Slay Belles

Welcome to week 2 of the anti-Christmas movie. This week I chose one of Amazon Prime’s finest B-movie offerings. Not only does is center around three internet famous cosplayers – both Krampus and Santa get their moment in the Christmas lights and you can’t say fairer than that.

It’s nice to forgo the sugar sweet sentimentality of your average Christmas rom-com every so often in favour of arse-kicking women and a semi-hot cane-wielding Santa eager to push back against his traditional image.

Slay Belles (2018)

It’s Christmas Eve, and three cosplaying women come across the malevolent Christmas demon Krampus. The girls must team up with Santa Claus himself to battle the creature and save the world.

*Spoilers*

Slay Belles is also the name of RuPaul’s second Christmas album, Fact Fans. I’m not sure which of the two is technically best, however I did think this movie was fun at least*.

Busty pals Sadie and Dahlia are internet sensations The Adventure Girls. As far as I can make out, they dress up saucy and visit locations they shouldn’t, where they film themselves doing things they also shouldn’t. As it’s Christmas, they’ve roped in their slightly less ballsy friend Alexi to join them on an expedish to abandoned Santa Land.

Santa Land is a Techicolor acid trip of once-loved candy cane buildings and giant mushrooms – yet, despite its cartoon exterior something is definitely rotten in Denmark. Factor in the fact the local police are working overtime to keep up with a spate of missing and murdered children… Well, there isn’t a connection, is there?

When it becomes clear there’s a very dangerous beast prowling around the former theme park, the girls are shooketh. Luckily, help is at hand in the form of biker looking dude Chris Cringle, the former owner and manager of Santa Land. He’s a bit testy generally (I feel that hermit life tbh) but even more aggrieved when the girls don’t immediately believe he’s the real Santa. Furthermore, the anti-Chewbacca stalking them is in fact Krampus – and he’s the one chewing on children’s bones like they’re candy canes going out of date.

Luckily, the feisty Adventure Girls are game for anything and happily team up with Chris to battle Krampus and save the world (no pressure then). Unfortunately, Santa and Krampy are more soul-connected that anyone could anticipate.

Will good out as is traditional, or has evil got this one in the bag?

Thoughts

I mean there’s no danger of Slay Belles ever finding itself in the Best Picture category (anywhere) and honestly, that’s the beauty of independent movies sometimes. There’s freedom in being able to do what they want. It was also Crowdfunded which fills me with joy – the team really believed in their vision and here it is.

The acting is very shaky and despite the magnitude of the protagonists’ endgame, is a little light on plot too. However, it leans heavily on female empowerment – the girls of course and then a very pleasing appearance from Santa’s ex, who got sick of hanging around being his plus-one and turned to the dark side. It’s genius and let me tell you, all Mrs Claus’ bits are the best.

There are lots of boobs on display which is a little less feminist (and male-gazy) but in the end it’s down to the intellect and bravery of our YouTube sweethearts that the job gets done and into it.

2.5/5

What does my beloved think of Slay Belles? Would she lend it her best boob tube or leave it out for Krampus? Find out here.

*And has a higher IMDB rating than Cats and the new Black Christmas.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

As far as Jill and I are concerned, there’s only so much Christmas cheer we can put up with. We’ve done well to include two saccharin sweet numbers so far this month honestly. So when she wisely suggested some Christmas horror, I was delighted. I mean, like I ever need an excuse to take things to a darker place.

There aren’t nearly enough good Christmas movies it turns out but we’ve done alright this week I think with this twisted Christmas fairy tale.

Rare Exports (2010)

In the depths of the Korvatunturi mountains, 486 meters deep, lies the closest ever guarded secret of Christmas. The time has come to dig it up. This Christmas everyone will believe in Santa Claus.

*Spoilers*

Pietari (Onni Tommila) and his pal Juuso (Ilmari Järvenpää) are fannying about being kids on a mountain in Lapland when they stumble across an American research team, seemingly drilling for samples. On the mountain – Korvatunturi (Ear Fell) – they overhear big wig Riley (Per Christian Ellefsen) shouting at his minions about their amazing discovery, which they have just 24 days to unearth – and the boys work out that he might just be talking about one Santa H. Claus.

The big man in this tale however, and according to ancient lore, is the Joulupukki, a sinister figure that helped shape modern day versions of Santa Claus. And reader, he’s no jolly sweetheart granting wishes in the mall. Instead, our Santa is a massive horned beast who kidnaps and boils naughty children alive with a little help from his creepy AF elves. Shaken by their discovery, the boys return to their respective homes where Pietari does some research of his own about Santa.

Roll up your sleeves, prepare the dynamite. Do what you do best. You have a grave to rob. ~ Riley

Meanwhile, Pietari’s father Rauno (Jorma Tommila) is desperately trying to keep his reindeer slaughtering business afloat. Pickings have been slim in recent times and things are further challenged when Rauno and his crew head to a nearby glacier at the base of the Fell to find a massive quantity of their livestock has been eaten by wolves. Wolves driven down from the mountain by the excavation exploits of our friends at the top. Pietari isn’t convinced it’s wolves responsible actually but he’s devastated that whatever has done this has gotten through a hole in the fence created by him and Juuso.

Juuso implores him not to tell his dad that last bit given that it’s the final nail in the coffin for his butchering business. Rauno decides to confront the Subzero team but when he gets to the top of the Fell, there’s nobody there but a massive empty hole.

Back at home, Rauno seems increasingly pissed off with his son and grounds him for playing a trick. There’s not much time for bollocking though as odd things are happening all around the small village. The local policeman reveals that potato sacks, heaters and hairdryers have gone missing from various homes. Piiparinen (Rauno Juvonen), one of Rauno’s mates is also Juuso’s dad and he reveals that his son has also disappeared, a straw effigy left in his place.

When Pietari makes a couple of calls he learns that all his friends are missing and he’s the only one left. At the same time, Piiparinen rocks up with an old man in a sack, apparently dead. The spindly man is very fucking far from deceased however, and manages to bite off Piiparinen’s ear when he taunts him with gingerbread. Pietari convinces the men that this is in fact Santa Claus and the gang decide to negotiate a lucrative deal before returning him to Riley.

You didn’t think it would be that easy, did you boys?

How do you like the land of the Northern Lights? ~ Aimo

Well SIKE because there’s more. Riley, on examining the hostage reveals that he is in fact merely one of Santa’s many minions. He’s forced to hold the rest of that thought permanently as the rest of Daddy’s helpers rock up. In a hangar, Pietari and friends stumble across the real deal, who has been solidly frozen in ice for a very long time. The heaters and appliances are working overtime to thaw him out.

They also find all the children, including Juuso, who are frightened but otherwise unhurt. Can they stop the elves and the threat of Santa before it’s too late? Friends, maybe they can if they trust each other and keep the Christmas faith.

The real Santa was totally different. The Coca-Cola Santa is just a hoax. ~ Pietari Kontio

Thoughts

I adore this movie. I mean, it’s sort of slow in places and there are too many children but I love the sinister folklore surrounding such an iconic character. I also totally respect that the movie doesn’t play its hand too soon. In fact we never actually see Bad Santa for ourselves. Instead all the menace is placed in the hands of a band of naked geriatric white men and it’s pretty effective. Just like the UK government, amirite?

The elves turn out to be pretty useful in the end when Rauno spies an opportunity and trains them up to become elite mall Santas – to be sent out into the world to spread happiness, rather than terror.

Pietari, in fairness, is not so bad. He kicks major butt in the end by taking control of the situation and luring Santa’s helpers away from the hangar. He’s also fully prepared to sacrifice his own life to save his friends and family for the greater good and that’s pretty dope for a young ‘un.

The movie has a slight feel of The Thing for me which is certainly down to its setting but it is a very good looking movie with a pleasing tone. I’m in.

4/5

What does my favourite elf Jillian think of Rare Exports? Would she feed it gingerbread until it’s sick or sacrifice it to Santa? Find out here.

Let It Snow (film review)

Sabrina the Teenage Witch (new edition) grapples with her feelings for the BFF who’s secretly in love with her – while Drew Barrymore’s daughter from Santa Clarita Diet pines for a girl who isn’t as far out of the closet as she is. Meanwhile, Ned from Spider-Man is hoping to attract the attentions of a famous DJ at his illicit Christmas party, if only he can secure an appropriate venue.

Dora the Explorer meets an incognito (and very famous) singer (who plays another version of Spider-Man IRL) and takes him home to meet her family. Dumplin’s best friend Ellen struggles to keep her paranoia and jealously in check – and perhaps most importantly, Joan Cusack drives around all day inexplicably wrapped in tinfoil dishing out surprisingly sage advice for a suspected crazy.

What I’m trying to say is that this is an ensemble piece bringing together some of the most talented young actors in Hollywood today – and JC, who steals the show in every film she appears in. And it all plays out against the back drop of a snow storm at Christmas, which is festive AF. Is it any good though?

Let’s dive in.

Let It Snow (2019)

In a small town on Christmas Eve, a snowstorm brings together a group of young people.

*Spoilers*

It’s Christmas Eve in small town Illinois and there’s something in the air. Snow, sure but something else – could that be the smell of teenage angst? Ah, that’ll be it. Drama doesn’t take a break for the holidays, something I’m painfully aware of after the work Christmas do this past Friday.

Julie (Isabela Merced) bumps into a stranger on the train back to her hometown, Laurel – a place she’s eager to leave far behind. Well, I say stranger but he happens to be famous singer Stuart Bale (Shameik Moore) who’s keen to keep a low profile while he enjoys a break from the tour bus. When the train gets snow logged, the pair exit the train and head towards Laurel’s only restaurant, Waffle Town. They haven’t gotten off to the best start as Stuart has mistaken Julie for a pap but decide to dine together anyway.

Elsewhere, Angie (Kiernan Shipka) and her best friend Tobin (Mitchell Hope) are getting ready to celebrate their annual movie day. Tobin is madly in love with Angie (DUH) and plans to tell her, with the encouragement of their mutual pal Keon (Jacob Batalon). This plan might be derailed by an invitation to hot college boy JP’s (Matthew Noszka) keg party. Keon is having issues with his own party planning since his parents have unexpectedly returned home, leaving him to find another venue. But where can one find a huge, adult-free location at such short notice?

Dorrie (Liv Hewson), Keon’s colleague at Waffle Town (nicknamed AWFUL Town since it lost the W) is trying to counsel best bud Addie (Odeya Rush) who’s losing her shit over her boyfriend. He seems to have gone AWOL, potentially with a girl from his debate team.

Dorrie has romantic turmoil of her own in the shape of jock Kerry (Anna Akana), a hottie she’s previously spent one magical night with. When Kerry and her sporty pals turn up at the diner, Dorrie’s crush completely blanks her, causing mass confusion.

As the snow storm threatens to rage, will our young and beautiful townsfolk sort out their issues and perhaps come together at the most swinging Christmas party this side of the tracks? There are some very real issues at play here and I like the acknowledgment that there are often things bubbling under the surface, especially at Christmas when everything is coated in a thick layer of the white stuff.

Julie has won a scholarship to Columbia but feels she can’t go because her mother Debbie (Andrea de Oliveira) is dying. Stuart offers to pay for Debbie’s care while Julie goes to school but they’ve only just met – how is this his place anyway? Is his shiny showbiz lifestyle hollower than he cares to admit?

Dorrie, proudly out has to deal with a potential love interest who hasn’t quite got there yet. When Kerry blows hot and very, very cold in front of her crew, D has to decide if this relationship is going to be worth it. Luckily, it seems her bravery and honesty has inspired more than she realises.

Addie, meanwhile, is so insecure she can’t keep a boyfriend because of her neediness – does the fact her parents are never around have anything to do with her need for constant attention from the people that don’t even really matter? And what is Tin Foil Woman’s (Joan Cusack) story? Don’t hold your breath about her story arc, just enjoy the ride as she comes to Addie’s rescue more than once and dishes The Tea.

Thoughts

This movie is quite sweet and I enjoy some of the messaging. Tin Foil’s constant negging on Addie’s phone usage gets pretty tired but it’s addressed with a smart comment about how much she can do on it should she choose to – read a book, learn a language – all the things exactly NONE of us have ever done. I’m also a little concerned about the baby pig Addie buys Dorrie for Christmas – seems a little impractical, non? Also, is it a teacup pig or will it grow to mammoth proportions and ruin her life?

I don’t give much of fuck about Sabrina and Tobin. It’s a bit of a non-story actually but at least their storyline has reminded me of The Waterboys’ The Whole of the Moon which is a total banger.

All in all, Let It Snow is nice enough but I don’t think it has the makings of a classic. Understandably, it’s all tied up with a neat bow at the end with most of the new couples coming predictably together.

Maybe I would have liked more insight into the darker stuff and more time with the stronger characters, AKA Dorrie and Tin Foil Woman.

3/5

What does my snow angel think of this teenage dream? Would she run it over with her truck or buy it waffles? Find out if she’s at her snarky best here.

The Knight Before Christmas

It feels like it’s been Christmas for a month already and I wish I could say this was the first festive movie I’ve watched. Alas, I’ve been overcome with Xmas cheer (I’m blaming the state of British politics for the need to cling onto anything vaguely distracting at the moment) – and I’ve been getting STUCK IN.

This is, however, the first Christmas movie for the Blog Collab and the first review on the new blog, which makes it special. So, here goes nothing.

The Knight Before Christmas (2019)

A medieval English knight is magically transported to the present day where he falls for a high school science teacher who is disillusioned by love.

*Spoilers*

There’s something very comforting about a Hallmark-style Christmas movie. They always, but always follow the same formula – you could set your watch by them. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s the movie equivalent of pulling on a warm blanket and falling asleep on the sofa, what’s better than that?

In Norwich, England during the 14th century, Sir Cole (Josh Whitehouse) is on a hunt of some sort with his brother Sir Geoffrey. When the brothers get separated, Cole bumps into an old crone in the woods. Grateful for his kindness (‘cos he’s kind, yo), the crone sends him on a quest to fulfill his destiny – whatever that destiny might be.

Meanwhile, in 2019, Brooke (Vanessa Hudgens) is a recently single science teacher who has become disillusioned with love after being cheated on and then dumped by her boyfriend. Hmmm. I just hope, when Sir Cole finds himself miraculously transported into the future, there’s someone on hand to help him navigate this unfamiliar modern landscape…

Old Crone: Because of your kindness, I’ll tell you this: The quest you have searched for long and hard these many years begins this day. You shall travel to faraway lands, see things undreamed of – flying steel dragons and horses, magic boxes that make merry.

Of course, when Brooke accidentally (and literally) bumps into an overwhelmed Cole at a Christmas Fayre, there’s an instant chemistry. Reeling from spying her ex in the crowd with his new girlfriend, she’s bemused by Cole’s olde worlde charm but doesn’t give it a second thought until she accidentally knocks him over with her ‘steel stallion’ later that evening

More or less unscathed but as far as Brooke and the doctor’s are concerned, suffering from a mild case of amnesia (on account of his ‘disillusions’), Cole is offered sanctuary in our heroine’s guest house – because yes, she has a guest house and a very gorgeous home to herself – courtesy of her dead mum and dad. She also has a niece and a protective big sister, trust issues and a light dusting of PTSD from losing their parents in such quick succession. Of course – there’s always a widowed love interest or dead parents, it’s pretty much Rom Com LORE.

As Cole gets to grips with the 21st century with hilarious consequences, he grows increasingly baffled about what his secret quest is all about. Is it helping others? Is it looking cute in chunky knitwear? Oh but we, the viewers, we’ve got an inkling, haven’t we?

Meanwhile, Brooke’s cynicism is tested and she finds herself considering that maybe there is something in Cole’s claim that he’s a fourteenth century knight. Plus, he really does look good in the cable knit. He’s also loyal, handy and willing to cut a bitch for upsetting her – so, as Sis says, apart from the knight thing, he’s the whole package.

Things are perfect then but for the crone’s Christmas Eve deadline looming and the fact that it’s really hard to make long distance love work, let alone across several hundred years. Lucky it’s Christmas, the time in which magic and courage flows as freely as the eggnog.

Santa Claus: Hey, buddy. Can you maybe, uh, stop calling my wife an “Old Crone?”

Thoughts

The Knight Before Christmas is cute. It’s not a classic by any stretch and it won’t stand the test of time, with it’s slightly outdated premise but it means well. It’s really pushing a ‘Kindness is cool’ agenda which is fine, I’m into it – but it confused me a couple of times. Like, they really push what a good man single dad (WIDOWER!) David is.

I thought Cole was here to merely give Brooke hope that there are good guys still out there – but would ultimately piss off and leave her to have a lovely fulfilling love affair with David. I was kind of disappointed this didn’t happen.

If I think about it, I am a little amused that this is all about a capable modern girl being rushed of her feet – literally – by a knight in shining armour but I have to refer back to my initial comment about escapism. Life is bleak at the moment and if we get a kick out of a hot dude in chain-mail swishing around town on his trusty steed, where’s the harm?

Otherwise, it was exactly what I expected and I won’t remember it by next Christmas when the new Vanessa Hudgens Christmas vehicle is released on Netflix. Speaking of, I recently read an article about how V is angling to work with Woody Allen and it’s put me off her. She’s definitely on a time out for now.

3/5

What does m’lady Jillian think of this tripe? Would she rescue it on her trusty stead or banish it to the woods to live with the crusty old crone? Find out here.