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David Thomas Sckrabulis
Johnny Francis Wolf,
A primitive return to what has sadly been neglected
Two Christmases ago, I reviewed an amiable little horror film called Caesar and Otto's Summer Camp Massacre, the first feature-length directorial effort of Dave Campfield. The film was a big gift in a small package, combining hilarity within setups, nicely-done practical horror effects, and a pleasant buddy chemistry akin to that of Abbott and Costello. The concluding title of the film blatantly told us that a "deadly XMas" would be on the way and that these characters weren't going anywhere.
So here is Caesar and Otto's Deadly XMas, an equally fun little trip down the lane of low-budget horror that never ceases to surprise me. In a wake of horror films such as Mega Piranha and Sharknado - films that belong in the gutter and don't try to rise above their already ludicrous setups - a franchise like Caesar and Otto is a silver lining because it showcases film-lovers making film. The two stars, Campfield and Paul Chomicki, clearly have a fondness for campy, eighties horror and these films are showcases of how that kind of style can be exemplified in the present. If anything, they provide young film-lovers with the ambition and the mindset that they themselves can make exactly what they love to watch.
Campfield and Chomicki reprise their roles as Caesar and Otto, respectively, who arrive at a local Santa-recruitment center, prepared to tackle the job of being Santa and an elf this Christmas. However, in the midst of throwing a party that many backed out on last minute, Caesar's list of people who couldn't go to the party gets snatched up by a man dressed like Santa Claus on a murderous rampage (CKY bandmember Deron Miller). Immediately, this is a huge homage to Silent Night, Deadly Night, a controversial eighties classic that has found heavy admiration from fans of eighties horror. Now Caesar and Otto must avoid but also try to capture the murderer, and discover that Christmas and XMas are not interchangeable terms as they so taught.
Special appearances by horror actors, much like in the film's predecessor, are very common, with people like Troma's founder Lloyd Kaufman, Sleepaway Camp's Felissa Rose, scream-queen Linnea Quigley, and Martin Sheen's brother Joe Estevez turn up rather frequently, giving genre-devotees something to play along with while watching the film. The film's content, on the other hand, is a mix of horror and comedy, a mix that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't in the broad spectrum of the genre. In just seventy-nine minutes (eighty-three if you count the credit cookies, including one that pays tribute to a scene any horror fan would know in an instant), the film hurls many jokes at its audience, some falling flat, some warranting warm, nostalgic smiles, and others warranting big laughs.
Consider the scene where Caesar and Otto are trying out for the position as a Santa and need to pretend a small doll is a real child. Otto's corny but charming scene of falling in love with the doll clicks on-sight because of Chomicki's timing, along with Campfield's tryout as Caesar, who plays jittery and nervous in a way that works largely because of its timing.
The special effects, once more, are all done practically, with no CGI to speak of. All the blood is detailed naturally and added on in a way that is believable to look at. By doing this, the duo accentuate that the film was actually a good time to make, decorating each other with buckets of fake blood and red-paint, rather than adding much of the magic in post-production. This kind of close-to-home campiness is what we need more of in the horror genre and Campfield illustrates that by showing the wonders it can work.
The film concludes, once more, by giving us blatant insight into the future, this time telling us that Caesar and Otto's Paranormal Halloween is in the works. I like this idea for two reasons. One, because this is a holiday the duo could have a lot of fun with, and, two, if I can assume the film will go out of its way to parody the Paranormal Activity franchise, I have faith that the duo of Caesar and Otto can bring funnier parody material of the franchise than the what has been brought to the table within the last few years. I'd gladly drop money on this project than the forthcoming A Haunted House 2. At least this film knows what it wants to be and has humor and wit to back up its antics.
Starring: Dave Campfield, Paul Chomicki, Deron Miller, Lloyd Kaufman, Felissa Rose, Linnea Quigley, and Joe Estevez. Directed by: Dave Campfield.
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