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Caesar & Otto’s Deadly Xmas
by Dave Campfield

As most horror fans know, horror and comedy go together like peanut butter and jelly. They are very different from one another, but somehow merge. Perhaps it's because they both come from the same place: basic human emotion. We can't help but laugh, or become scared. Maybe it makes it easier to deal with actual horrific incidents in real life if we chuckle at blood and guts from the safety of our living room. Most low-budget indie horror films these days have a healthy twist of comedy. Some succeed, others fall flat.

Being a child of the video store generation, I like to browse. Nowadays that's more of a Netflix/Amazon Prime thing, but it still is the same concept. Often, during these fishing expeditions into the latest low-budget slasher flicks, I come up with nothing of merit. But sometimes there is a gem hidden amongst the cliché. My latest gem discovery that I am most happy with would definitely have to be “Caesar and Otto's Deadly Xmas”. The film is actually a continuation of a previously existing series. It was preceeded by the equally entertaining “Caesar and Otto's Sleepaway Camp Massacre”. But it doesn't matter, I saw this one first and it all makes perfect sense (I didn't even realize it was part of a series until after).

The story concerns two brothers named Otto (Paul Chomicki) and Caesar (writer/director Dave Campfield). Otto is a gentle, hapless soul who is chronically unemployed. Then we have Caesar, an overtly flamboyant aspiring actor/lunatic. Caesar is relatively harmless overall, but very temperamental and self-absorbed. Despite being a much larger man, Otto usually bears the brunt of his brother's tirades and abuse, which he usually takes in stride. Caesar's agent (who he is blackmailing) gets him a gig with a company called Xmas Enterprises Inc. The gig is for “Traveling Santas' to go around and advertise the company. Caesar is unsure, due to his crippling fear of Jolly 'Ol Saint Nick. This phobia is because of a series of events from childhood (including one featuring B-movie God Lloyd Kaufman). He caves, however, especially when he realizes that Xmas Enterprises has the means to produce movies. He convinces the company's CEO (Ken MacFarlane) to let him direct his own Santa-themed horror film. Mainly so that he can star in his own movie.

While all this is going on, the next major subplot rears his head. A brutal killer in a Santa suit is going around making bloody confetti of locals. Amongst others, he targets other people donning the Santa outfit for various holiday reasons (department store Santa's, Salvation Army Santas, etc.) New people in Caesar and Otto's lives are very interested in them for mysterious, obviously sinister reasons. The film plays out very cleverly and you gotta pay attention to everything because even things that seem like minor jokes can absolutely become a big deal later on.

There's a lot more plot points that I would love to talk about, but I respect the film too much to give away much more. The movie makes no qualms about being much more comedy than horror. But it references and analyzes horror films so much that it comes across as a love letter to the genre. The previous “Caesar and Otto” flick was a send-up of the “Sleepaway Camp Slasher” subgenre. This one is a loving take on the 'Killer Santa' type of films that are very popular in the low-budget horror world. The biggest credit to the movie goes to the characters themselves. They all have a way of being wacky and hilarious but oddly endearing at the same time; you genuinely grow to care for them. The film never plays it too seriously, but there are some genuinely touching moments because of this character development. One minor subplot involves Otto reconnecting with the girl he considers the love of his life (that got away).The characters are very similar to one another and this is a problem. You can't help but feel for him. These little moments of sweetness should seem out of place in such a rapid-fire hilarious film, but they oddly do not. They seem to fit right in to the rest of what's going on. Despite his hostility and the fact that his isolation is his own doing, you grow to feel for Caesar as well. Another element deals with Caesar's attempt to throw a Thanksgiving party. This part is hilarious and makes you unable to help but love him.

Caesar is always living in his own world and has a very shaky understanding of reality. You don't always understand where he is coming from, but his actions are always thoroughly, genuinely, 'Caesar'. There are a lot of “Buddy” style comedies out there nowadays but this one comes off especially refreshing. Caesar and Otto remind me more of a throwback to the classic “Abbott and Costello” setup, but with completely original characters. This makes for a lot of fun.

I became obsessed with the 'Silent Night, Deadly Night' series quite early in life, ever since I first saw the box artwork with a cheesy image of a nun's head severed (no blood at all) on the back. It was a real treat for me to soak up all the references to this series in particular. The film itself is a treat for people who truly love to analyze the horror genre. Caesar making his own slasher film is one of the best aspects of the movie. At one point he proclaims he's “So original he makes himself sick” right after setting his slasher film in the woods. These kinds of 'tongue in cheek' moments are frequent and make some great points about film in general.

There are many cameos from some cult movie favorites (Felissa Rose, Debbie Rochon, Joe Estivez, Linnea Quigley, not to mention Kaufman). And it rekindles my love for the companionship found amongst fans and makers of this particular genre. Even Felissa Rose's real-life husband Deron Miller has a spot and memorable presence in the movie. Most will probably know him as the frontman for the band CKY as well as the lead singer/guitarist/songwriter of World Under Blood. This film is not his only Caesar and Otto film, and it isn't his first dip into the horror genre. He also appeared in a cameo of Return to Sleepaway Camp (alongside his wife, the star of the first Sleepaway Camp). This isn't a new concept. Horror movies and metal music have always been great friends that share similar interests with one another.

As much as I adore the B-movie genre, it's a lot like the internet. Some amazing bits of brilliance are there but there's a lot of junk you have to wade through. It's such a special thing when you come across a movie such as this. Everyone involved seems like they’re genuinely having fun with the project and really care about it. This is so important, especially in independent film. It's the main thing that these kinds of movies have going for them; their passion.

I'm so excited for more from this series. That's not just wishful thinking, more is in the works. The next installment planned is based on “Paranormal” horror flicks and it should be a blast to see these two characters reacting to such a set of circumstances. Given all the different sub-species of horror (Clown, slasher, torture flicks, zombie films, etc.). The possibilities are endless for our friends “Caesar and Otto.” In the end, “Caesar and Otto's Deadly Xmas” embodies many of the elements that I love about horror. It is a whole bunch of fun and doesn't have any problem with that. Isn't that what movies in general are all about? Having a good time? I think so. Be sure to watch all the way through to the credits because there is plenty to entertain right up until the end.

PJ Griffin, HMS

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