screenplay by Adam Marcus & Debra Sullivan
directed by Adam Marcus
by Walter Chaw There's a line between homage and rip-off and I think you cross it when you quote lines in their entirety, without a lot of irony, from better movies. The "insides were a rocky place where my seed could find no purchase" from Raising Arizona, the entreaty to be untied from a chair lest they spend the winter there from Carpenter's The Thing, dropped from the mouths of a terrible family drugged with an id-freeing cocktail during Christmas dinner as punchlines and, I think, probably, in-jokes for the everyones who catch them. It's a Shrek thing--instant gratification for a basic grasp of common cultural references. And it's still not the worst thing about Adam Marcus's Secret Santa. No, the worst thing is probably how even the most mundane dialogue sequences are overcut--to a reaction from the listener, to a reaction from a non-listener, to a closer shot of the speaker, to an arm, to the table, now the camera's moving in a slow arc, now it's revolving. Also bad is how much time the movie spends establishing itself to be woke about body issues, race, and sexuality, only to have the fat sister (Ryan Leigh Seaton) be first comic relief when she chokes on the food she's forking into her mouth, then the aggrieved monster likely responsible for the whole mess. Said mess being that the family is a disaster and during the course of an awful evening, they decide to kill each other in obnoxious ways. Co-screenwriter Debra Sullivan is very good as the matriarch of the clan, suggesting that between her performance and the (sadly) wasted idea that everything seems to be getting really hot, there's an interesting film in here somewhere. As is, Secret Santa is just Noises Off! with stabbings, shovel decapitations (The Evil Dead!), skull-fucking, a trio of blowjobs, a funny reference to Jocasta that is alas instantly explained, and about fifty thousand edits.