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CARNAGE FOR CHRISTMAS Review: A Stylish Holiday Horror Treat

By Amylou Ahava

On the first slay of Christmas, my true love gave to me: a trans podcaster solving mystery. 

Get ready to deck the halls with CARNAGE FOR CHRISTMAS, a holiday horror treat directed by the talented Alice Maio Mackay. This festive thriller follows Lola, a trans-true-crime podcaster (played by the fantastic Jeremy Moineau), as she jingles all the way back to her small hometown of Purdan, Australia, for Christmas. But instead of holiday cheer, she's met with a nightmare before Christmas: a string of brutal murders committed by a killer dressed as Santa Claus. Mackay, at only 19 years old, is known for her sleigh-full of creative storytelling (So Vam, Bad Girl Boogey), and she stuffs this movie with a Christmas list full of fun.

Written by Mackay and Benjamin Pahl Robinson (So Vam, Bad Girl Boogey), CARNAGE starts with Lola’s latest podcast episode, describing a creepy urban legend from her childhood. The story goes that back in the 1930s, a man dressed as Santa Claus killed his whole family and then himself in an old, abandoned house and earned the name of The Toymaker. Growing up, kids dared each other to go inside that house, and when Lola did, she made a shocking discovery that got her hooked on true crime and forensic science. Many years later (and after transitioning), Lola returns to Purdan for Christmas. But she's not just facing her past; she’s also trying to solve a string of brutal murders that eerily echo the old legend.

As Lola settles back into Purdan for Christmas, a series of gruesome murders rocks the small town. Each victim is found brutally killed by someone dressed as Santa Claus, mimicking the old urban legend of the murderous Toymaker. The local police seem uninterested (or incapable) of solving the crimes, which leaves the terrified community with no answers.

Despite this, Lola isn't alone in her quest for justice. She leans on her dedicated friends, including her supportive boyfriend Charlie (Zarif) and her sister Danielle (Dominique Booth). Together, they form an unlikely team, using Lola's true crime expertise and their own resourcefulness to piece together the clues and unmask the killer. As the body count rises, their bond and determination become the town's best hope against the bloodthirsty Santa prowling their streets.

Jeremy Moineau shines as the perfect choice for Lola, bringing a blend of sophistication and grit to the character. Moineau's commanding presence and mesmerizing voice add an authentic touch to Lola's true crime podcasting, while their portrayal of Lola's resilience and vulnerability makes her journey compelling and relatable. The film’s cinematography enhances this performance with creative visual storytelling that captures the eerie and festive atmosphere of a Christmas horror. Giallo-inspired colors and lighting add an almost surreal quality to the scenes and make the movie a stylistic Christmas gift for the senses.

On the twelfth slay of Christmas, my true love gave to me: twelve bloody wounds, eleven gory effects, ten creepy clues, nine thrilling chases, eight tense confrontations, seven secrets spilling, six scenes of terror, five bloody kills, four standout performances, three grisly murders, two trusted allies, and a trans podcaster solving mystery.

Alice Maio Mackay continues to impress with each film, and she shows off her growth as a filmmaker with her newest feature. While the narrative delivers a chilling and festive thrill, Mackay's storytelling could have used more time to unwrap fully. At just 70 minutes, the plot feels like it's dashing through the snow, leaving some aspects feeling as overlooked as a lump of coal in a stocking. However, despite this minor hiccup, the film is saved by its standout main character, Lola. Moineau's performance is a true holiday treat and brings Lola to life with a perfect blend of sugar, spice, and everything nice. 

Overall, CARNAGE FOR CHRISTMAS is a fun and stylish holiday horror that proves Mackay is on the naughty list for being too good at what she does!

CARNAGE FOR CHRISTMAS played as a part of the 2024 Chattanooga Film Festival.


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