Making Santa Claus a maniacal killer isn’t a novel concept. Matt Groening’s Futurama has been doing it 1999, and recent films like Bad Santa and Violent Night have altered Saint Nick’s characterisation to become a little more red-band. Out on Shudder now, Christmas Bloody Christmas is the next in line to show off Santa’s dark side – and while it’s nothing ground-breaking, it’s a fun little watch.

Christmas Bloody Christmas spends an awful lot of time – practically the entire first half – with its human characters. That’s no problem though, because it works surprisingly well as a relationship comedy. Our final girl is Tori (a charismatic Riley Dandy), a record store owner living it up with her employee Robbie (Sam Delich) on the night of Christmas Eve. A boozy evening laden with thinly-veiled flirtation and musical back-and-forth ensues, until it’s all interrupted by one Father Christmas. This isn’t regular, human Saint Nick, but rather a robot formerly produced to serve the US military, then converted to a jolly toy store standee gone bad.

It’s a wacky concept that fully leans into its silliness – think Child’s Play meets Bad Santa, and you’re on the right lines. The film knows how difficult it is to take its conceit seriously, with the repulsive police characters taking a lot of first-hand convincing until they actually believe a robotic Santa is committing a massacre. The screenplay from director Joe Begos does well here to contextualise the action with an introductory montage of TV news reports that’s surprisingly haunting, even if there’s little comment on American industrial militarisation and its inadvertent imapacts on citizens.

But of course, that’s not what anyone is tuning into Christmas Bloody Christmas to see. What we want is kills, and the film is jam-packed with them – even if the action only starts in the latter half. The practical effects are grisly and convincing, and while a robot Santa is inevitably less intriguing than an evil human version, its near-indestructible nature, coupled with its superhuman strength, make for an adversary that’s almost impossible to beat.

But I was most entertained by Christmas Bloody Christmas in the first half, which is testament to how the screenplay establishes its characters and their environments. Tori and Robbie have a brilliant repartee, and some of the improvisational flair and gross-out banter is lost when the blood starts gushing. It has hints of Judd Apatow in its first half, before going all-out John Carpenter afterwards.

If you’re looking for a light, easy 90-minute horror film this holiday season, then Christmas Bloody Christmas will more than fit the bill. It’s nothing special by any means, but it’s inoffensive, bloody fun that will shake up your seasonal viewing.

★★½

Christmas Bloody Christmas is out now on Shudder.