SECRET SANTA (2017) Reviews and overview

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‘Slay bells ring’

Secret Santa is a 2017 American horror feature film co-edited, co-produced and directed by Adam Marcus (Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday; co-writer of Texas Chainsaw 3D) from a screenplay co-written with Debra Sullivan (Texas Chainsaw 3D). The movie stars Michelle Renee Allaire, Petra Areskoug and Scott Burkett.


The holidays are a time for backstabbing and silent, annihilating judgment; but for the Pope family the time-honored tradition of passive-aggressive snark is always masked with a smile.

But not this year. April Pope, the family’s golden child, is clean and sober and working her twelve steps. She has a new life and an amazing boyfriend, and she’s ready to make amends with her sister, Penny, for a horrible prank she pulled on her when they were in high school.

April figures her mother, Shari’s, Christmas Eve party, complete with Secret Santa game, will be the perfect moment for forgiveness. Her gift and act of confession will help heal the tensions of all her loved ones. But there’s someone else with a different idea…

The Popes run one of the country’s largest pharmaceutical companies, and someone’s going to give them a taste of their own medicine. Literally. And with a military grade truth serum spiking the holiday punch, anyone who has a cup will lose their mask of civility.

And before they know it, saying what they wanted to say turns into doing what they want to do; and the holiday table soon runs red. It’s a Christmas massacre as those who haven’t drunk the punch try to control the ones who have…


The supposedly offensive un-PC back-biting humour, with a bunch of vile characters spouting expletive-repetitive dialogue that could only have been smirkingly written in script format – yet never actually delivered  by a real human being – is bad enough. Hey, let’s offend everyone! Hey, it’s just trite shite.

Unfortunately, when the ‘horror’ begins, Secret Santa actually gets worse. Away from the confines of a simple dinner table tableaux where camerawork can be easily framed, the action is poorly choreographed and edited by Adam Marcus. Secret Santa is sadly amateurish and irritating. Avoid it like its namesake Christmas game for idiots with no imagination.

Adrian J Smith, MOVIES & MANIA

Other reviews:

“It’s amateurish in a manner which is hard to forgive considering the experience behind the camera, and the manner in which it conducts its dysfunctional family satire often feels smug. It is hardly all that of an original idea, and something similar and infinitely more charming and spooky was given to us only three years ago in the form of Krampus.” The Hollywood News

“An authentically miserable gift-exchange sequence is the tip of the iceberg in a film inevitably descending into gory confrontations involving Christmas decorations […] It looks cheap and employs typically terrible-looking digital blood in certain sequences, but it’s also frequently hilarious and cringe-inducing in the very best way.” Horrorscreams Videovault

“Blackly depraved, blood soaked and very funny, I do hope Marcus & Sullivan come up with another project like this, because the genre is all the better for it.” House of Mortal Cinema

“Wow, if anything, Secret Santa is less brutal when they shut-up and start stabbing each other. Think of it as The Ref, but with more bloodletting, if we can still safely reference a movie starring you-know-who. Regardless, this is one of the most wickedly funny horror films of the season.” J.B. Spins

“After a reel of waspish sniping, wittily written by Sullivan and Marcus, and wince-inducing insults, the cutting remarks segue into actual cutting as everyone who’s drunk the spiked punch starts feeling hot, telling uncomfortable truths and going on a violent bender – with later side effects that include special make-up effects yellow pustules and Fulci-style innards-puking.” The Kim Newman Web Site

“attention-grabbing look-at-me controversy bait, and you never get the sense that anyone involved in Secret Santa is peddling deep-seated ideologies […] the overall execution is witless, deeply dissatisfying and often unpleasant, mostly thanks to an unreasonable lack of technical ability from a man with a decent amount of experience behind a camera.” Ready Steady Cut!

” …while Secret Santa may leave a bit to be desired on a technical/aesthetic level, it stands head and shoulders above most micro-budget indie horror of recent years when it comes to the writing and the acting […] This is a film that takes even more glee in the barbed remark than the bloody exit wound, with sharp witticisms hitting hard left and right throughout.” Warped Perspective

Main cast:

Michael Rady … Ty
Drew Lynch … Kyle
Debra Sullivan … Shari
A Leslie Kies … April
Ryan Leigh Seaton … Penny
John Gilbert … Leonard
Pat Destro … Carol
Nathan Hedrick … Jackson
Michelle Renee Allaire … Jacqueline
Curtis Fortier … Carter
Freddy John James … Gordon
Petra Areskoug … Tilde
Tracy Drolet … Denise
William Dixon … Albert
Scott Burkett … David
Rachael Kemery … Sarah
Jaden Reid … Dylan
Joyce Greenleaf … Beverly
Joe Howard … Jon
Melissa Corkern … Captain Soles
Joshua Kwak … Patient Zero
Andrew Streiber … Doctor West
Jude B. Lanston … Sgt. King
Cole Rommel … Cpl. Esposito
Jeff Karr … Cpl. DePalma
Megan Helbing … Nurse Mary

Film Facts:

This film should not be confused with the 2015 Canadian movie of the same name directed by Mike McMurran.

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