By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ***** out of *****.
“Scary Little F*ckers: A Christmas Movie”, directed with tongue in cheek brilliance by Nathan Suher (2014’s “Right There”, 2015’s “Next/ Door”) and written with same said characteristics by Lenny Schwartz (2012’s Murder University, 2013’s Normal) is endlessly uproarious. Furthermore, it is an immediately gratifying, wonderfully amusing dark comedy. It also fares just as well as a horror venture.
This fast paced, twenty-three minute short film sinks its vicious teeth into the usually quaint presumptions of its holiday setting. In turn, it merrily turns it blood red.
“S.L.F”, as it has been abbreviated, tells the tale of a functioning alcoholic, Saul (impeccably realized and charismatically played by Rich Tretheway). Hoping to purchase a Christmas gift which will help replace some of the distance between him and his son, Kyle (Josh Fontaine; who does just a tremendous job as Tretheway in giving his character a distinct, multi-layered and likable personality), Saul buys a vicious little creature called a Fookah.
When he returns home the terror begins. It is than up to Kyle and Saul, along with local girl Peggy (Anna Rizzo in a gratifyingly wild, endlessly terrific performance), to stop the ensuing rampage.
Suher and Schwartz fill the screen and dialogue with on-point gags. Moreover, it contains many sly nods to Joe Dante’s genre re-defining 1984 classic Gremlins galore.
For example, the story itself begins on Christmas Eve of the year Dante’s work was released. In another parallel: the Fookah also comes with its own set of rules that the owner must precisely follow.
We see this most readily in the opening sequence. It is set inside a quaint shop. This is one uncannily akin to the commencing segment of Dante’s aforementioned gem.
This is a wink at the audience that showcases both Suher’s immediate tonal mastery and a prelude to the continuous stride of cleverness “S.L.F” issues through the whole effort.
There are many bulls-eye bits from composer Timothy Fife. The scores he conjures in this short captures the spirit of the proceedings beautifully. This is especially evident in an early credits sequence which plays like “Silent Night” as performed by The Crypt Keeper.
Those who grew up admiring both of Dante’ Gremlins films, as well as the four features produced under the Critters moniker, will have an especial affinity for “S.L.F”.
We see the similarity between Suher’s composition and these fellow beloved classics in, not only fragments of the Fookah appearance, but in their quirky characteristics.
Yet, the Fookah is matchlessly its own entity. There’s a unique attitude it has that is as diverse as the specific personality traits awarded to all three of the leads. This is only heightened by visual effects supervisor Richard Griffin’s tremendous work.
These previously stated characteristics are, like the sum of the short itself, charmingly crafted. They will have you grinning with increasing merriment from the first frame to the last.
But, this is much more than a homage. It is a character study about the bond between a father and son. There is genuine sentiment propelling the story forward.
“S.L.F.” cares about its leads. It’s one of the various elements Suher instills to keep us riveted throughout the whole endeavor.
The rest of the cast also contributes brilliantly to the project. Jill Poisson does a masterful job with the cinematography issued. The film editing by Chris Costa is sharp and well-done. Margaret Wolf’s art direction is phenomenal.
“S.L.F.” is a nostalgia inducing, witty terror-fest. It may model itself after monster films from the 1980’s, which it succeeds delightfully at, but it never forgets its soul.
It builds a glorious bridge to both the modern and the classic. This is the type of film Hollywood often tries to replicate with multi-million dollar budgets with results that are tepid at best.
Suher and company have, once again, astonished. “S.L.F” is affectionate, fun and never loses sight of its leads.
This is a deliciously grisly holiday treat.