A Christmas Tale (aka Cuento de Navidad) Movie Review
Written by ZigZag
DVD released by Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Directed by Paco Plaza
Written by Luis Berdejo
2005, 71 minutes, Not Rated
Premiered on October 27th, 2005
Maru Valdivielso as Rebeca
Ivana Baquero as Moni
Christian Casas as Koldo
Roger Babua as Oeti
Pau Poch as Tito
A group of kids discover an unconscious woman dressed in a Santa suit in a pit in the woods. They wake her by pouring soda on her and poking her with a stick. She asks for help and while the others try to pull her out with a rope, two of the boys rush to the police station where they learn she is a wanted criminal in possession of a large sum of money. The group agrees to give the woman her freedom in exchange for the cash, but she is reluctant so they decide to keep her as a secret pet and feed her candy.
Until this latest discovery, the coolest thing these guys had seen is a Spanish horror movie called Zombie Invasion. By watching this film the boys learn about the mystic powers of the occult and decide to hold their own ritual over the woman in the pit. Nothing immediately happens and the act is dismissed as nonsense. Soon the gang begins to drift into two separate ideologies and argue over the merits of rewarding their prize with food or starving her into submission.
Eventually the kids break her spirit and the woman (Maru Valdivielso) gives up the cash. Knowing she is dangerous and legitimately pissed-off, they go to the police for assistance. Everyone is surprised when they bring the cop out only to find the hole is empty. They return home only to discover the woman waiting for them and she is rabid in her anger.
Chased to a local theme park, the group must evade the monster they have created who is hell-bent on punishing them. The kids work together to create a series of booby-traps that play out like a Spanish Home Alone. There is a strong thrill in the energy of the final act, but the kids never appear too close to physical harm.
Ivana Baquero (Pan’s Labyrinth) is quite impressive as the morally plagued Moni, the only girl in the group, who forms a bond with the trapped woman. Her more aggressive friends torment Moni for trying to bring the “pet” food, revealing themselves as callous monsters. The other kids that round out the group are far more sympathetic and deliver equally strong performances as likeable personalities that are more than just two-dimensional stereotypes.
A Christmas Tale (Cuento de navidad) was made for Spanish television in the vein of Showtime’s Masters of Horror series, and released domestically by Lionsgate as part of the 6 Films to Keep You Awake collection. The movie is well-structured and perfectly recreates the 1985 time period in which this story is set. Also nicely presented is the parody of Spanish horror cinema in the Zombie Invasion video.
Director Paco Plaza (REC) creates a fully realized vision of both the thrill of a horror adventure for teens and also of the kids themselves. The story is told through the eyes of the children and a nice stylistic decision was employed so that the only adult you see is the woman in the hole. All other adults appearing in the film are framed so their heads are never clearly seen, giving the tale a Charlie Brown Peanuts vibe.
A Christmas Tale is reminiscent in tone of such films as The Goonies or The Monster Squad and is a welcome addition to the genre. While physical elements of the holiday itself remain secondary, the image of the maniac Santa chasing children with an axe is as thrilling as one could hope. The third act suffers from unnecessary supernatural elements crammed into the finale, since the tale is strong enough on its own. Despite this last minute fat, this is a respectable title that should be included in your holiday plans.
Video, Audio and Special Features:
Video, audio and special features will not be graded.
You can purchase A Christmas Tale as part of the "6 Films to Keep You Awake" set at Amazon US.
Day eight of ZigZag's "12 Days of Christmas".
Day 2: To All a Good Night
Day 3: Silent Night, Deadly Night 2
Day 4: Jaws: The Revenge
Day 5: Christmas Evil
Day 7: Santa Claws
Day 8: A Christmas Tale (aka Cuento de Navidad)
Day 9: Elves
Day 10: Dead End
Day 11: Santa's Slay
Day 12: Black Christmas (1974)