Director: Paco Plaza
Produced by Julio Fernández, Santiago Gimeno (executive producer), Narciso Ibáñez Serrador (executive producer) for Filmax Televisión
Story and screenplay: Luiso Berdejo
Music: Mikel Salas
Cinematographer: Javier Salmones
Editor: David Gallart
Art director: Gemma Fauria
Cast: Maru Valdivielso (Rebeca Expósito), Christian Casas (Koldo), Roger Babià (Peti), Pau Poch (Tito), Daniel Casadellà (Eugenio), Ivana Baquero (Moni), Elsa Pataky (Ekran), José Torija (Charles), Loquillo (Taylor), Saurí (Policía Gourmet), Nacho Moliné (Locutor Telediario), Antonio Duque (Nets), Ana Isabel Velásquez (Vecina)
In a coastal town in the South of Spain, a group of kids just on the verge of becoming teenagers spend their time watching movies – their video collection includes a lot of Paul Naschy titles, as well as The Karate Kid – and cycling around or playing in an closed fairground. Then, one day, they discover a badly wounded lady, dressed in a Santa Claus costume, trapped in an abandoned well in the ground. They realise that she’s actually Rebeca Expósito (Maru Valdivielso, from Plaza’s Romasanta), a bank robber who is on the run with a large amount of cash. Rather than getting her out, though, they decide to keep her there until she reveals where she’s hidden her ill-gotten gains.
After starving, humiliating and generally abusing her, she finally tells all, and they merrily divide the cash up between them. However, when they go to fetch the police and show them where she’s trapped… she’s disappeared. And she’s not happy. Meanwhile, the kids themselves are starting to fall out and, influenced by a cheesy horror film they’re obsessed with called Zombie Nightmare, a couple of them perform an occult ritual which has rather unpleasent repercussions.
Set in 1985, Paco Plaza’s The Christmas Tale – another in the Spanish ‘Films to Keep You awake’ TV series – actually comes across like a nicely warped riposte to the saccharine but hugely popular 1986 coming-of-age film Stand By Me. Although, given that it was made by the director of [Rec], among other films, it’s possibly not that surprising that this particular coming-of-age film also features zombies, voodoo rituals and a decent seasoning of juvenile sadism.
At a swiftly moving 71 minutes, this is all good fun. The running time is padded out with excerpts from Zombie Nightmare, an authentically cheesy looking horror film that neatly anticipates what Tarantino and Rodriguez would do with Grindhouse (and most particularly Planet Terror), and it’s a neat touch that – apart from the characters in this movie-within-a-movie and Rebecca – none of the adults are fully shown on screen. As well as the numerous movie references, there are also some good visual gags (such as the camera pulling back from a traditionally snowy Christmas scene to reveal that it’s actually just a billboard). Given that so much of the screentime is given over to the kids, it’s good that they’re actually decent actors – not the kind of nauseating stage school homonculi you tend to find in English or American productions – and it’s very welcome that they’re depicted as the cruel little sods that we all know most kids of that age really are.
On the downside… well, the condensed running time means that the second part of the plot – once it’s discovered that the body has disappeared – is rather rushed in comparison to the more deliberately paced opening section, and a couple of the kids character’s remain rather underdeveloped. Maybe a little bit of backstory about them would have been nice. But this is nitpicking, really: for a TV movie this is an extremely professional looking production that’s filmed in a suitably playful and competent fashion.
Review by Matt Blake, 2012
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