Director: Troy Escamilla
Year of release: 2018
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 87 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: DVD only as far as I know
Also known as: Stirring
Tagline: "A creature is stirring" and "Naughty or nice does not matter - You're dead"!
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: Wannabe sorority sister Angela is put through a humiliating and demeaning hazing process by some cruel sorority sisters led by bitchy queen bee Amber. Sometime later after being accepted into the sorority Angela is reminded of the humiliation she went through previously in the form of a taunting Christmas gift given to her by Amber at a festive party in front of mutual friends. Embarrassed and upset the apparently already somewhat precarious psyche of Angela is shattered leading her to brutally murder Amber in revenge before hanging herself from a tree.
Ten years later Amber’s younger sister Dani just so happens to be a part of the same sorority and living in the same sorority house as her late sister. It’s Christmas time once again and Dani is roped into attending a party being thrown at the house for those not going home for the holidays. Already feeling a bit uncomfortable being in the house given it’s history Dani is made to feel more on edge after receiving a threatening email from someone posing as a Mrs. Claus. The poem like email promises fresh blood will soon be spilt within the house. Dani remains on site in a show of support for her best friend who is hosting the party but the festivities are soon interrupted by the arrival of the maniacal Mrs. Claus.
Good points: I thought the Mrs Claus outfit and the grey old lady mask were effective and made for a more than adequate killer costume. For me the mask came across as being quite creepy and though different it was kind of in the same ball park of masks we’ve seen in other slashers like Curtains and Granny which I also liked. The red Santa style suit was okay though it was a bit random that the killer styled themselves as Mrs.Claus seeing that this had nothing to do with the initial hazing from years ago and subsequent murder suicide though at least it tied in with the Christmas theme.
The kills were largely impressive throughout and were of a strong enough calibre to be the highlight of the entire film. A lot of them were very gory and they certainly didn’t skimp on the blood. The practical effects were a real high point and of a better quality than what we often see in similarly budgeted slashers. A number of different killing tools were also used.
Things end on a high note with a couple of twists that may catch many by surprise. It all appears to be going down the path you would expect but then after the reveal things get turned on their head a little bit as things come to a close. Be sure to watch until the very end of the credits for a final revelation.
They made an attempt to give us some taunting poetry from the killer on a few occasions which was aimed at the victims. It is quite sloppy and amateurish so nowhere near the level of what we’ve seen in other films like My Bloody Valentine and Valentine but they try at least. This is a fairly seldom seen aspect of slashers that I like so I enjoyed seeing it here even if it wasn’t of the best quality. I was also made to sit up and take notice at the unique way the film showcased text messages by making them appear on screen in a kind of speech bubble or comic book text box style. It was a small touch but it caught me by surprise initially and helped set the film apart.
Bad Points: It's not a big problem by any means but the script isn’t the most accomplished and as such on a handful of occasions it comes across as being a bit weak. Most notably when two characters go off on their own to smoke and get high the conversation shared between the pair is really bad to the point of being a bit awkward to watch. I guess you could argue they are high so we shouldn’t expect intelligent conversation but it still comes across as really lame.
Spoiler: I also didn’t think that the motivation for Angela snapping near the start and then going on to commit the murder suicide was strong enough. The jibe with the dildo as a gift though embarrassing and unpleasant just didn’t seem enough for me to push her into doing what she did. It would have been more justified if it had of been given to her and then the story of the hazing had come out in front of a big crowd but it was only in front of a handful of people some of whom knew about it anyway. I was left thinking they could have come up with something a bit better here.
Final girl Dani isn’t someone who really stands out and though I didn’t dislike her I did find it hard to invest in her plight and care about her too much one way or the other. It could have been a lot worse but for me a likeable final girl (or boy) is a key ingredient and I felt it was lacking a bit here. More likeable were the brother and sister combination of Kyle and Kayla and sorority sister Monica in slightly smaller roles.
Verdict: In one sense this is not a very ambitious film and is rather formulaic and by the numbers but it still manages to be a fun and mostly entertaining. Yes it feels a little basic and familiar at times but though it can be predictable they do manage to spring a surprise or two by the end. Long term genre fans may get a kick out of seeing Brinke Stevens and Helene Udy in support roles and the kills and special effects go some way to elevating the project. I also liked the choice of mask and though it could have done with a tighter script and a more memorable final girl I definitely liked this one enough to be able to recommend it. It perhaps feels like it’s lacking something to truly stand out but I’d say it is easily a worthy addition to the ever-growing group of Christmas themed slasher films.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1)Amber: Dildo shoved in her mouth and then repeatedly stabbed in the stomach by Angela.
2)Angela: Commits suicide by hanging herself from a tree.
3)Sophie: Attacked from behind in her car, garrotted from behind with wire around the neck.
4)Madison: Stabbed in the stomach by the Christmas tree after discovering what I think was supposed to be Sophie’s bloody hair on the tree as tinsel.
5)Tyler: Sugarcane stuffed down throat and then head pulled back and throat slit.
6)Weed guy (Jake?): Impaled together with his female friend as they hugged.
7)Blonde female party guest: Impaled along with number 6.
8)Monica: Decapitated with either an axe or sickle (can’t recall which).
9)Grant: Had a large spike type thing pushed through the side of his head in the police car.
10)Kayla: Stabbed through the eye with what may have been the long stem of the Christmas tree star.
11)Mrs Werner: Slashed on the head with a knife blade by Julie Cornell.
12)Julie Cornell: Impaled through her mouth on a spike/metal rod type implement which came out of the back of her head by Dani.
It is implied Dani dies at the end as a new killer pops up behind her in her car as the film ends. Later after the credits we hear Kyle complaining about blood in the car so presumably she was murdered inside.