Joe Begos brings horror to the holidays with ‘Christmas Bloody Christmas’

Abraham Benrubi as Santa in the horror film, CHRISTMAS BLOODY CHRISTMAS, a Shudder and RLJE Films release. Photo courtesy of Shudder and RLJE Films.
Photo courtesy of Shudder and RLJE Films

Writer/director Joe Begos takes holiday horror to a whole new level in Christmas Bloody Christmas.

Synopsis: It’s Christmas Eve and fiery record store owner Tori Tooms just wants to get drunk and party, until the robotic Santa Claus at a nearby toy store goes haywire and makes her night more than a little complicated. Santa Claus begins a rampant killing spree through the neon drenched snowscape against a backdrop of drugs, sex, metal and violence, ultimately forcing Tori into a blood splattered battle for survival against the ruthless heavy metal Saint Nick himself.

Christmas Bloody Christmas stars Riley Dandy, Sam Delich, Jonah Ray Rodrigues, Dora Madison, Jeremy Gardner, with Jeff Daniel Phillips, and Abraham Benrubi.

Check out our interview with Joe:

What inspired you to make a Christmas horror film?

Joe Begos: I just love Christmas horror movies and I feel like there’s not enough of them. You know, it feels like there’s a lot and then the Christmas season comes around and like there’s always like four or five that I consistently revisit, so it’s just something that I’ve always wanted to do. You know, just the aesthetic of it and the setting of it like it lends itself to, I don’t know a lot of things that I like doing movies or a lot of things, I like a lot of elements. This actually came from, I was asked to pitch a Silent Night remake. I pitched this movie and they said it was too different than the original. And they were right, it was extremely different, so therefore it was kind of an original idea that I owned. So I eventually just wrote it and got it made. So it kind of stemmed from that, being asked to do that and I forced myself to come up with a crazy Christmas movie.

There’ve been quite a few holiday horror films, why do you think the holidays are a good backdrop for horror?

Joe Begos: Well, I think that the sensationalism of like, just the whole vibe of the holiday and like what it means to a lot of people, especially as a kid, like seeing Santa as this iconic mythical figure, and then bringing that and something that everybody kind of revered as like this good positive thing and then just turning on his head and being the complete opposite of that. And especially as a kid, you know, like seeing Santa in that light or seeing that representation of Santa I think is quite scary for a kid and it’s quite sensational for anybody who’s not a child. And you know, I always like a lot of aesthetics and films. I feel like you know, I think aesthetics are as important as stories sometimes. Or you know, the general vibe and I think that my style lends itself to that where, you know, I always like a lot of colored lights that have dark murky tones and stuff like that and setting a movie on Christmas Eve allows me to kind of tighten that quite a bit and sensationalize it.

Yeah, it was really interesting to see a Christmas film that wasn’t bright, happy red and green and because you all the neons and the darker tones and stuff. So that was really cool.

Joe Begos: Thank you. Yeah, I don’t have a family in the way that I have a kid or a wife or anything like that, so when I celebrate Christmas, it’s kind of me and my friends getting f**ked up and watching a bunch of movies. And you know, I’m not particularly like a big fan of Christmas in general and I’m kind of neutral on it. So I wanted to show an angle of Christmas that represented that almost like an anti-Christmas Christmas movie. If that makes sense.

Why a killer robot santa instead of a person playing Santa?

Joe Begos: I don’t know, I just thought that that was kind of played out. We’ve seen that before. So, what’s something that I could elevate that and I mean, you know, make it more sensational and the Terminator is one of my, if not my favorite movie ever. So along with Christmas, I have always wanted to make a robot movie and it was just one of those things that came to me like, suddenly I was like, ‘well, what if it’s a robot?’ and it was off to the races from there. And I thought that that juxtaposition of two things that I really like and I’ve always wanted to put in a movie is what excited me about pursuing this project further.

This was a really gruesome movie, and I like that it wasn’t afraid to go there with the gore. What drove you to take it to that level?

Joe Begos: I think that it just comes from me. I mean, like I’m a huge huge horror fan and you know, even if I become some big director who can command larger budgets, I’ll still stick in the genre, just because I truly love it. And it comes back to that sensationalism I like about movies where everything’s heightened and everything’s kind of, you know, hyperbolized in a way and I think it goes the same way with the violence. You’ve got to sensationalize everything. The movie, you know, is sensational and making the violence ridiculous and over the top while trying to make a movie that’s totally very serious I think is a cool juxtaposition.

What was it like working with the cast? 

Joe Begos: They were awesome. I had a very kind of loose style where I’m pretty exact with what I want, but I also, like I open up the collaboration. And, you know, a lot of the two main characters come from me personally, that there’s aspects of me and both of them, which is something I wanted to bring to the movie because, you know, I wanted characters that I relate to and, you know, obviously in real life, people hang out with people who are very close to them personality wise. So like when I’m hanging out with my friends, we’re having, you know, very distinct conversations like this about very specific things, and a lot of the cast knew me before this and knew what to expect. The two leads, this was my first time working with them and they very quickly adapted to my personality and how I like to work and sort of bringing elements of me that they were able to distinguish like as actors to the performance that, you know, I wouldn’t have been able to subtextually see because I don’t see myself from the outside. So like, I mean, it was just great. Everybody was on the same page, like literally everybody was making the same second movie. They knew exactly what I wanted to do, exactly what the movie should be and it was, you know, it’s like one of those chasing the dragon moments where, you know, the shoot was so fun and collaborative that you hope that you’ll be able to get that again with another movie.

What was it about Riley that made her the perfect final girl for your film?

Joe Begos: You know, we had an open casting process. I didn’t have to cast anybody specific or have a name in the movie, which was really beneficial to finding the perfect cast and the perfect lead. And, you know, Riley stuck out to me. In her first audition, you know, she was like one of half a dozen or so in that first audition, who I brought to the next level and we were able to work scenes and I was able to work with them directly and have them riff and stuff like that. And it all kind of just came up from that. Riley was riffing on stuff and it sounded like dialogue that I would have written. It sounded natural and it sounded like something I would say and she was doing this stuff without really knowing me personally, but being able to pull this out of the written page. And, you know, she has done a lot of like romantic comedy style stuff, and she kind of wanted to get out and get dirty and do things where she’s covered in blood, covered in dirt, and she was up there getting water sprayed all over her and, and a lot of people say they want to do that until they actually do it. But she was a trooper and went above and beyond even further than I could have imagined. And my gut instinct was correct. I can’t imagine the movie without her or with anybody else.

That’s awesome. I loved her throughout the entire movie, but I really really enjoyed her performance in the final fight with the robot Santa. What went into filming that final fight with everything involved?

Joe Begos: A lot of time. It was like a quarter of our schedule, despite being, you know, 1/10 of the runtime. And I’ve worked with the makeup effects people and we’ve always wanted to do animatronics and this was the first time either one of us had the opportunity to do it, so we were kind of flying blind. We didn’t have the money to do a whole lot of R&D, so that was kind of during the shoot. We did schedule a lot of time to have that come together just because, you know, so many elements were out of our control, the robot would keep going down and they would have to spend a few hours repairing it and they’re just like, ‘Joe what do you expect? You’re having us do a robot for the first time and you’re also covering it and f**king sprinklers and setting explosives off inside of it like, yes, it’s going to go down. What the f**k do you expect?’ And it’s true, like, that is pretty ridiculous to ask when you’re working with an electronic robot, but it f**king looks cool and it was worth how unbelievably taxing and complicated that whole set piece was to do

Would you work with animatronics again for feature films?

Joe Begos: Yeah, totally. I mean, it was nice, it was like a trial run. You know, one of my dream movies is to do a werewolf movie which I would do, obviously, completely practical and require the advanced use of animatronics, so this is kind of a good buffer. I’d love to do a sequel to this, too. Bigger and badder. I also love the use of animatronics and movies that don’t necessarily necessitate something otherworldly, you know, like the way Paul Verhoeven uses animatronics for humans to pull off complicated effects, that’s something I’d like to explore. So yeah, I just love the whole vibe of it and despite the taxing nature of using them, and shooting it, the results. Make it worth it to me, I think.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about Christmas Bloody Christmas?

Joe Begos: Nothing in particular, you know, try to see it on a big screen if possible. I think that’s the ideal way to see it. Get some friends together and go see and have a good time.

Follow Joe on Instagram @joebegos!

Christmas Bloody Christmas is now in theaters streaming on Shudder