On paper, Night of the Nutcracker has all the makings of a Yuletide slasher with just enough self-awareness to keep itself afloat. What’s not to like about holiday-themed horror flicks? However, as Jonny Coal’s film begins, it becomes very apparent that this is not the kind of stocking stuffer viewers will want to treat themselves to.
Coal stars as Luke, a young man home alone for Christmas. As he contemplates breaking off his current relationship over the phone with a friend, the doorbell rings. On his porch, he finds a strange package delivered anonymously, the contents of which deliver aptly on the short’s title.
The film’s problems begin earlier than that, with Luke’s exposition-heavy dialogue over the phone being delivered in the most mundane and unrealistic way possible. His conversation partner has no time to respond before the next lines begin, leading to an insufferable monologue about a relationship the audience knows nothing about. When anticipation should be mounting with the arrival of the nutcracker, Coal’s screenplay insists on his character speaking his mind into the middle distance, with no regard for how effective silence can be during a scene.
The scares themselves also fall flat, which is a real shame. The filmmakers ignore tension and release entirely and don’t bother getting creative with the mechanics of the nutcracker itself. A handful of practical effects are also employed, with none of them being convincing in their execution. If there is a positive to be found, it’s in a suitably unhinged finale. Call it a corny cop-out, but Angel R. Reed’s appearance certainly delivers campiness at its finest.
With missing horror fundamentals and performances more wooden than its titular doll, Night of the Nutcracker’s bonkers premise doesn’t feel earned. The creators will no doubt evolve their craft over time, and this short should serve as a major learning experience going forward.