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“NIGHTMARE ON 34TH STREET” is an entertaining watch for horror junkies

Starring Jon Vangdal Aamaas, Jason Allen and Jake Arrowsmith
Directed by James Crow

The Christmas season is upon us; it’s time for holiday cheer. The houses are decorated with bright lights, children have made their lists for Santa Claus, the stores are flooded with Christmas music, and there will be terror; viciously bloody terror in the form of writer/director James Crow’s “Nightmare on 34th Street,” a mostly entertaining collection of British horror tales just in time for Christmas.

As with any anthology, the complete film rests on the quality of each story. Crow’s film is a low-budget stocking full of twisted vignettes, to be sure. Some work while a couple fail, but as an overall film, Crow has cooked up quite an interesting watch.

One night, a young boy is visited by a strange man claiming to be Santa. For a reason explained later in the film, the man tells the boy four creepy stories, vicious tales of dark family secrets, maniacal killers, haunting carolers, and even Krampus himself.

The first story, “Nick,” finds three maniacs named “The 3 Nutters” (Mr. Red. Mr. Green, and Mr. White) who break into the home of a wealthy family where theft and murder merge into a night of complete savagery.

This story is the least of the four but achieves a certain intensity as this devilish trio lays waste to a family on Christmas Eve. The segment uses creative lighting that enhances the night of terror and leaves the viewer with some truly sinister imagery.

“The Ventriloquist Who Stole Christmas” is a twisted story of the haunted titular character who not-so-slowly goes insane. The segment could be seen as an homage to Richard Attenborough’s 1978 horror classic “Magic” and Michael Redgrave’s ventriloquist from 1945’s “Dead of Night.” Of course, this one is nowhere near the excellence of those two pictures.

Occasionally Lynchian as well, this one is overly long and too sadistic to have any real fun with.

“Merry Krampus” finds a single mother whose husband has left her and their children on Christmas. The Krampus begins to terrorize the family in a disjointed and ultimately pointless section that fails to thrill and lives in the larger shadow of Michael Dougherty’s creative 2015 holiday horror classic, “Krampus.”

The film’s best story, “The 12 Kills of Christmas,” follows a nurse assigned to watch over an ailing priest—creepy carolers in white lead to darker revelations about a twisted legacy of sin.

The director finds some real chills through good visual palettes. Rarely does a sunny and snowy day look so menacing. Certain shots will remind focused genre fans of Ken Russell’s work, especially his visions of horror in films such as “The Devils” and “Lair of the White Worm.”

With a great story and some terrifying moments, this fantastic little piece probably deserved to be feature-length.

Overall, Crow overcomes his low budget (the film was funded through an Indiegogo campaign) and maintains an unsettling atmosphere through good camerawork (courtesy of director Crow) and some disturbing imagery.

As the director has fun with his tributes to many films, alert viewers will find nods to pictures like as “A Clockwork Orange,” “The Taking of Pelham 123,” “Reservoir Dogs” and “The Shining.”

James Crow proves he has talent, and his commitment to the material is to be commended. “Nightmare on 34th Street” is an entertaining watch for horror junkies. While the film is not always successful, much of it works and will undoubtedly keep viewers engaged and occasionally creeped out. In today’s modern horror films, this one is destined to become a cult treasure.