The current trend of Christmas thrillers, exemplified by last year’s successful horror comedy “Violent Night,” indicates a growing interest in darker holiday entertainment. English filmmaker James Crow contributes to this genre with “Nightmare on 34th Street,” hoping to join the ranks of festive horror tales. However, unlike its predecessors, this horror anthology falls more into the category of bleak rather than truly horrifying.
Crow’s narrative focus appears less on delivering spine-chilling thrills and more on critically addressing the hypocrisy underlying “Christmas cheer” and organized religion. The film unfolds with an opening segment reminiscent of 1972’s superior “Tales from the Crypt,” followed by a central storyline featuring a worn-out Santa recounting horror stories to a child, aiming to instill a sense of dread.
The tales within include encounters with the mythical Krampus, a malevolent puppeteer named Mr. White grappling with split personalities, choirboys seeking revenge on a priest, and the violent backstory of the deranged Santa himself. Despite its microscopic budget, the film showcases striking imagery, with Crow wearing multiple hats as the writer, director, cinematographer, and editor. The only contribution he doesn’t make is the music, handled by Pete Coleman and Jeff Kristian, which effectively sets an appropriately atmospheric tone, complete with uniquely somber Christmas carols.
Despite its visual strengths, “Nightmare on 34th Street” suffers from unnecessary length, clocking in at over two hours. While there is reportedly a shorter version with fewer stories, this review is based on the extended cut. In its attempt to add a dark twist to the festive season, the film may leave audiences longing for a more concise and impactful exploration of Christmas horror.