By Stefanie Sears
Christmas is getting a chiller treatment with “Killer Christmas,” an upcoming independent feature film written, directed, and produced by Shaker Productions, a new filmmaking company co-founded by Englewood Cliffs brothers PeterPaul and Tony Shaker.
The pair acts in the movie as well. PeterPaul Shaker- a former lawyer who obtained some screenwriting experience in Los Angeles and has been writing since 2007 while living in New York, portrays Rudolph.
Tony Shaker, who quit his software developer job to focus solely on the film, plays one of the main characters, Robbie.
The film also stars Malcolm Xavier, Freya Lund, Matt Maretz, Natalie Pavelek and Kourtney Kelly.
And yes, it is a – ahem – “killer.”
The film, which took nine days to shoot, follows a mischievous bunch of former college chums and two new roommates when they visit a Christmas tree lot to find the perfect tree. The lot neighbors a spooky abandoned hotel. When they realize that they stayed way past the closing hours of the lot, the gang, under the influence of alcohol and drugs, decides to explore the creepiness of said hotel as one of their daring games.
Kelly’s character Bella automatically and throughout counts it as a bad idea but reluctantly joins them. After much built up suspension, they discover that they are not alone in the hotel when a crazed man in a Santa Claus mask starts killing them off one by one with a machete. The friends then find themselves on a race for their lives to escape the numerous filthy and graffiti-adorned rooms and hallways of the hotel in order to survive against their masked adversary.
The Shakers’ own trip to a Christmas tree farm run by Benedictine monks on Thanksgiving weekend 2016 inspired the “Killer Santa” antagonist. Finding the idea of a hidden, masked murderous monk a good unforeseen villain and inspired by the random clown sightings of 2016, they eventually looked into Christmas clown masks and found the Santa clown mask online. This led to the rest of the character’s development.
The eeriness of the lighting, unique shots, and music, which is sinister sounding Christmas carols sung by children, together create the horrifying atmosphere of “Killer Christmas.” However, the Adler Hotel, the film’s main setting, contributed its own unsettling aura without much manipulation on the crew’s part.
According to the brothers, finding such location was the most difficult aspect of the filmmaking process. The Adler Hotel of Sharon Springs, New York, was in business from the 1920s to the early 2000s when it went bankrupt and eventually fell into disrepair. Throughout recent years the vacant building has fallen victim to vandalism and the results of such can now be seen in the movie.
“Killer Christmas” follows the growing popular trend of Christmas horror hybrid films. Others in this category include “Krampus” (2015); “Black Christmas” (2006); and of course the much tamer children 90s classic, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993).
“That was very purposeful because we love Halloween and there hasn’t really been an epic Christmas one that’s been done,” says PeterPaul Shaker. “We really loved the concept of this Killer Santa type person. We thought that Christmas horror films are underrepresented. There needs to be more of them. It’s a good, fun season. When you think of horror you’re thinking Halloween, you’re thinking something a little darker. With Christmas you think of fun, family friendly. It’s a nice little twist; something unexpected. It just hasn’t been done enough.”
“Killer Christmas” will be available on Cable VOD, Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, X-Box, Microsoft, and Sony PlayStation on Wed., Nov. 22.