“Deathly Presents” (2015): Family Discovers a Gift That Keeps on Taking



Although many folks get irritated when stores start setting up for Christmas even before Halloween, I posit that any time of year is a fine time to watch Christmas-themed horror. The UK short film Deathly Presents is a superb offering in this subgenre.

Written and directed by the team of Ben Franklin and Anthony Melton, Deathly Presents concerns the Christmas Eve of a couple and their young son. At first, the worst thing to happen is that father Rob (Jonah Russell) breaks the news that son Jonny (Oliver Ebsworth) needs to wait until the next morning to open any presents. Then, strange things start happening, including mysterious noises upstairs. When an investigating Rob doesn’t answer his wife Steff’s (Sian Breckin) calls for him, Franklin and Melton crank up the suspense and start leading viewers’ anticipation in different directions, leading up to a fun, creepy climax.

The production values on Deathly Presents are first-rate, something that is to be expected because the short comes from UK-based production company Bloody Cuts (bloodycuts.co.uk), which makes short films that appeal to fans of horror anthology films and TV series. This particular entry feels like a shorter version of something that would fit in perfectly with a modern version of Monsters or Tales from the Darkside, and it would indeed be a treat to see this story expanded, although it works perfectly in its running time of just less than six minutes.

deathly presents son
Oliver Ebsworth stars as a young boy who is about to experience his worst Christmas ever in the Bloody Cuts horror short  Deadly Presents.

Cowroters and codirectors Ben Franklin and Anthony Melton, who also edited and produced Deathly Presents, give viewers a likable family, well acted by Jonah Russell, Sian Breckin, and Oliver Ebsworth. The filmmakers then put them in predicaments about which we think we can guess, before showing us that our anticipations were wrong and building the story further. Cinematographer Christopher Sharman does an ace job of capturing the proceedings, while the sound design by Franklin and Bill Lee helps build the atmosphere, along with the fitting score. The special effects makeup by Dan Frye is a blast to behold. If you have the same reaction that I did, you will be reaching for your pause button to check out his work in all its glory.

Grue-Believers can watch Deathly Presents  here. Enjoy, and make sure to keep watching through the credits!

Deathly Presents: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

deathly presents alt poster

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.