Color, 2017, 105 mins. 6 secs.
Directed by Reinert Kiil
Starring Sondre Krogtoft Larsen, Marte Sæteren, Stig Henrik Hoff, Jørgen Langhelle, Haddy Jallow, Karoline Stemre, Julia Schacht, Truls Svendsen, Helene Eidsvåg, Yassmine Johansen, Kylie Stephenson
Artsploitation Films (DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (2.35:1)

Norway Christmas Bloodhas proven itself to be an occasionally Christmas Bloodeffective supplier of horror films over the years, most notably with the superior Cold Prey slasher trilogy and the two insane Dead Snow titles in the early '00s. Of course, the snowy setting lends itself perfectly to a Christmas slasher, and the second one out of the gate, Christmas Blood (following 2013's Christmas Cruelty!), offers another spin on that now reliable chestnut, a maniac dressed up as Santa Claus determined to wreck everyone's Christmas Eve.

This time the story is a barely disguised riff on Halloween as the prologue sets up the mayhem as a child's attempt to sneak a peek at some Christmas Eve packages leads to the latest rampage by a homicidal psychopath (Langhelle) who's been keeping up a nasty annual tradition for years. Flash forward to December 22, 2016, and this inmate with "a dysfunctional personality disorder" who happens to be "the manifestation of pure evil" escapes from his remote prison to finish the kill list of naughty people he's been working from for years. The stressed-out investigator in charge, Terje Hanson (Larsen), ends up Christmas Bloodteaming with the original cop, Thomas (Hoff), who brought him in the first time. Christmas BloodMeanwhile one of the victims on his kill list has already committed suicide, and her daughter, Julia (Sæteren), is having some friends over to comfort her over the particularly grim holiday including Elizabeth (Stemre), whose deafness will play a key role later on, as well as visiting Aussie Annika (Stephenson) and buddies Sanne (Eidsvåg), Ritka (Jallow) and Katja (Johnasen). While they're distracted with guy troubles, the ladies have no idea they're next in line for a killing spree.

A perfectly serviceable little slasher with its heart in the right place (including a little dedication to Gunnar Hansen tucked away in the closing credits), Christmas Blood obviously doesn't try to reinvent the wheel here. However, apart from some skeevy sexual politics in a few moments, it gets a lot of mileage out of its focus on a group of very diverse female leads, and the idea of setting multiple stalking sequences in the middle of town late at night during heavy snow offers a nice change of scenery from the usual stalk Christmas Bloodand slash housebound routine. There's also an effective, moody electronic score (of course) that adds some extra melancholy mood to the proceedings, and even at an indulgent 105 minutes it doesn't wear out its welcome. Christmas Blood

However, one big issue with the film is the fact that it's very, very, very dark. In fact, it's impossible to tell what's happening in some scenes, and you'll feel like you're squinting for several minutes at a time. The Artsploitation DVD does what it can with the source material, and since there's no Blu-ray option, we can't tell if a bump in resolution might have helped. It seems true to the source though, so take it for what it is. Audio options include Norwegian 5.1 or 2.0 mixes as well as English or English SDH subtitles. It isn't a very showy sound mix, but the blowing wind and music gets some nice channel separation throughout. The sole extra is a theatrical trailer.

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Reviewed on January 5, 2019.