The holiday season may be over, but horror movie season is year round. There is an indie holiday horror film called It Came Upon a Midnight Clear that you may want to add to your Holiday Horror watch list. We get the story of Jeremy Adams, a senior in high school who is not that popular except with his best friend Minka Romero. When Amanda, the most popular girl in school and Jeremy’s dream girl, agrees to go on a date with Jeremy, he thinks his luck has turned around. Unfortunately, fate has other plans for the two as Amanda is kidnaped. Even worse, it appears a serial killer from the town’s past has returned and is out for revenge. Now, Jeremy and Minka find themselves on a blood-soaked trail searching for Amanda leading to more bodies, feelings revealed and dark secrets uncovered.
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear is a coming-of-age story meets Scream in a Santa outfit. The story wears its influences on its sleeve and is having fun while doing it. Director and writer Stephen Allen Gutierrez keeps the story brisk and is not heavy handed in the exposition. While I like a fast moving film, I would have liked to see a few more emotional beats in the scenes that were supposed to have some weight to them.
There is plenty of emotion in the performance of Jaeden Riley Juarez. Juarez plays Minka with the perfect balance of emotion, wit and charisma. You immediately empathize with her and the situation she is in with her friend Jeremy, played by Drew Pipkin. Pipkin and Juarez are, for lack of a better term, adorable. I could just watch a movie with these two navigating the waters of their senior year in high school and their potential for being more than friends. The rest of the young cast put in solid performances. Katreina Sifuentes’ Amanda was a surprise. Amanda is not your traditional “Popular Girl” personality. Sifuentes plays Amanda with honesty and makes you believe that Amanda is actually excited to go out with Adam. She also is genuine in her defense of Minka when Minka was being bullied in the locker room.
The adult characters were also a delight. I loved seeing Michael Berryman in the unexpected role of Principal Lucas. You could feel the weight on the principal’s shoulders as news of more deaths came across his desk. P.G. Marlar plays the teacher Mr. Campbell, who ends up being one of the more badass characters. Chief Lawton is Amanda’s father, played by Rob Huey, who makes the audience feel the emotions of a parent whose child is in peril. Patricia Vonne also shows up with a solid performance as Jeremy’s Aunt Prudence.
The film shows its influences in the design of the killer; from the coat that looks like it came from “Silent Night, Deadly Night” to the extensive use of the augmented phone voice ala “Scream”. Now that said, the Santa Slayer's kills are unique to the character. The blood and gore in the film were nearly all practical and looked great. There is only one scene where it looked like they enhanced the wonderful makeup effects with some CGI. The ending was a bit of a disappointment only in that it was more cliche than I would have liked, though it did make sense given the rest of the film.
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear is a bloody genre mashup that has as many endearing moments as it does scary ones. While it does borrow from many past slasher films, it still manages to have its own identity and feels like a modern slasher. Like with many modern films, you will want to stay until the end credits to enjoy the blooper reel and an end credit stinger. Indie horror fans looking to get their killer Santa fix may want to check it out. I had a fun time and give it 3 out of 5 stubs.