“Santastein” (2023) [Popcorn Frights]

by Joseph Perry and Mike Imboden

In our “The Good, the Bad, and the Verdict” film reviews, Joseph and Mike give their thoughts on a slice of cinema. For this installment, it’s Santastein from Manuel Camilion, Benjamin Edelman, and Imaginex Films.

A holiday slasher about a young man that resurrects Santa after accidentally killing him years earlier, but who soon realizes that the creature he has raised is a bloodthirsty killer.

The Good
Joseph: Unfortunately, I have nothing for this category regarding Santastein.

Mike: (Almost) everyone puts in an earnest performance, especially lead protagonists - Jared (“Max”) Korotkin and Ophelia (“Paige”) Rivera who made a cute couple (well, not a COUPLE couple), with good chemistry between the two of them.  Some good ideas make appearances.

The Bad
Joseph: I find no joy in trashing and bashing films that don’t work for me, so I’ll keep this short. Humor is subjective, and the comedy in Santastein is not my bag. The film offers only hoary chestnuts and tired tropes, and its characters are all stereotypical cliches that I found it impossible to get invested in. The story lacks any real originality. I didn’t chuckle, crack a smile, nor feel any tension, and that’s not good for something that purports to be a horror comedy. 

Mike: The earnest acting I mentioned is missing from a few of the actors who lean too far into their character’s stereotype and rely on THAT to guide their performance.
As a comedy/horror one expects at least one of those to be present, but sadly Santastein does not deliver either in any type of method that works together.  The successful juxtaposition of innocence and violence can be tough when you’re also mixing horror and comedy, so I’m not going to fault Manuel Camilion and Benjamin Edelman too much for this tonal mess.

The Verdict
Joseph: I may not have enjoyed my viewing of Santastein, but I understand that others may. That being said, I can only recommend this movie to killer-Santa cinema completists.

Mike:  I’m going to veer a bit away from giving a verdict on this and will instead offer up some of my world-class advice to Camilion and Edelman and urge them to give some serious thought to making some edits to and repackaging this.
The humor which does not work well at all here, is perfectly suited for the ‘Tween crowd who would probably laugh their @$$es off.  There’s the interactions of the students in school, the rat getting loose and being chased (don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler), the look of Max’s “laboratory”, the lack of parents, and so on.  What we’ve got here is basically a Goosebumps-esque plot line slathered in foul language - drop the language and the few moments of gore and you’ve got a perfect “gateway” horror movie, which we can’t ever enough of.  
There’s already enough R-rated (or its equivalent) “killer Santa” movies out there that are far superior to this. However, in an age when parents rely on moving pictures on a screen to babysit their children, there’s a huge market for one that maybe flirts with the PG-13 realm of content.
As it currently is, I cannot recommend Santastein.

Santastein, from Imaginex Films, is playing as part of the 2023 Popcorn Frights Film Festival, which runs August 10–20, 2023 with both in-person screenings and a virtual lineup available to viewers in the United States. For more information, visit https://popcornfrights.eventive.org/welcome.

Directed By: Manuel Camilion and Benjamin Edelman
Written By: Manuel Camilion and Benjamin Edelman
Starring: Jared Korotkin, Michael Vitovich, Ophelia Rivera
Run Time: 1h 27m
Rating: NR
Release Date: 2023