Some people like a little self referential humor in their horror films. Others like a little bit of Eugene O’Neill. As evidenced by Secret Santa, the talented folks at Skeleton Crew like a bit of both. This explosive horror comedy takes place on Christmas Day with one of the most dysfunctional, purely enjoyable families that you’ll ever meet…and the results are predictably (and, often, not so predictably) bloody.
With good reason, April is reluctantly bringing her boyfriend Ty home for the holidays. Her mother, Shari, is an arch diva. Her sister, Penny, is a resentful malcontent. On the other side of the sexes, her stepbrother, Jackson, is a little too touchy feely while her father, Leonard, is persona non grata around the premises. Soon, though, April is dealing with more than just tense talk and frayed emotions between meal courses. Someone on the premises is determined that things get real during this visit…real bloody, that is. Thus, the typical family battles now have a body count…a big one.
Smarting from the way their work was transformed on the big budget Texas Chainsaw 3D, screenwriters Adam Marcus (Jason Goes to Hell) and Debra Sullivan work with relatable menace here. Everyone (with any kind of familial issue) will be able to recognize themselves in one awkward moment or another as the proceedings unfold. Thankfully, the script is also high on laughs and gruesome kills. Totally devoting themselves to the project, Marcus also directs the proceedings with pure joy. Sullivan, meanwhile, rings every note out of the self centered Shari. Hers is a delicious performance, worthy of applause from that master of diva characterizations, Tennessee Williams. In fact, that literary savant would have surely found his creative juices flowing if he had been lucky enough to see her work in this.
The cast, as a whole, is particularly good, though. Importantly, A Leslie Kies simply radiates as April, bringing heart, truth and fury to the role. She is matched, note for note, by her co-stars.
But what truly marks Secret Santa as something special is its diversity and inclusiveness. Marcus and Sullivan provide roles for women of body types and age ranges that are generally ignored here. Their cast is also racially and culturally diverse. In Kyle, enthusiastically and sensitively played by Drew Lynch, they also help create one of the most unique and interesting gay characters to ever be featured in a horror film. Sweet natured with a hesitant stutter, Kyle grows, immeasurably, throughout the film. Hiding his sexuality at first, by the film’s end he is out and proud and able to produce the film’s sweetest and truest moments with a determined grace. Here’s hoping, as the spectrum of the terror community grows ever more fluid, that Marcus and Sullivan will lead the way to more projects such as this one. It’s the horror future that all fans truly deserve. …and I’m sure that, in whatever universe they may be floating in now, Williams and O’Neill would totally (bloody) agree.
More information on Secret Santa, which is currently hitting a variety of festivals and film events, is available at https://www.facebook.com/secretsantathemovie/.
Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!