May 12, 2023
Keith Szarabajka, Poonam Basu, Shalini Bathina
‘You better watch out, you better not die!’ reads the tagline on Jingle Hell’s poster. Come on guys, ‘Slashing through the snow’ was RIGHT THERE. I guess it’s at least more appropriate than ‘Oh what fun…’, seeing as this Christmas-themed horror quickly devolves into a bargain-bin, by the numbers slasher that fails in utilising its seasonal setting.
Margo (Poonam Basu) and Nathan (Tyler Beveridge) arrive at a luxury rental house out in the woods for a Christmas getaway. The couple are expecting, and have taken up Margo’s sister Grace’s (Shalini Bathina) offer to spend the holidays with her and her partner Spencer (Murphy Patrick Martin). But a rift in the family following their mother’s passing means it’s not just the weather that is frosty. When a mysterious attacker in a snowman mask attacks the house, Margo must fight to protect her family.
Jingle Hell suffers from the same detriments that made Winnie the Pooh: Blood & Honey such a disappointment. Both have an intriguing and engaging concept – taking joyous and family-friendly characters, settings and themes only to flip them on their heads and instil them with brutality, blood and carnage. But neither go beyond the surface of dressing up a murderer in a daft mask and costume and hoping viewers clap like seals at the farcical idea of a copy/paste slasher villain wearing a fancy dress outfit. Rather than deconstruct the holiday-movie genre or have fun with Christmas tropes (surely one of the killers could have come down the chimney…), Jingle Hell ends up as yet another occult horror film – just draped in tinsel this time. At least unlike Pooh, it has the good sense not to outstay its welcome at thirty minutes.
So the trimmings are a let-down, and truthfully, the Turkey isn’t much better. Horror fans will be unimpressed with the violence on offer, with poor choreography and editing making ‘killing’ blows appear stunted and without the kind of intensity needed to get grizzly gratification centres grinding. The plot is predictable, with a twist so obvious that it can be seen through a snowstorm. A theme of family is at least somewhat original, though tying this into the actual story produces further bafflement and leaves a pile of unanswered questions – going beyond the obvious of why the killers dressed up in a snowman outfit.
Performances are fine if forgettable. Poonam Basu is an enjoyable and relatable protagonist, though one never really senses a visceral vulnerability a pregnant mother ought to illicit. Murphy Patrick Martin takes chunks out of the scenery as the filthy rich and utterly irredeemable Spencer, and leaves the most lasting impression of the cast. Production is similarly passable – with some dynamic and stylishly presented shots and scenes. Though the blood effects fail to convince and further drag down the already-awkward action sequences.
Jingle Hell really is little more than a bite-sized beige slasher hiding under a somewhat interesting premise. It barely makes use of its only intriguing element, and even the bread and butter of all great horror – character, themes and good old-fashioned violence are far below the standards set by its many, many contemporaries. If you want to watch something truly terrifying at Christmas, you’re better off with Krampus, Violent Night or Andrew Lincoln’s creepy stalker scenes in Love Actually.