Review: UGLY SWEATER PARTY Has Some Wild Ideas Though Few Stick
I consider myself a rather big horror fan. I love the genre, whether it’s with movies, games, books, whatever. And because of this, I see myself as someone who is accepting of everything horror despite their its level of quality, from the most acclaimed to the complete misfire. However, on this Sunday in December, I found myself sitting in front of my computer laptop witnessing the most absolute version of something that remains unclassifiable, and that is Writer-Director Aaron Mento’s bizarre horror comedy flick Ugly Sweater Party. After giving over 80 minutes of my life to this experience, I am still not quite sure what I saw, but I can tell you this, I won’t be checking it out a second time to further clarify the situation. I think this movie broke me in some ways, and I hope I can put the pieces back together.
The plot, or what the basic point of the movie is, revolves around the possessed ugly Christmas sweater of deceased serial killer Declan Rains (played by Sean Whalen, best known as Roach from Craven’s The People Under the Stairs), who was murdered ten years earlier by an overzealous pair of detectives after being captured. Now the sweater comes into contact with pals Cliff and Jody, who are on their way to their own ugly sweater party at a camp after being invited to meet up with two girls they hooked up with earlier, after coming into contact with the same elder detective wandering the side roads. After putting the sweater on, Cliff becomes possessed by the dead killer Declan, and begins to run amok at the camp. Can pal Jody and outcast “witch” Hanna save the day before the sweater demon finally rises and causes mayhem everywhere he goes?
Ugly Sweater Party is simply a movie that lacks a clear purpose or general focus. Right from the start, the first image we are privy to is a large Nazi flag in the background, with a man tied up wearing the pentagram ugly sweater in the foreground. It is clear, as the movie progresses, that this flick was approached as somewhat of a magnum opus of whatever ideas writer-director Mento had in his mind, and simply needed to get them all out and wanted to get out on screen. Mento utilizes a wide array of camera shots and techniques to try and give the movie some flair – overlapping shots, polar negative shots, film distortion, “Predator”-like stalking shots with red tint, flashbacks AND forwards – but ultimately achieves nothing but show a complete lack of conviction in the actual material being presented. The dialogue uttered throughout the film is truly juvenile and feels like something that was cobbled together quickly across some table napkins before filming began, with constant dick and sex jokes (in addition to ACTUAL dicks and tasteless homosexual visuals making cameos throughout, all whilebut the ladies all stay conspicuously dressed and free from exploit) flung at the screen. Now, since this movie was shaping up to be quite the befuddling experience, I was at least hoping for the kills to be just completely batshit and insane, making the time investment in the rest of the film at least partially worth it. Kills are either too tame, mostly obscured by unnecessary camera lenses and blurry shots, or far worse. For example, in this flick we are introduced to a landscaper who is very in to heavy metal (and is accompanied at points with a death metal band playing some tunes) and was recently fired by the camp leader. Later in the movie, he shows up at the camp and decides to take murderous revenge on everyone….with a fucking laser beam gun. You can usually count on low budget horror movies to at least mostly, if not completely, consist of practical effects for all of their major sequences, but for some reason, Mento decides to utilize incredibly poor CGI for the money shots of when these lasers hit their targets. It truly baffled me.
However, I always try to find the positives in everything. It was nice to see Felissa Rose pop up as oversexed Mrs. Mandix (say the last name slowly…). The aerial shots provided by drone assistance are actually decently done and provide a feeling of solitude to the proceedings. In addition, while I do harp on the complete nonsense of the movie as a whole and the overall lack of focus, you still have to admire a movie that is not afraid to throw everything at the wall and see what gels and sticks, and this movie keeps tossing curveballs at you throughout its running time. Finally, despite every other kill being completely lacking in grandeur and pizazz, we are treated to one supremely detailed murder of a camper involving genitalia being ripped from their point of origin, placed in another location up north, and then proceeding to catching the liquid from the newly gorged wound. At least this kill embraced the bonkers and gasp-inducing mayhem this movie should have bred, which is the ultimate sin of the flick.
In the end, can I recommend Ugly Sweater Party? I can at least say this: Every movie is worth a viewing. Someone dedicated a part of their life to create something that they are hoping people will view and ultimately appreciate. Ugly Sweater Party is equal parts inane, disjointed, crazy as fuck and completely uninhibited in terms of doing whatever it can to try and make you have a good time. Go ahead and give it a whirl to see what I am talking about, but I warn you….you are going to need a “The Exorcist” or “A Nightmare on Elm Street” cleanser to get that taste out.