On Christmas Eve three friends decide to explore an abandoned holiday theme park for their online adventure show. Their fun is interrupted by a large, murderous, hairy beast known as Krampus. As the three women try to hide, they come across a man who claims to be the real Santa Claus. It’s up to these friends, Santa Claus, and a park ranger to defeat Krampus to save Christmas and the world.
Slay Belles is by co-writers Jessica Luhrssen and SpookyDan Walker, with Walker also directing the film. Both have worked on films in the past in other capacities, but this is the first feature film either has headed. The duo worked to create a campy, fun, low-budget holiday horror comedy mash-up. This film will likely appeal to many horror fans and individuals who frequent conventions. Two of the three leads are women who dress up in cosplay and go on adventures for their website and fans. This is what leads them to the abandoned holiday theme park on Christmas Eve. The characters feel like real people because they fit in so well with geek culture.
Another interesting and fun aspect of the plot is the new Christmas mythology it creates. Everyone knows Santa Claus, and by now, most people (or at least most horror fans), know Krampus as well. Slay Belles gives audiences a new image of what Santa is up to in this day and age. It paints a unique picture of Santa not as the holly jolly fat old man we know and love, but instead he is a bit of an eccentric hermit who looks like he could be part of a biker gang. It gives audiences something they haven’t seen before. The updated mythology for both Santa and Krampus lead to some hilarious and bloody shenanigans. There are even a few unexpected twists sprinkled throughout.
The film has an array of performances ranging from hilarious to not so great. Luckily, the three leading ladies of Slay Belles all gives highly entertaining performances. Kristina Klebe (Tales of Halloween) stars as Alexi. She’s the hardworking, more practical friend in the group and the only one not technically part of the “Adventure Girls.” Despite the relative cheesiness of the film, Klebe delivers a solid performance. Susan Slaughter (Ouija House), a well-known paranormal investigator, plays the sassy Dahlia. Slaughter is part of the horror culture so her portrayal of Dahlia feels very authentic. Hannah Wagner (The Devil’s Carnival) plays Sadie, who is a bit ditzy and very spunky. The fact that Wagner has experience as a YouTube personality likely helped her to play Sadie in an entertaining yet realistic way. The trio not only act well individually, but their dynamics work great together as well. Of course, what would a Christmas horror film be without Santa Clause? I want to give a very special shoutout to Barry Bostwick (Rocky Horror Picture Show) for giving audiences one of the most unique portrayals of Santa I’ve ever seen.
A holiday B-horror film would be nothing without some memorable effects. For the most part, the film utilizes practical effects to create Krampus (as well as some delightful blood and gore). The Krampus makeup does a great job of creating the more classic look. He’s a hairy, horned, cloven-foot beast that wants to attack all the naughty children of the world. The overall look of Krampus is very well done, although there are a couple spots where it is obviously a hairless human arm that is simply painted. The most shocking aspect of the Krampus makeup design is the giant realistic penis. I had to rewind to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. While this practical effect would be over the top in other films, it fits in well with the overall theme of Slay Belles. One artistic aspect that detracts a bit from the film is that some of the climactic night scenes are too dark. It is one of the most exciting parts of the film, but it’s very difficult to see what’s going on.
Slay Belles isn’t the best holiday horror film, but it is still a riotous good time. The film boasts one of the more fun and original Santa and Krampus mythologies I’ve seen. All three leading ladies (and Bostwick) deliver strong performances, but there are other smaller characters who aren’t quite as good. The blood, guts, and Krampus practical effects bring thrills and laughs, although at times these effects also highlight the film’s small budget. Those looking for a more “refined” holiday horror film will likely want to steer clear of this film, but fans who enjoy campy B-horror movies will be delighted by Slay Belles.
OVERALL RATING: 6/10
I kept hearing about this one but never really looked into it. Now I’ve got to see it!
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