman in the first scene doesn’t help with breaking the expectations. (At least there’s equal-opportunity nudity later on, though.) Furthermore, Perfect Sense is not a conventional horror movie in any sense. The blood is minimal, there is no supernatural Big Bad antagonist, and the score lacks sharp strings and heavy bass. Instead, the horror comes from the concept of the film. An epidemic is swiftly stripping humans of their senses, one at a time. “They don’t even have time to give the disease a name,” says Susan, one of our protagonists. In a world where we lose our abilities to experience any and everything, what remains?
I suppose we should start with what the movie promises. The posters look like those of your typical romantic drama: a man, Ewan McGregor, and a woman, Eva Green, about to kiss. The tagline on one simply says, “A Modern Love Story,” and another reads, “Without love, there is nothing.” Gee, that’s helpful. Meanwhile, the trailer shows kissing, laughing, yelling, and crying. Neither McGregor nor Green are strangers to intimate scenes, so it’s expected that we’ll see some canoodling. Part of what I appreciate about this film is that the sex isn’t shameful or voyeuristic. It’s a means of genuine connection. Again, nothing special, but it certainly doesn’t seem like anything to classify the film as horror.
Very early on, however, we learn of an epidemic in the UK involving the loss of smell. There is no pattern, no connection between symptomatic people, and no indicators of what the disease or virus looks like. The doctors and scientists only know that it is spreading. The epidemic quickly becomes a pandemic – so quickly, in fact, that “They don’t even have time to give the disease a name.” Green’s character, Susan, is an epidemiologist, which gives us insight into what is known, or more accurately, all that we don’t know. What starts as a sense of creeping dread turns into feelings of futility, hopelessness, and, yes, horror.
Before each sense is lost, there is an outburst of emotion. The first three losses come with grief, panic, and anger, respectively. The scene after the panic is, for lack of a better word, gross. The emotion is followed by an all-consuming hunger. But wait! It gets worse. The scenes accompanying anger and its consequences are outright scary. We see brutality, fire, blood, violence, and all its effects. The peaks of emotion reached by the characters are out of place in a typical romantic drama. They are more than screaming and sobbing. They depict overpowering, out-of-control fractures in the psyche. Most threats in the horror genre rely on the loss of power and control, so Perfect Sense really isn’t too far removed.
The movie is perhaps made even more unsettling by our current global situation. There are people wearing masks. Once-hectic restaurants are barren. Many people are quarantining while others deny the truth and laugh it off. Religious zealots claim it is all part of some higher plan, some question if it’s biological warfare, and conspiracy theorists act as you could very well predict. Scenes from across the globe show how various cultures deal with the threat. The parallels to COVID made my viewing experience hit closer to home than when I first watched it several years ago.
Perfect Sense as a whole is profoundly upsetting. It shows what we take for granted and the grim reality that we all eventually face: we are alone and will die as such. A repeated line is “Life goes on.” Depending on the situation, it’s either gut-wrenchingly depressing or slightly hopeful. Either way, there is a sense of futility. Life goes on regardless of our presence. The horror in the film is more cosmic and existential than your usual scary offerings. Since I love deeper, more speculative horrors, and Perfect Sense provides exactly that, I highly recommend watching it for those with similar tastes.
Christmas Horror Parody ‘The Mean One’ Successfully Converts Christmas Classic ‘The Grinch’ into a Scary Story
If Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch was too tame a Christmas-hating monster for your tastes, never fear; The Mean One is here.
How ‘The Mean One’ Wins as a Christmas Horror Movie
This comedy-horror slasher, directed by Steven LaMorte, tells the story of Cindy You-Know-Who (Krystle Martin) returning to her hometown of Newville – where her mother had been viciously murdered in front of her twenty years prior. The sheriff did not take the young girl’s claims that a monster had killed her mother seriously, so the murder remained unsolved. Cindy’s return to town shows a Newville that is wholly undecorated for Christmas, and as a string of murders begins to occur, Cindy knows her mother’s killer has returned.
With the appearance of the Mean One himself and a good balance of campiness and horror, all spread out amongst an intriguing storyline; The Mean One is a fun Christmas horror movie that subverts a beloved childhood classic and makes it its own.
The Horror-Parody Version of The Grinch
One thing the film did exceedingly well was its presentation of The Mean One. The makeup effects were stellar in creating a monster who is at the crossroads of a terrifying cryptid and a holiday icon. From his dirty Santa coat to his black snarl, he checked all the boxes for how a Christmas-hating monster should look.
Of course, to talk about the monster is also to talk about the man behind the mask, David Howard Thornton. After establishing himself as a horror icon in his role of Art the Clown in the Terrifier films, it was fun to see him transcend another role as a horror villain. With another horror flick under his belt, David Howard Thornton is one to keep an eye on. So far, every character he has been behind has been creepy and entertaining, perfectly matching the film’s tone.
The Approach to Campy Horror
A horror film with rhyming couplets interspersed throughout could never be completely serious, and The Mean One succeeds because it doesn’t try to be. However, the film is not without its creepy moments that would be well-placed in any modern-day horror movie. Like any good scary movie, there are dramatic reveals, emotional turmoil, and suspense building.
It also injects a sense of fear into the holiday itself as it makes the idea of celebrating Christmas a dangerous thing. It’s a delicate balance to create something that is not very serious but simultaneously creepy, and the film does just that.
The Mean One Tells a Story That You Already Know in a Different Way
When making a horror film based on a traditional Christmas story, the added challenge is changing it enough to fit into the horror genre but not so much that it becomes unrecognizable. The Mean One was clearly up to the challenge as it was able to interweave a story that mimicked the traditional Dr. Seuss style of storytelling, with plotlines of a typical scary movie, while still paying homage to the source material. The integration into horror was so smooth that it felt like it should’ve been a scary story all along.
The idea of presenting the recognizable holiday monster as a cryptid is a genius move and calls to question why the Whos down in Whoville never inquired about the existence of the creature who descended from Mount Crumpit to steal their Christmas away in Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas.
It was not only the Mean One that saw some subversion of Christmas lore. A white-haired bearded man with a red cap who seems to watch over the beginning events of the film (and is aptly named “Doc” Zeus) integrated a little bit of a real-life Santa into the storyline.
Make no mistake; this film is not a high-budget, major Hollywood production. The blood spray effects are campy to the nth degree, and the movie is not without its flaws. But what it does well, it does very well. The Mean One’s appearance is gritty, fun, and familiar; the storyline is immediately immersive – altogether, it is an entertaining watch.
It delivers everything the premise promises: a presentation of a fun Christmas flick that we all know, but this time for horror fans.
See The Mean One for yourself in theaters on December 9th!
RUN RUN RUDOLPH, KILLER ROBOT SANTA’S IN TOWN: ‘Christmas Bloody Christmas’ Review
Seasons screamings, everyone!
I have another wonderful treat for you all, hot out the Shudder ovens. If you’re like me, that means your holiday evenings as a horror fan might be feeling a little bit empty in terms of festivity, and Christmas Bloody Christmas is here to make that right. I’m cheery about the film from the jump. Que raro!
Christmas Bloody Christmas follows what happens when an attempt to turn surplus military technology (a.k.a. killer robots) into friendly department store Santa animatronics backfires; our jolly old Saint Nick ends up painting the town redder than a candy cane’s stripes, terrorizing coworkers Tori (Riley Dandy) and Robbie (Sam Delich) amid their budding romance. Is the premise kind of dumb? Yes, but if you’ve been reading my reviews, you know dumb fun horror is my wheelhouse just as much as the highbrow stuff is. And just because something is silly doesn’t mean it can’t be well made.
Writer and director Joe Begos is getting my second shoutout of the year for his work. I thought the foul-mouthed dialogue of this movie sounded familiar, and that’s because he headed another Channel 83 venture I recommended for October, the 2019 vampires-on-drugs film Bliss. There are many similarities between the two directorially, though this is much more oriented for fun than the psychological nightmare Bliss was. Where Bliss was a dark game of Vampire: The Masquerade, Christmas Bloody Christmas is your classic slasher during the holiday season.
We’ve also left the Panos Kosmatos-esque territory of Bliss’s cinematography, which might be due to the influence of cinematographer Brian Sowell who previously made the film Beyond the Gates, another fun little low-budget horror flick I remember enjoying. Neon wasteland cinematography that is replete with a color palette tuned for blacklight posters and Christmas lights in every single shot, and every scene outside being caked in fake snow and decorations help the aesthetic this movie is going for feel fully realized.
Composer Steve Moore who worked on both Mayhem and The Guest, two of my favorite action horror films, provides an impeccable score for this film of heavy synth rock with homage to some of the band’s name dropped in the film by our leads. And Josh Russell, who did makeup work for The Night House and a little horror remake you may have heard of called Hellraiser (2022), rounds out that group. The crew on this one is practically a perfect assortment of horror movie production irregulars.
Delich and Dandy have pretty good on-screen chemistry as dirtbag crustpunks who need several mouthfuls of soap scrubbed onto those tongues. Dandy in particular is a veteran of fun, romantic holiday movies, and it’s nice to see she can extend her range beyond being a forgettable Hallmark protagonist whose outfit stepped out of a JCPenney catalog. She makes for an enjoyable final girl for this.
The duo talk like their dialogue is on loan from the Hellbillies of a Rob Zombie film, but they’re believable as coworkers in a long-term “will-they-wont-they” relationship. Their exchanges are genuinely funny at points, even if they stay a bit longer than welcome. These don’t veer into trying to impress you with the character’s pretentiousness about music; they’re just two friends drunk and high on Christmas eve, talking about their flailing romantic lives and which of their bands has the best Christmas song.
Beyond characters, the meat of the film is Silent Night Deadly Night by way of The Terminator in its premise. And in its execution, it feels like a lower-grade SNDN film for how cartoonishly violent and mean the kills can get, and I mean that in the best way. A single axe swing chops a guy in half like it’s a board of wood at a kid’s karate class, several people get thrown around like ragdolls through objects, and there are plenty of fake heads and bodies getting demolished for the gore hounds in the audience. Even the robot gets severely jacked up with sparks flying and explosions. The special effects are hammy, and I love it more for that.
But as much as I like it, this one isn’t flawless. I feel like our dear Santa could have had a stronger design, maybe with a solid mask, and played with more robotic physicality beyond what we get in the third act. The camera work can sometimes be distracting in its attempts to convey high tension, ending up feeling fidgety instead.
And to be quite honest, I’m very torn on the films ending. While it’s very entertaining and we get to see the full depth of the crazy animatronic Santa we’ve been waiting for all film which I love, it also drags in a way that is funny for some and might be a bit grating for others. Ultimately some editing flaws are exacerbated by the film being an exceptionally tight 86 minutes (we’re talking stocking stuffed to the brim tight), so it could serve well to have a director’s cut.
BOTTOMLINE: Christmas Bloody Christmas is an over-the-top, grindhouse-y spectacular that gives you exactly what’s in the title. It isn’t your standard holiday horror fare where there’s usually more about the film to laugh at than laugh with, but it definitely isn’t humorless. It’s a solid little film that looks like it could make a reliable staple in the rotation of dumb fun holiday horror for many Christmases to come. You know, assuming you don’t get killed by a robotic Santa Claus before then.
Watch Christmas Bloody Christmas starting 12/9 on Shudder!