Sunday, April 24, 2011

6 Films to Keep You Awake Intro and A Christmas Tale Re-Doo!

As I mentioned a handful of posts back, I will be posting reviews for all six of the films found in the 6 Films to Keep You Awake collection. Now, I wrote these reviews way back and, for whatever reason, just never got to posting them. Well, I decided I needed to put these sumbitches up, but I wanted to start with the one film in the set that I had previously reviewed, A Christmas Tale. I reviewed A Christmas Tale as part of the first ever celebration known as Death-cember and figured I could repost it (with a few grammatical edits, of course) since I am posting the other films. It make things a little more complete, plus it works as a good introduction to the series of films (and it means I don't have to explain the set all over again, too), so I hope you enjoy this and all of the other reviews to come!

In 2008, Lionsgate released 6 Films to Keep You Awake, a conglomeration of six (no shit, right?) somewhat short Spanish horror films from different directors, most of whom are of Spanish decent. The mastermind behind the this set is Narciso Ibáñez Serrador of Who Can Kill A Child fame and with us being knee deep in Death-cember, the no-brainer film to be discussed from this set is 2005's A Christmas Tale (Cuento de Navidad).

Written by Luis Berdejo and directed by Paco Plaza (both of whom also worked as writer and co-director of the fantastic Spanish zombie film, [REC]) A Christmas Tale is about five pre-teen kids that stumble upon a woman dressed in a Santa suit, trapped in a large deep hole in the woods. They decide to help her out, but when two of the boys go to the police, they discover that the woman is wanted for robbing a bank for two million pesetas. Not sure how much that is, but I bet it's enough to be in some big trouble.

With this information, the children decide not to help the woman out of her trappings, but instead of calling an adult or telling the police about the woman, these kids take a very different route. Even at such a young age greed rears its ugly head, and a few of the kids decide to try and get their hands on the stolen money from this unintentionally trapped thieving Santa using the leverage of her unfortunate situation. Cross dressing Santa's aren't down with extortion, but with a choice of losing all of her money or being trapped in a massive hole and left to die, well, there's no real wiggle room there.

At a scant 71 minutes, A Christmas Tale works like two very different films in terms of tone. The first half is almost like a kid's movie right out of the '80s and is very reminiscent of films like Stand By Me and the Brian Trenchard-Smith film, The Quest (man I loved that movie). It is set in 1985, and the film successfully conveys how life was for a lot of kids that age, at that time.

If you're in your mid-20s to mid-30s, you will love all of the bad-ass retro movies and TV shows that these children are in to. They use code names that are all character names from the A-Team; one kid is completely obsessed with the Karate Kid (I still am); there are glimpses of bedrooms filled with Star Wars toys (you know, before the prequels) and Ghostbusters stuff strewn about; and a few of the characters even watch what plays as a film within a film titled, Zombie Invasion, which is reminiscent of a cheap Italian Exploitation Zombie film. All of this really serves no other purpose than to show that these kids are into the same stuff many of us were when we were kids, and I am assuming the filmmakers were into themselves at that age.

All of the throw-back stuff is very well done and really brings a true sense of nostalgia in how it is all captured; more importantly, it brings about a sense of connection to the characters as you can see a bit of yourself in these kids in one way or another. However, just how far does that connection go? That is where the film takes a turn from fun '80s kids movie to a much darker place, when a few of the characters become quite manipulative, which shows how even youth can be driven by greed and power, just as adults can be.

We are all like the kids in many ways, but most of us would do differently in such a situation. Others...maybe not so much. The way a few of the characters treat their siblings and this woman, who is essentially bad but still a human, shows how evil some people can be when put into certain situations. There are certain consequences in making the decisions that they do make, and without getting into too much detail, when the woman escapes her unholy hole (that sounds so vaginal), she is not all too pleased about what the children did to her.

Outside of the trapped Santa, there are no adults to be "physically" seen in this film, which shows you that these kids are in their own little world, almost living by their own rules. All of the young actors in A Christmas Tale are very solid and believable in their roles, and all but one of the children are boys, with the lone girl being played by a pre-Pan's Labyrinth Ivana Baquero. Maru Valdivielso as the trapped thief in a Santa suit is fantastic, and when you get into the more horrific elements of this film, she is quite scary and effective, making for a great villain of sorts.

A Christmas Tale is an enjoyable, nostalgia filled romp that is well made and not commonly seen these days. The feeling of retro-kids films is spot on, and the horror elements are all in place for a fun holiday fueled ride that is well worth a watch during the Christmas anytime of the season.


  1. Since you re-posted your old review, I think it's only fitting if I re-post my old comment!

    "I really love the retro 80s feel this one had and I also loved the movie-within-a-movie that was shown at the beginning. "To Let" is my favorite of the 6 Films to Keep You Awake set, but this one still kicks a lot of ass and is probably my second favorite of the bunch. I think my only complaint about it is that it went balls out with the retro 80s look and feel in the beginning but it wasn't very consistent throughout the movie with the exception of a few little nods to certain things here and there. It felt like it lost some steam in that aspect and I think the retro stuff, while clever, could have been better off in a different scenario with the same characters, if that makes any sense. But then again I haven't seen this in a while, so I could be wrong. Great review, Matt. Quick, to the point, and you nailed all of the important shit! PEACE!"

  2. You're ability to get me amped about a movie before I see it... you should be the new movie voice-over guy or something. Hopefully I can to seeing this film soon. I've been wanting to check out more Latin horror flicks anyway and this sounds like such a good recommendation.

  3. Aaron: HA! I was going to re-post my response to your comment, but so much has changed since then. I have seen To Let, but to keep from completely blowing my load before I post that review, I'll just say there were a lot of things I liked, but I had a few major issues with it, too. But you'll have to wait till I post that review to know exactly what those issues were.I'm sure you'll be counting down the days!

    Ashlee: Thanks! You should pick up the entire 6 Films set. You can get it new for under $20 or used for under $15 on Amazon, and the set as a whole is more than worth the price. I think a few of the films are on instant watch, too, but not this one, unfortunately.

  4. You know I adore this film, and if memory serves, the only reason I ever sought it out is because of you! Only problem was that it made the other film on this disc, A Real Friend, infinitely disappointing even though the premise was great.

  5. I missed this when you first posted it, but I need to get my hands on a copy of this somehow. I can never have enough Christmas chaos films to enjoy during the season.

  6. Emily: I remember that, and I feel like I remember you reviewing it, too. Either way, I am happy to oblige!

    I really enjoyed A Real Friend, despite its issues, but it's not even in the same ballpark as A Christmas Tale for me.

    A Real Friend was the only one I didn't write a review for when I watched it, so a re-watch is in order. We'll see how it holds up a second time around.

    Geof: This is definitely a great one to pop in during the holidays, Geof. I too can never get enough Christmas horror/genre cinema, so the gore, the merrier if you ask me!

  7. Matt: The anticipation is killing me. I wish I could just sleep Rip Van Winkle style until you post the review so I don't have to deal with the frustration of waiting. Seriously though, looking forward to what you have to say about the ENTIRE series.

    Geof: The set of films is a great investment. You can get it on Amazon for super cheap, all the movies are at least 70 minutes if I remember correctly, and they all have bonus features. Not to mention, quality films made by very talented filmmakers. Holla.


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