Watching this was like getting a turd in my stocking. How nice.
Christmas Presence is a 2018 British horror film, currently marketed as a Shudder original. With
A group of friends gather to celebrate Christmas in a manor house after the death of McKenzie’s father. The cast of characters are certainly memorable enough. They get festive nearly right away in the most British way possible: by getting wasted.
The banter between the friends (or frenemies, not sure which one they really are) is pretty enjoyable as they all settle in together.
Eventually, flamboyant Hugo decides he wants to get his friends to test out his new magnetic, absorbent underwear. The group reluctantly agree and get more drunk.
A montage of partying and a fat-shaming later, Hugo is lured out into the snow along where he is killed by a shadowy entity.
The following morning, the remaining friends are visited by the caretaker. He hits at something in McKenzie’s past. She later admits to her friends that her sister disappeared when they were younger. She was never found, and McKenzie always felt guilty because she was there when she disappeared.
The group then notice (speaking of disappearances) that Hugo isn’t around. They begin to search for him, but eventually return home without any luck.
New Age Anita insists that she put McKenzie under hypnosis to discover what happened to her sister. But before McKenzie can make a breakthrough, she’s woke up by an interruption. Anite begins to worry, as coming out of hypnosis could confuse the girl (or something).
And McKenzie does begin to suffer. Though whether it has anything to do with being hypnotized is slightly debatable. She sees Hugo in a wardrobe, and he tells her she needs to tie the others up because they’re plotting against them. She believes ‘Hugo’ and takes Jo’s shotgun to get the friends to obey her.
But it’s all for naught as the spell is quickly broken about two seconds later, and they’re all untied.
They begin to learn that they’re being stalked by something that appears as their biggest fears. One is killed by a fold-out bed. Another by…a pantomime actor? I don’t know. It all gets beyond the point of caring, anyway.
I won’t spoil the ending, of course. Mostly because I don’t completely get it (or I do, but I’d rather wish I didn’t).
Christmas Presence has been helped out by the title change. It certainly gets anyone looking for a Christmas horror movie to watch it. I wouldn’t stop anyone who wanted to watch it from watching it…but I certainly wouldn’t encourage it.
McKenzie is very difficult to like as a main character. She’s a TERF, for one, which makes her instantly unlikable in my eyes (there is a not-so-fine line between a character meant to be unlikable and one that’s constantly irritating). I think she was meant to be liked, which was the even more confusing part. It’s difficult to get invested in a character if you really are just staring at your watch until they die.
Actors Orla Cottingham and Elsie Bennett were actually the best part of the film as the story’s lesbian couple. It was clear that the script was initially hinting at something with Bennett’s character Sam, but it never bothered fleshing it out.
But that was probably the biggest issue with film in general. It could have been much more ambitious, and you can see the effort trickling away throughout. Sometimes wanting to do too much can be your downfall.