Horror anthology film 13 Slays Til X-Mas is a barroom blitz of yuletide frights as a group of patrons swap terror tales about creatures and curses, Faustian bargains, slashers, killer dolls, crazed disc jockeys, and more in a Santa’s bagful of dark humor and gore galore. Producers P.J. Starks and Eric Huskisson know their way around fright-fare portmanteaus, having worked together on Volumes of Blood (2015) and Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories (2016), and their holiday horror outing is a solid one, indeed.
I won’t unwrap all of the ghastly gifts that 13 Slays Til X-Mas holds in its sinister Santa’s bag, but to tantalize you a bit, the tales range from a very dark tale of a suicidal man to an initially equally dark but then quite funny tale of the murder of a grieving widower, a touching story of a widowed father whose daughter may not live to see her Christmas birthday, and a segment about a law enforcement officer dealing with an escaped murderer that goes from a The Twilight Zone feel to a sobering climax.
Fear-fare homages and Easter eggs aplenty are peppered throughout the anthology, and some tales feel inspired by, as mentioned, The Twilight Zone, and also EC Comics horror stories, Tales from the Darkside episodes, and the like. The wraparound segment plays like a gorier, heavier modern update of Amicus Productions’ horror portmanteau movies.
The talent behind the Blood Moon Pictures production reads like a Who’s Who of independent horror cinema. Directors besides Starks and Huskisson include Brittany Blanton (Seasons Greetings 2), Sean Blevins (Trick or Treat), Jed Brian (Unlisted Owner), Shawn Burkett (Betsy), William Capps (After the Slasher), Alex Clark, John Hale (The Conduit), Blair Hoyle, Robert Kern III, Carlos Omar De Leon (For We Are Many), Drew Marvick (Pool Party Massacre), John Mason (Sleep Tight), and Julie Streble. Cast members includes Lauren Argo, Wes Bartlett (Hallows Eve), Brittany Blanton (Don’t F*ck In The Woods), Christopher Bower (Dooms Chapel Horror), RJ Campbell, Steve Christopher (Satanic Panic), Kevin Clark (Volumes of Blood), Sonya Delormier (Wicked Ones), Greg Harpold (Mindhunter), Roni Jonah (Volumes of Blood), Sadie Katz (Wrong Turn 6), Gerrimy Keiffer (Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories), Chris Killian (Sleep Tight), David McMahon (10/31 Part 2), Michael Merchant (House Shark), Kevin Roach (The Bad Man), Julie Streble (One Must Fall), Katie Stewart (The Wicked One), Nathan Tymoshuk (Potpourri), Kaylee Williams (Mrs. Claus), and Ryan Matthew Ziegler (Butcher the Bakers).
As with most horror anthology films, viewer mileage will vary with a few of the performances and segments in 13 Slays Til X-Mas, but overall the movie delivers a strongly recommended holiday — year-round, actually — viewing experience that offers something for just about every stripe of horror fan. Gorehounds have plenty of well-rendered practical effects at which to marvel, viewers looking for emotional impact will find plenty of that, and horror comedy aficionados will find plenty of dark humor on hand. For those newer to independent horror cinema, it’s a great starting point for becoming acquainted with the talent both in front of and behind the cameras, and for those familiar with some or most of the names mentioned, it’s a super effort that is certain to find itself on heavy rotation each December, and whenever the Christmas mood strikes.
13 Slays Til X-Mas is now available for preorder here.(3.8 / 5)