A Cadaver Christmas


When the cadavers at a university begin reanimating on Christmas Eve, it’s up to the school’s janitor to end the threat and clean up the mess.

It’s so sad that janitors get such a bad rap among the living, like making sure a place is nice and clean means absolutely nothing. While the living may think it’s funny to mock those that clean up after the rest of us, the living dead happen to have nothing but respect for the world’s custodians. Have you ever tried to clean up the ruined mess that was once a human body after it’s been torn apart by the undead? It’s horrific. There’s blood everywhere, bits of entrails hanging from odd paces, and a whole lot of other disgusting things I don’t feel like going into, at least not on Christmas when many of you are sitting down for family meals and opening presents. Let me put it this way, a pack of lions eating a gazelle looks clean by comparison. Thankfully, we have a dedicated group of zombified custodians that are called out to take care of the messiest of messes, and they are a dedicated bunch. We’re grateful to have their hard work and commitment, and never would we sink low enough as to mock them. I sure as hell don’t want to clean up after a meal, so I’m not going to make fun of the guy or gal that will. That’s like making fun of the person fixing up your house for fixing up your house. Why would you do that? No, if you just absolutely have to make fun of someone for their profession, make fun of the guy who designs LEGOs, it’s still a shitty thing to do, but having the most awesome job in the world, they’re bound to not care. Or go ahead and make fun of janitors, just hope you don’t run into the one from A Cadaver Christmas.

Our film begins with the town drunk Tom sitting in a bar, drinking his way towards his annual suicide attempt when a bloody janitor (who is only ever referred to as The Janitor) bursts through the door demanding to know where their bathroom is. While he washes up, the bar’s owner Eddie makes a quick call to friend and police officer Sam Sheriff. Sam tells Eddie to keep The Janitor there until he can arrive, so the barkeep talks the still bloody man into buying a beer after he exits the restroom, and it’s here where we hear his story. It seems he was finishing up his Christmas Eve duties over at the local university when the school’s cadavers began coming alive and attacking him, forcing him to kill several during his escape. The Janitor was barely able to get out of there with his life as the reanimated cadavers began spreading throughout the school. Just as he finishes his story, Sam arrives, but he’s not alone. Inside his car is a criminal Sam apprehended earlier (only known as The Perp) and following close behind are a small group of walking cadavers. After a quick battle that sees the corpses handcuffed inside Eddie’s bar, Sam demands to know what’s happening, so all five men make their way to the university where The Janitor promises he can clear everything up, but upon arrival, the cadavers he put down have all disappeared, leaving only puddles of blood and leading everyone to believe The Janitor might be a murderer, but their disbelief doesn’t last very long. After a short separation that sees each of the five go through some Scooby Doo like shenanigans, well Scooby Doo like had the mystery solving teens gone up against blood, death, and necrophilia, they regroup with the new found realization that The Janitor has in fact been telling the truth all along. Their only hope in surviving the night is finding the answers behind why the school’s cadavers are reanimating in the first place, but The Janitor doesn’t want to simply survive. He’s got a job to do, and come hell or high water, that school is going to be clean by the morning.


{A plunger and a mop, a janitor needs no other weapons}

While there are a myriad amount of Christmas themed horror movie, many of which are quite good too, Christmas themed zombie movies remain a rarity. Sure, there’s a dozen or so titles I can think of, but of the handful of them I’ve managed to locate, almost all were terrible, using the holiday as little more than a gimmick to draw more viewers to a film that will be at best mediocre. Though this has left me more than a little disenfranchised when it comes to watching them, I get bored of watching Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and that one movie where Tim the Toolman Taylor murders Santa Claus, and a good zombie Christmas movie is just what I need. I could always go and find one of the plethora of other holiday horror films (if you haven’t seen it, check out Santa’s Slay, awesome flick), but I wouldn’t be The Undead Review if I wasn’t always on the lookout for zombie movies now would I and being on the lookout is how I came across A Cadaver Christmas. I might have been disappointed by past zombie films set up around the Christmas season, but A Cadaver Christmas made up for every single one of them. It’s fun, full of great characters, and has a grasp on the love of old grindhouse flicks that many movies trying to play the nostalgia card lack.


{One of the best characters being Tom, seen here playing with his beer, but more on him in a second}

Nostalgia films are always hit or miss, with a lot more in the miss category. It’s usually a ploy used by filmmakers that hope to draw more people in, and with any luck, cause them to excuse a shoddy film, the thought process seemingly being that if the audience is distracted enough by their ploy, they might miss things that would have otherwise been easy to spot. It doesn’t often work. Most times they add in the film reel spots and scratches that were so prevalent forty years ago, maybe throw in some music that sounds like it might fit, create a story that seems to work for the grindhouse feel they’re going for, and then just hope for the best. There’s no real love for the genre behind it, just a desire to tap into the nostalgia market, and it shows. That’s not the case here. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that writers Daniel Rairdin-Hale and Hanlon Smith-Dorsey (who also play The Janitor and Tom respectively), as well as director Joe Zerull, are massive fans of old grindhouse flicks because that’s pretty much what they made here, something I could have seen myself going to watch in a cheap, sleazy theatre decades ago. One of the factors that made the nostalgia work so well with A Cadaver Christmas was how thorough they were with creating something reminiscent of grindhouse cinema. It’s not just adding spots and scratches, it’s the music, the story, the lighting, the camera angles, and even the characters, all lovingly put together exactly as they would have been forty years ago. The other factor was in how much effort was put into crafting a grindhouse movie. Take the added scratches and spots, in most nostalgia horror films they are added so heavily that it’s not only distracting, but it actually looks worse than the movies they’re trying to pay homage too. With A Cadaver Christmas however, the distortion is done with a light touch, just the right amount added so that it doesn’t annoy the viewer, but it does look like an old grindhouse film. In fact, that’s what A Cadaver Christmas feels like watching, a grindhouse film, not one paying homage to grindhouse or playing on nostalgia, but an honest to goodness grindhouse film.


{Tell me that doesn’t scream 70’s horror movie poster}

Of course there was one major difference between this and those older flicks from long ago, A Cadaver Christmas is absolutely hilarious, and it’s funny because it’s supposed to be and not because it’s so terrible. I found myself laughing throughout most of the film. There were times it could angle toward the silly, but never so much so that it felt ridiculous, as if I was watching a bad parody. This is mainly due to the characters they created, and the actors they chose to play those characters. We get a very eccentric cast, some are about as over the top as you can get and some are more subtle, but they all worked towards the film’s grindhouse feel, and thanks to the talented actors, they were handled with just the right amount of finesse so that none of them ever became a joke or fell from funny to simply annoying. The Janitor, whose name is presented only once but you’ll have to pay attention during the credits to catch it, is quite the badass for a custodian. The man takes his job very seriously, and he’s committed to getting rid of the zombies, not because of the threat they pose, but because he refuses to leave a mess uncleaned. Though he wouldn’t appreciate me using the term zombie as he’s fond of letting everyone else know that these are cadavers, not zombies. Sam Sheriff, who is not a sheriff by the way, took me a second to realize that was his last name and not his title, is a complete prick with a penchant for the dramatic. The Perp, another nameless character, manages to be a bigger prick than Sam, and his drama tends to lean towards the psychotic pervert side. Eddie, the owner of the bar, is an easy going, laid back older gentleman who’s more worried about taking care of the perpetually drunk Tom. Ah, Tom, he was my favorite character of A Cadaver Christmas, a man who never seems to know exactly what he’s doing, bumbling from one place to the next. His lines were easily the best in the movie as he attempts to understand what’s going on around him, all through the fog of heavy drinking. All of them together were a riot, and the actors portraying them were top notch, helping to make the movie the humorous gem it was. These were definitely the people they needed for a grindhouse film.


{Who thought Christmas decorations were going to stop the undead}


{Damnit Tom}

A Cadaver Christmas isn’t a serious zombie movie, but it is a very fun film with a lot of humor and a hell of a lot of blood (gorehounds won’t be disappointed). If you’re looking for some holiday zombies, you can’t go wrong.


The Undead Review


Directed By: Joe Zerull

Starring: Daniel Rairdin-Hale, Hanlon Smith-Dorsey (Dimension, Living While Falling), Yosh Hayashi (Followed), Ben Hopkins (Psycho Magnet), and Andrew Ryan Harvey

Written By: Joe Zerull, Daniel Rairdin-Hale, and Hanlon Smith-Dorsey

Released By: Natural Wipe Films and Cadaver Productions

Release Year: 2011

Release Type: Straight to Video

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Rotten Heads: Four Heads Out of Five

About The Undead Review

When I was alive I was an asshole and after I died remained pretty much the same, if not a little worse. You’d think becoming a member of the walking dead would mellow a person out, no more worrying about awkward small talk with people, no more having to be politically correct, and the entire world is your upright, bipedal buffet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun as hell to be a zombie, just somewhat irritating at times, especially those times you have to watch a lame movie or read a lame book. Thankfully, when I am forced to watch these films or read those books, I’ve got places like The Undead Review to bitch and moan to my heart’s content. {When he’s not devouring the living or sinking his teeth into a good film The Undead Review (Andy Taylor) spends his time writing his own stories or hunting down the paranormal. Oh, and did we mention his blind dog once saved the world?)
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