The spirit of the season having swerved around aspiring romantic novelist Clara, just split from her cheating boyfriend Paul, an invitation from her aunt Marie to spend the holidays at her bed and breakfast in West Yorkshire may not have been what Clara wished for but it is all she has, stopping on the way to pick up a wooden Nutcracker.
The intended gift accidentally switched by craftsman Dmitri for its counterpart the Sugar Plum Fairy, fortunately Marie already has an enormous vintage Nutcracker which stirs memories in Clara, but her hope for a respite is spoiled first by the presence of her competitive and scheming cousin Melissa, then the arrival of Paul, invited by Marie, and finally by the Nutcracker itself which she becomes convinced is responsible for the strange events which befall the household.
Written by Joe Knetter from a story by Jeff Miller which draws inspiration from E T A Hoffmann’s short story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, with James Cox’s soundtrack playing around with the themes of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet which adapted it as The Nutcracker, director Rebecca Matthews reinvents the seasonal favourite as horror with Nutcracker Massacre, low on budget and invention and as menacing as a Christmas ornament.
With The Last Days of American Crime‘s Patrick Bergin placed top of the cast as Dmitri, providing both sinister gifts and unhelpful exposition, his accent seems to be the only concession to character though this places him above Beatrice Fletcher, Julie Stevens and Andy Dixon as Clara, Marie and Paul, automatons with less personality than the carved killer Nutcracker, with only May Kelly making the effort to be needlessly hateful as the manipulative Melissa.
More bloody soap opera than supernatural horror, the Nutcracker Massacre is greatly facilitated by the characters’ habit of simply standing in a room with a similarly static camera and reciting lines without any discernible emotion, remaining in place as the Nutcracker inevitably attacks in its creaky fashion as any attempt to escape or defend themselves would result in a shorter film, or possibly a much longer one.
Matthews’ hands-off directorial style having allowed her to rack up fourteen credits in three years, quality control is as absent as common sense, the characters remaining in the house despite bodies piling up with no attempt to call the police, Clara abandoning the injured Paul to “hide” in a bathtub before inexplicably producing a loaded gun, though given the nature of her assailant a stout axe and a sense of self-preservation might have been more useful.
Nutcracker Massacre will be available on digital download from Monday 12th December