[Review] Jingle Hell (2023): Christmas Creepiness Abounds in This Holiday Horror Short

Christmas slashers make up a popular movie subgenre, and the latest entry in that category is director Sean Cruser’s short film Jingle Hell (2023). Following some of the expected tropes — a masked stalker, a location where  phone reception is kaput, plenty of the red stuff, and so on —  Jingle Hell also adds some unexpected twists.

Expectant mother Margo (Poonam Basu) and her husband Nathan (Tyler Beveridge, who also wrote the screenplay) arrive at a secluded rental home — a fancy one at that — but are greeted quite brusquely by an older man. Once who they are and why they are there are sorted out, he lets them into the abode, where Margo’s sister Grace (Shalini Bathina) and her significant other Spencer (Murphy Patrick Martin) come calling, showing off their affluency and rudeness.

After an argument between the sisters, Grace and Spencer leave, and soon afterward a masked figure comes calling. We’ll leave it there for the plot set-up because although seasoned fear-fare fans might guess where this is headed, they would only be partly correct. 

Cruser and Beveridge are obviously well-versed in horror cinema, with Jingle Hell boasting a tone that pays homage to some classics of the genre while being very much its own beast. The technical aspects and production value are all impressive, including fine cinematography from Cruser and Kim Cohen, and solid editing on Cruser’s part, as well. The cast members give engaging performances, with Basu and Beveridge providing impressive protagonist performances and Bathina and Martin obviously having fun with their roles as a snobby, ill-mannered new-money couple.

Aficionados of slasher cinema and Christmas horror should have a super time with Jingle Hell. The short is currently picking up multiple awards on the film festival circuit, and for good reason.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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.